In another recent Utah Pride announcement, another headlining act for this year’s festival is LeahAnn Mitchell, who performs under the moniker Lafemmebear, a 31-year-old afro-Latinx and queer, transgender person of color artist and New Jersey native, who moved to California to pursue her innate love of music.
She has worked with many major label talents in various capacities including Sony, Sony Red, and Massenburg Entertainment. She has engineered for Grammy Award winner Le’Andria Johnson, as well as Eric Dawkins of the Grammy Award-winning production team, The Underdogs. And she produced and wrote with Grammy Award-winning songwriters The Jackie Boyz.
However, when Mitchell came out as a queer, transgender woman in 2013, she was blacklisted from the music industry.
And yet, she has persevered – now making music on her own terms. Not only is she a rapper-singer-vocalist; Mitchell also mixes masters, produces and engineers all of her music. After dusting off her music-making chops with a self-titled EP in early 2018, she is dropping a lush, eclectic #-song collection entitled #FEMMEBEARCLXTV featuring Bay Area artists Najee Amaranth, Yona T., and Robert Ross, among others. It’s a genre-blending experiment in soulful and rhythmic afro-beats mixed with hip hop and jazz.
“I have been writing songs professionally for labels since I was 13 years old,” Mitchell told Billboard in an interview last month. “I begged my G-Ma to take me to the Guitar Center so I could spend entire days there learning every piece of equipment I could get near in the pro-audio section. I needed to get the sounds out of my head. The voice, my voice… . Late nights singing at the top of my lungs in the dark; playing the piano … pretending I was onstage with Brandy, Jill Scott and Meshell N’degeocello. Meshell’s black queerness was so amazing to me at a young age and the musicianship made me feel like learning every instrument I could.”
When asked in the interview what she would like the “titans of the music industry to know about QTPOC artists, she responded, “We make incredibly complex, diverse, professional, raw, amazingly polished art. You should really see about us; but real talk – we coming either way.”
In addition to re-launching her musical creation, production, and engineering career, Lafemmebear is currently starring as the lead role in The Red Shades, a transgender superhero rock opera that has played sold-out showcases at several venues in San Francisco and Oakland.
The Red Shades rock concert collides with musical theatre in the exhilarating tale of a gang of trans superheroes defending their community in 1960s San Francisco.
In it, Ida, a teenage trans girl, runs away from home to escape the trauma of small-town life. She joins a gang of trans superheroes squatting in the Tenderloin and unlocks her own super powers. Together, they use magic to defend their community against the police and other enemies of their liberation.
The musical styles range from punk to cabaret to rockabilly to epic pop ballads. The songs transition seamlessly from one to the next, each serving as a building block of the story.
This is the rock opera that the world needs now, as the trans community is in the cross hairs of a dangerously regressive regime. Trans people, particularly trans women of color, are being murdered at unprecedented rates. Nevertheless, the trans community is resilient. The Red Shades hopes to bring to light the incredible activism of a prior era in order to draw parallels with the present and bring a message of hope.