A new year, a new start. A time when thoughts are centered on change, self improvement, setting and smashing goals and becoming the KING of your reality.
This year we focus on a selected group of individuals from the KING affiliate stable, all who have started from the bottom and have risen to become KING’s of their field. Inspirational stories, challenging journeys and ambitious rises – these are the faces of a new generation - #FITFORAKING
Shakira Walters - the mastermind and champion behind - GIRLSofGRIME - simply put, THE platform pushing female music artists and creatives into the conscience of the wider world.
From the seeds of an idea, this was and is the product of a LIFELONG passion and calling that started as a teenager, growing up in Newham, East London.
Having raved from a young age through under 18’s parties to legendary events at Stratford REX and Palace Pavilion in Hackney - Shakira dipped her toes in the deep end aged 21. Taking a one way trip to the rave island of Ayia Napa for a summer of music promotion and event management, she worked alongside the Play Ent. team, hosting special guests such as Tinie Tempah and Giggs. Despite gaining the experience and knowledge of such an iconic time for the Greek island and the UK music scene, the door to events management still felt firmly closed when she returned home, not only to herself but women in general, and her studies and work life took precedent…
Fast forward a decade - the love for the music scene still burned bright, a career in fashion Buying & Merchandising had developed but something was missing - office life felt mundane - and Shakira decided to take some positive steps. Commitment to meditation classes would be a major catalyst that would change the course of Shakira’s life;
“I was raised in a large Jamaican family so being quiet with my thoughts was so strange at first. But as I became more committed to my practice, it triggered something within me. Not long before, I’d gone to a grime event at Village Underground and I was most surprised at the crowd. It was probably 99% boys and I remember thinking ‘where have all the girls gone?’. I’d noticed all the big online platforms were buzzing, but there were no girls on them. So, I downloaded a free app from the App Store to create a logo, set up an Instagram profile and GIRLS of GRIME was launched.”
With an overwhelming drive to highlight the women in the scene, Shakira threw herself into this passion - every morning, lunch break, evening and weekend she trawled through the internet to find new, unique and interesting content.
“Social media really wasn’t part of my lifestyle at that time, so I challenged myself to post at least once a day, and later I increased it to three. The consistency definitely helped the platform grow and pretty fast. I also increased the stories content and captured great live footage as I started going out more and was soon heading to an event most evenings after work. Now I recognise that what I was doing was networking, but at the time I was just a girl on a mission!”
It didn’t take long for her to come across the incredible women producing the radio shows, taking photos at events, directing music videos, plus the event hosts and artist managers that existed. But why were these women so hidden? This hardened her resolve to create a dedicated supportive space for women involved in the scene whilst also giving her the opportunity and confidence to explore roles behind the scenes herself. “I offered to stage manage Figure Flows’ headline show and assisted on a few music video shoots including the debut video for young Grime up and comer, Litty Lightz. We spent most of the day on a coach full of under 16’s excited to be there to support and play extras. I began considering the next generation more and our obligation as the elders to be role models too.”
The commitment and dedication saw events and showcases start to rack up - ‘The Female Takeover’ was the start - promoted via GIRLS of GRIME radio takeovers with all an female line up on Rinse FM, DejaVu, Reprezent and more, which led to a sell out venue for the first ever all female show. This was followed quickly by a Wireless festival GIRLS of GRIME showcase including C Cane, Lioness and Major Muzik’s Taliifah, which was hosted by then Beats Radio Julie Adenuga, and then national radio shows on KISS and 1xtra hosting GIRLS of GRIME specials.
Early last year was Shakira invited to speak with journalist Yomi Adegoke, for BBC Radio 4 - ‘Where Are All The Black Women In Grime?’ It was the first time she had clearly articulated on the subject which made her reflect. Having been at the same company for 11 years - feeling stagnated & undervalued and realising her potential, it was time to step out into a world where she felt appreciated. So she quit.
The risk was worth it, and the dedication, time and hard work put into GIRLS of GRIME bore fruit as she was approached to become an A&R for Warner Music a short while later. Given autonomy on the campaigns, Shakira again put in the hours, working every day, night and weekend - managing the production of records, music videos shoots, organising listening/release events and social media management. She recalls one occasion where she sat laptop open, phone in hand - in the car park at a funeral to ensure the digital marketing on a release went live correctly!! But working with these young artists was particularly rewarding and fulfilling, despite being stressful at times.
By the end of the year, just as her final project with comedic influencer Faceinthenews was wrapping up, Shakira was close to burnout. This is something she believes a lot of women in the industry go through - often having to work 10x harder, with limited support, to achieve recognition & respect whilst working to bring their ideas to reality. She then had a stint in hospital and with the words of Burna Boy ‘I can’t come and kill myself’ echoing in her head she was able to recognise the woman she set out to support with her GIRLS of GRIME vision, included herself.
With a new year and a new decade, Shakira has the experience, knowledge, respect from her peers and a support network in the music industry, giving her a platform to continue to develop the philosophy of GIRLS of GRIME in any way she now wants – showcased by her current project GIRLS of GRIME LOCKED+LIVE supported by the PRS foundation.
A true champion of combining passion, dedication and work ethic to create something from nothing, Shakira is testament that women too can be KING’s. A crown that is truly deserved. Shakira Walters - #FITFORAKING
For more #FITFORAKING KING affiliate stories check out the > #fitforaking page