On an early weekday afternoon, Vnusamr runs late to a scheduled interview about her forthcoming EP, In This Church, so she hops on the phone for questions instead. She apologizes and explains that while she's promoting the album, due out this month, she's already working on her next project and lost track of time in the studio.
Such has been the whirlwind life to which 20-year-old Vnusamr (pronounced "Venus amour") has grown accustomed over the past couple of years. She has garnered attention regionally as one of the most exciting up-and-coming artists to emerge out of South Florida and played buzzed-about sets at Art Basel and III Points.
"I can't even remember how many shows I've done," she says. "I remember I was on this rap tour — and I'm not a rapper — but I was experimenting at the time with rapping. Now I see myself doing bigger and better things like festivals."
She's timid and soft-spoken in a way that makes it difficult to envision her jumping onto a stage to rap with minimal experience. But experimentation has been the key to her accelerated artistic development, and she's keeping it up on In This Church.
"The sound of the project is very experimental. We kind of got out of what you would expect in a genre," she says of the eight-song EP. "I called it In This Church because for me a church is like your own atmosphere. You don't have to go to an actual church to handle your demons and healing. Some people might not be religious; they're just really spiritual, and their church might be their home and lighting a candle or an incense. That's how I heal. In This Church is like my own atmosphere, so when you're listening to the EP, you're kind of in my energy — Vnus' world, Vnus' vibes."
Her world is one of pink hair dye and a healthy dose of sensuality, but much like the real world, the bad comes in tandem with the good. "I've been through a lot these past few years, so I have a lot of pain in me. But when I sing, I try to show passion as well, because I stand for love, beauty, and pleasure. I think it blends well when I make music, because both feelings and both emotions collide together, and I don't even know what it creates."
She's right. The most captivating aspect of Vnusamr's vocal delivery is the vulnerable undertone of her sweet siren sound. Rather than seducing her audience, her voice calls out to those who've been through many of the same trials she's endured, and she sings through the pain.
"When I'm done, people always come up to me and, I don't know, I feel like I'm really awkward, though. When people come up to me, I don't know what to say. But they're always like, 'You did really amazing. I can feel your pain,' and stuff like that. 'I can feel what you're going through.' While I'm performing, I try to make eye contact with at least one person so they won't be able to move. They won't be able to look to the left or look to the right. They're staring at my eyes like they can feel what I'm singing about."
But her shy side eventually peeks through. "Then it gets awkward and of course I don't look at them anymore," she laughs.
She lights candles and scatters roses at the foot of the stage before her performances to create her sensual "Vnus vibes." She acknowledges that her audience is male-dominated but admits her desire is to empower women the same way some of her favorite artists empowered her when she was a girl going through hardships. Her shortlist of influences is women-heavy: Erykah Badu, Sade, FKA Twigs, and Alicia Keys.
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"She inspired me to write different too — to be more open about my writing," she says of Keys. "The way she just says it. She doesn't hold back anything that she says. I want to empower women because when I was younger, she empowered me as a little girl."
Asked to sum up her message to the women she hopes to reach, she offers what could double as a definition of the word she's crafted as her moniker.
"Be yourself and don't be afraid to let your woman power enhance the world. Let your womanism show. Let your aura show, and really just come out here and just love. Don't be afraid of what anybody has to say to you, because at the end of the day, we women, we're strong, we're powerful.
"That's what I lacked when I was a teenager," she says. "I want to send a message and still learn myself. I want women to grow with me as I'm growing."