Singer-Songwriter Charity on Her Inspirations

In this month’s MI Style, the R&B, neo-soul, and hip-hop artist talks what inspires her music, her style, and her home
Charity - singer songwriter
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Charity Ward knew from a young age that she was meant to touch people’s lives through music. The 30-year-old singer-songwriter — who’s known simply as Charity and delivers a fusion of R&B, neo-soul, and hip-hop — has performed ever since she was a little girl.

She grew up on Detroit’s west side, singing in the choir of her ordained father’s church and with his nursing home ministry with her three older sisters. After learning to play guitar at age 13, Charity began covering songs by Stevie Wonder and India Arie, and would soon turn her own poetry into songs about navigating puberty, relationships, and morality. Her first album, Tender Headed, debuted last February. The 14-track collection culminates years of life lessons and a journey to self, exploring themes of culture, religion, marriage, and independence. Here, she shares her favorite fellow musicians, what goes into her own look and home, and an important message on Black hair that she communicates through her own fiery curls. 

Her personal style: I love minimal pieces, but I always need a dash of statement. Even the way that I’ve styled my loft — I don’t like anything that’s flat. I really believe that I am someone worth noticing, speaking to, or experiencing. A typical go-to look for me is going to be — right now, especially — joggers and a hoodie that are monochromatic and probably a sneaker that’s also monochromatic. I really love sneakers; I do try to build my outfits around the shoe sometimes.

Her favorite musicians: Jazmine Sullivan is to me the greatest vocalist of our time; I think she’s up there with Aretha Franklin. Frank Ocean is probably my favorite artist ever, to the point where I was driving, listening to some Frank, and I was like, “I love Frank Ocean so much I’ll get a Frank Ocean tattoo.”

Her hair: I cut all my hair off at 21. When I let it grow back, I realized I had a glorious fro. And that was a big part of my personal identity, my hair. And then I started dyeing my hair — orange, copper. I say this from the place of understanding all the politics that go into hair and Black hair, but what I kind of wanted to do with Tender Headed was create this brand identity of “hair goals.” Not that I’m hair goals, but like, “Look at all of these things that I can do with my hair that you can do with your hair,” you know? Black girls do some wildly beautiful things to their hair.

Her home: Last year, I took the time to really get some artwork up on the wall. So, there’s the Lemonade wall [inspired by the Beyoncé album]. There is a portrait of Black women with afros from the ’70s. There’s a large print of two of my students. (I ran an after-school program where these siblings became like my children.) I really wanted my place to be a shrine to Black womanhood. Having to be home this year has made me get comfortable being at home in my being, and then I think that has transferred out to being comfortable in this space. 

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