16 Sep 2018

Moana Maniapoto, Victoria Kelly and Cherie Mathieson on women in music

From the collecton Women, The Vote and Equality

Moana Maniapoto, Victoria Kelly and Cherie Mathieson discuss the role of women in the music industry and how makeup, looks and style are, sadly, still essential to success as a female musician.

Karyn Hay hosts the panel discussion, 'She Danced in the Fire', which celebrates 125 years of women's suffrage.

Each panellist also performs a song related to the discussion which has deep personal significance.

Beyoncé in New York in 2015

Beyoncé in New York in 2015 Photo: AFP

Victoria Kelly: “In the music industry, more than in most, the creators of intellectual property are marketed based on how they look, and in many instances it overtakes what they create. And I think that that burden is borne more heavily by women than it is by men.”

“As time is passing we are seeing that women aren’t having to wear that burden less, but men are having to wear it more. And that’s not ideal either – you want to see all people be able to say really what we make is music, it’s not the tightness of our buttocks, and it’s not the youthfulness of our skin, it’s the quality of our minds and the content of our character that actually we’re putting out into the world.”

Moana Maniapoto: “I remember when I was with Warner’s that I did a photo shoot for my single at the time and they airbrushed my face. When I saw the image I said, ‘I’ve got no freckles. I don’t look like me.’

“And I remember saying to Tim Murdoch at the time, ‘who said you could do that? I don’t like it.’ And then I got stuck with this damned thing – this poster was like an albatross around my neck because I looked like Cher on a really good day.”

Karyn Hay

Karyn Hay Photo: RNZ / Paul Bushnell

Karyn Hay: “When I was barely 20, I would spend an hour in the makeup department and I would think Who is that? I’d be plastered in so much makeup and it was unnecessary.

Moana: “They’d always go ‘it is the lighting, the lighting’.”

Karyn: “So let’s get to the guts of it. Why do we buy into it as women?”

Moana: “I think the music industry is very seductive, and puts a lot of pressure on women to behave and look a certain way. Different women are held out to be role models, who dress and act extremely provocatively and that is now representing a certain form of feminism which is very convenient for a lot of blokes”.

Moana Maniapoto, Victoria Kelly, Cherie Mathieson

Moana Maniapoto, Victoria Kelly, Cherie Mathieson Photo: RNZ / Paul Bushnell

“Beyoncé, for example, is held up as a role model, buying into this stereotypical, very sexualised female representation that often we fought against. I’m quite conflicted about that. I have conversations with staunch feminists who go ‘Hey, a women should be whatever she wants to be,’ but all I can hear sometimes is ching-ching.”

Cherie Mathieson: “I have moved more into understanding digital marketing in the last few years where you can connect directly with your fans, that can eliminate some of the need for this representation of oneself in a particular light because you can just connect with the people who like you for how you sound and the kind of music that you make.”

“I am a firm believer in that. Having access to all kinds of music. And it’s not going to matter what you look like and how old you are – it’s just going to matter about the stories and the music. That’s what I’m hoping, and what I’m pushing for.”

Moana Maniapoto, Victoria Kelly, Cherie Mathieson performing for She Danced in the Fire

Moana Maniapoto, Victoria Kelly, Cherie Mathieson performing for She Danced in the Fire Photo: RNZ / Paul Bushnell

About the speakers

Moana Maniapoto

A legendary musician, documentary maker and feature writer, Moana Maniapoto is also a self-confessed political junkie. With her band Moana & the Tribe she has performed around the world, sharing her “blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either” (NZH) with lyrics rooted in the our landscape, culture and experience.

Maniapoto is an Arts Foundation Laureate, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for International Song writing, was inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame in 2016, and her album Rima was a finalist for all three major music awards in 2015. She is currently in production for her sixth studio album ONO.

She is currently producing a television series The Negotiators for Māori Television, looking at treaty settlements through the eyes of lead negotiators and discussing their personal experiences.

Victoria Kelly

Victoria Kelly has a passion for writing film music. After winning a TVNZ Young Achievers Award and a Professional Development Grant from Creative New Zealand, she travelled to the United States to study film composition at the University of Southern California.

Kelly has been commissioned, performed and/or recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia, the New Zealand String Quartet, NZTrio, Stroma, Michael Houstoun and Stephen de Pledge. She has worked extensively in the theatre in association with the New Zealand Actor’s Company, has a long-standing involvement with Auckland band Strawpeople and has worked as a performer and arranger for artists as diverse as Greg Johnson, Anika Moa, Fiona McDonald and True Bliss.

Cherie Mathieson

Cherie Mathieson is a sought-after vocalist, songwriter and producer, who performs live as a guest vocalist for Sola Rosa and with her corporate entertainment duo Platinum.

She has collaborated with celebrated producers and artists Mark de Clive Lowe, Lanu, Lewis McCallum, Chris Cox, Daz-I-Kue, Zed Bias, Modern Groove Assembly, Dego (4Hero), Atjazz, Simbad, Relaxomatic Project, Manuel Bundy, Solaa, Boston Rodriguez and Jason Eli over the course of her 22 years as a professional singer.

Offstage, Mathieson is in demand as a session singer & songwriter for commercial projects, and is an experienced vocal coach and professional musical mentor. Her website Big Notes Get Votes provides online singing training.

This event was recorded in association with the Auckland Council and Auckland Live.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes