BY ADINAWA ADJAGBODJOU
I sat down with Israeli-born singer-songwriter Adi Argelazi to discuss her dreams for the future as she navigates the race for Hollywood fame.
Thank you so much for joining me, Adi! Can you start by just telling me more about you: who you are and what you care about?
I’m a simple 30-something-year-old girl from Israel. I’m a musician, and currently, due to COVID-19, I started doing nails as well. I mostly care about fun and music and living my life. I moved to California six years ago from Israel to pursue my dream and I just fell in love. I always knew I wanted to come to LA…It was my plan since I was born, basically. Ever since I [learned] about Hollywood, I [needed] to be there. This is my place…and then I saw how dirty it is! Just kidding… [but] I’m not a city girl at all, very country. I’m from a community in Israel. It’s completely opposite of what I know, but yeah, that’s who I am: a musician trying to make my life interesting.
I’m sure it’s already very interesting! Before I ask any other questions, I wanted to know if you just tell me more about what your community was like back in Israel.
I’m from a place called a kibbutz, which [are], or used to be…small communities [where] we’re all kinda working. [It’s] based on communism. We have a big dining room, a big swimming pool…schools. We had a zoo and all of our fields within the kibbutz. So everyone works in the field in our community and each family has a budget and then each parent works towards the budget and that’s how we can buy groceries or pay for food in the dining room or do laundry. Each family had a number…it’s very, really cool.
It was all about freedom and just being in this one community [where] all the kids are living together… Like you had a million siblings and million parents and it was just living the dream, basically.
That sounds really cool. It’s definitely the definition of community: sharing and living freely together. How did you make the decision to move?
I was always a little different. Especially in [a] community [where] everyone has to be the same…I always stood [out]. I was always dying my hair black and getting tattoos (when I was older) and singing out loud and trying to act and always trying to stand out and everyone said, “oh, you’re going to be great. You’re going to be great.”
So everyone put this idea in my head that I’m going to have to do something with my life. I always loved to sing and I would perform for everyone and then I heard about Hollywood — probably [since] most of my family lives here in Los Angeles — so I had this idea since I was like, probably, five. I was like, okay, I’m going to Hollywood. I [started] speaking pretend English to everyone. I [was] like, “I’m going to Hollywood, that’s my game.” That’s pretty much when I knew and my parents had to accept that at some point.
I’m not going to lie, it’s tough. It still is, but you know, it’s not like leaving a community, I can say! It’s way different. It’s about fighting to survive and trying to prove to people that, although I’m a woman, I actually have talent. I have to prove that I’m not just a pretty face and it’s about me being strong. It’s tough.
Can you talk more about what some of those tough moments were when you first moved? Was anything in particular a shock or a really tough moment?
I moved to Los Angeles with this huge dream of being the biggest rockstar in the world. Coming from Israel that has, maybe, 8 million people, to Los Angeles [which] probably has more than that just in this one city…[it’s hard!] Everyone has the same dream and everyone is equally as talented as me (I mean, I only accepted that now) and everyone is trying to fight for the same place. No one really believes that I can actually sing and I would email places, trying to find jam nights and venues, saying, “please, let me sing, please.”
I also thought that every person that was telling me they were a producer was actually a producer. Like, I really thought that was how it is…I mean, [that] everyone in Los Angeles is famous, right? So I got burned a lot. One time [this guy] told me he was a producer. He saw me at Starbucks and I was so naive, right — coming from Israel — and what do I know? He told me he was a producer and he said, “oh, you look really interesting,’ (because I have tattoos) ‘I’ll help you out.” And I was like, “oh really? Okay, cool.” And I got fooled really easily. He told me he was a big producer and I went in the car with that guy! Thank God I didn’t get murdered– he took me to Universal Studios to some shady recording studio and [essentially] tried to take money from me. I mean, it was a blessing that it was only money! I almost could have died. So yeah, that’s when I found out that I actually have to work for [success] and it’s not going to just happen by me telling people I can sing.
I took it pretty bad until my dad pushed me to stay, saying it’s actually going to work. It was pretty tough. It was a shock of like, oh, okay so it’s not like in the movies: that you show up and it’s just going to happen because you’re there.
Right? The movies are very misleading. I had a similar experience where I was like, “I’m going to come to New York and then life will be perfect,” but no. What do you wish was in place to support not only female artists, but also artists who are starting out in general? What do you think are some ways that the industry or the scene could be better?
I just really hope that one day people will look at us as just a person and not a woman. That we don’t have to look pretty or be feminine enough just make it somewhere…that we don’t have to prove ourselves [more because of our gender.] I just want to be equal to, like, a male rockstar or, like, a computer guy.
We (kind of) all have equal opportunities, but as a woman it’s more risky because some men can try and take advantage of us and we think that that’s the only way [we can make it.] So I just hope that women don’t have to have the same struggle that maybe I had coming here, just [having] to, like, sexually prove [myself], you know? Like, to be someone’s wife or to be someone’s girlfriend.
I agree 100%. Do you feel there are starting to be communities that are made specifically for women in music or do you think there’s still a long way to go?
Here in LA, it’s pretty big now. There’s this group called Gritty in Pink. These three girls in music decided to start a jam night only for females. In the beginning, I was like, there’s no way there’ll be a good girl guitar player or good girl drummer; but I found so many and I was just being judgmental — like everyone else, unfortunately, but I’m trying to improve! They’re just trying to support women in all fields like music and art and trying to donate [funds] to help out women. [They’re] pretty big now.
I see you have a Metallica shirt on, do they inspire your work or do you just like their music?
Yeah, I love Metallica! They’re amazing. I’m one of those girls who sings guys’ songs, so I’m waiting for another girl who’s going to sing like a boy.
Are there people who have really inspired or empowered you? Who do you really look up to?
Probably Marilyn Monroe. She really worked [her] way with sex. [She] had no choice! She was the first to actually make it. It ended badly for her, but she’s [still] probably my biggest idol. I basically used to go my way by flirting with the world, but now I’ve learned it’s not going to work for me that way. There are so many other pretty women here, so there’s a lot of competition.
Yes, it’s a hard world out here. I like to think of Femininity as a gift, but then sometimes the world wants to take that how it wants.
Yeah, you always have to look the best. You always have to be in the best mood and if you’re not, it’s like, “oh, you have resting bitch face!” The world says, “oh, you women, you don’t get along. You all hate each other.” I’m like, “what do you mean? It’s not because we’re women, it’s because we’re more emotional! We have a lot to carry!”
Definitely. Thinking more about your craft, how would you describe your style? Do you have a central message?
My brand is called the white witch…it’s basically about storytelling. I watch a lot of TV — a lot of true crime — so I just write about it. I like to write about mysteries and weird stuff. Like, let’s say there’s a crazy serial killer…I’m going to write about what he was thinking before he commits the crime. I like to take people on a journey. Theater. To make people a little uncomfortable and to take you through emotions…like uncomfortableness, and love, and sexiness, and extreme rock and roll. To make people feel a lot of different feelings. I’m a [chameleon] in life, so I’m going to sing opera, I’m going to sing hard rock, and I’m going to growl, or even sing jazz. I like to be everything– that’s my brand.
That’s amazing. Do you feel like there is room to be versatile or do you feel like it’s harder for people who don’t try to just stay in one lane?
I feel like it’s hard because all the managers and producers that I reach out to always tell me, oh, you have to find [only] one thing that you want to do…you’re all over the place. In the old days it was easier for people to be like, okay, I’m going to release this one album and then we’re going to grow and do whatever we actually want to do; but in today’s days, we don’t really have much room to do that because you just have to impress [people] right away.
Because of this age of social media, you have to have this one single that is going to be a killer and be playing on the radios five times a day [in order] to make money for coffee in the morning. I kind of wish we could go back. I know it’s impossible, but you know?
Definitely, I agree. Then what, overall, do you think about social media’s relationship with music? Do you think it’s helping or hurting?
I [mean this] in the worst way possible: it’s the devil. I really don’t like it. It takes us right back to women having to be sexy. I see a lot of my girlfriends falling into this trap of posing in bikinis and lingerie just to get likes and attention and using all these filters — which, yeah, I [also] use these filters, I have to play that game too because I’m not naturally gorgeous — [but] I just don’t appreciate it.
Now we have to also prove ourselves in a different [way]. Like, if I’m a musician, I [also] have to be a model now, you know? And I have to also be a promoter! And yes, I would love to be a business woman, but I would have to be next level and find my brand right away to get the likes and then go off to promote. It’s pretty evil. It’s not fair; and it’s the same for guys as well…they have to prove themselves in other ways [like] muscles or whatever. Now we all have to be models and although everyone’s trying to say curves are pretty, it’s still not seen like that in social media. Like, even the curvy ones are super gorgeous. You have to feed into these standards now. Social media kind of killed us…killed innocence, you know? Everything has to be planned in a different way. It’s hard.
How do you think artists’ authenticities and autonomies have been affected by that?
I think it’s very rare now that artists are really doing what they love. I don’t know if I should say that, but I feel like [it’s true]. I mean, look at Lady Gaga, at her journey. At Pink and her journey. They had to start somewhere to get to where they are now. Even Britney Spears, you know? She’s so talented and people don’t even know that because she had to do these specific roles to be like this baby doll but she actually can sing country like a beast. She’s amazing. Miley Cyrus, you know, look at her. Everyone was like, oh, she’s a rebel; but it’s not that she’s a rebel — that’s who she is now, but she had to be Hannah Montana because she had to be famous first. So yeah, it’s a lot of new artists trying to imitate something that is not actually them just to make it, just to be famous. And this, “being famous”? I mean, don’t you just want to be who you are?
I love all these reality TV shows, but they kinda destroyed us. And social media? It’s not the truth anymore. We can’t be a hundred percent us anymore when we start.
I definitely see it. It’s about gaining an audience first and then music second sometimes.
Or even in terms of changing music. Like how Gaga started with dance (which I love! I think it’s great), but her voice even changed over the years: now she’s more of rock and roll and whatever she wants to do. And Miley, too! It’s cool to see the journey, but when you think about it, it’s how they had to do it– it’s not what they wished to do.
Artists get a lot of criticism later when they start to feel more vulnerable about being themselves but it’s like, this is [always] who [they] were…[they] just couldn’t [show anyone]. Everyone asks, why are they trying to be someone else? But no, that’s what they did in the past. This is who they are right now. It’s hard to prove yourself when you’re [still] trying to be yourself.
I’m trying to start [while still] being myself. I hope it’s gonna happen, but it’s harder. It takes longer.
When you go out into the world, how do you like to present or express yourself?
I like to change my hair color a lot. I have my new show coming up so I have to be blonde again but I like to do pink, I like to do purple. I like to change my nails all the time. I do really crazy nails. I’ll do bones and skulls and a lot of bling and super long or super short…crazy faces…stuff like that. I like grandiose, crazy clothes, too — not emo, but a lot of glam. I’ll go like every day in a saggy t-shirt and leggings and wear my pajamas and then go out of the house. I like to change a lot. And tattoos, always.
The necklace you’re wearing, what does it mean for you?
I feel like I take my music with me when I wear it. It’s my story. When people see it, they don’t just say, “oh, cool necklace;” they say, “oh my God, cool necklace!” They look at it and say, “oh wow, this is impressive.” And then I say, “yeah, I’m a musician. I’m an artist.” So I don’t have to be like, oh, I’m a singer. I don’t have to explain much when I wear it. I love it. I wear it all the time.
Shifting gears a little bit, I know you mentioned you stood out a lot as a kid. What would you say to the younger you?
I would tell her to shut up because I got beat up a lot. In the kibbutz — in the community — we’re all equal, so we all had to be the same: wear the same clothes, speak the same, like the same things. If you’re different, you’re going to get beat up, no matter what…if you’re a girl or a guy, we’re all the same. I was too loud, so I would say to [young Adi]: “shut up! Stop. Don’t try to stand out. You’ll have your time.”
What do you think she would say back to you?
Don’t fall in love so easily…in anything! I would get excited over everything. Like, I got a new role in this show! Or, this guy told me he would take me to LA to help me make it! You know? I would just fall in love with everything: with ideas, with men, with women, and everything. But hey, it brought me here!
Exactly. It can lead to really great things when you’re excited about life.
Right? I’m not crazy. I’m passionate!
Where do you hope your passions will take you in the next five years? What do you hope will fulfill you in that time?
I hope to be as creative as I am right now and to be as productive and to use those passions in productive ways — not as much talking, more doing. Making my plan a reality…my dream a reality, basically. That would be great.
You mentioned being feeling really creative right now, what does that look like when you’re in that state?
It looks like this: typing on my phone. Typing, typing, typing. I’ll start telling my boyfriend the story, [how] this guy killed [this girl] because she wanted to be a model. And he’s like, where are you hearing this? And I’m like, yeah, I watched that on TV. I just put it out and then open the computer and start recording. That’s how it is. And then a little bit of petting the dog and then coming back…that’s how every day here looks when I’m creative. But these are the moments when it happens! So I hope it’s going to happen more often because I get distracted very easily.
I see some instruments behind you. Do they have any particular meaning to you or are they just the different instruments you’d like to work with?
I play the piano…I’m not the best but I do play the clarinet and I also have the flute. I play a bit of a guitar…not much [though] and I also gave up now because of my nails. I also have a lot of microphones! I like to have a lot of different stuff. I have a collection of flutes from around the world. Everywhere I go — even my parents — if I see a flute or wind instrument, I’ll pick it up.
Since her interview, Adi has taken on the new role of Janis Joplin in Las Vegas’ newest show, 27: a musical anthology of the curious tragedies surrounding the world of artists who passed at the young age of twenty-seven. The show presents Wednesday-Sunday at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and tickets can be purchased here.
*Edited for clarity and brevity.