Alia Loren, grime DJ

This interview is part of the BEAUTIFUL x POWERFUL collaboration with Nike.
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Named by Fader as one of the women pushing grime forward, Alia Loren is a woman who knows what she's talking about. Her passion for music is infectious but it is her own personal story that drives her to do more, do better and inspire others. 

You came from quite a strict background, how did that affect your outlook?

I come from quite a strict religious background. I didn’t feel free enough to have my own opinions. I ended up leaving home at 18. I had good grades in my A Levels but I had to drop out of college, as I had no money to pay rent so I had to get a full time job, which I absolutely hated. I'd lost my mum, dad and brother overnight. I felt like I’d lost everything, I’d got to my lowest point, but then I met my friend's family, her mum said, “Come and live with us for free, we know you wanna go to college and go uni.” I woke up one day and I thought, Alia, fix up.  Like go and do some amazing things.  And then that's when I went and just went H.A.M on my studies, did well at uni and got into radio whilst I was doing my studies.

How did you get into presenting on radio?

I started out on Reprezent Radio then moved to Radar. Gavin, who's like my radio godfather, who's helped me through everything said, “I've heard you've got a passion for grime and radio, maybe you wanna come to... have this opportunity to go to Radar and start your own grime show, it's up to you if you wanna take it.” It was so fast-paced, one thing to the next thing, and then I had to go to the station to start my own grime show.

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You’ve said in the past that Skepta’s quote, 'pain breeds creativity' really inspires you. Is that how you think about your own journey, that it makes you stronger and more powerful?

That quote has really stuck by me. Pain is one of my biggest motivators and people might find that as a weird thing to say but I think about leaving home at 18. I think about when I was borderline homeless. I think about having no money to my name. I think about all those things and it makes you think you've gone through all that bullshit and all that pain and emotional and psychological abuse and you just turn that around and you use that pain to make something beautiful. 

So, with all that has happened in your past what would you say power is to you?

Power to me means taking risks. Power to me means that inner strength you find in yourself and going that extra mile and proving to yourself that you can be the best possible person. Other people don't have to think you're the best. As long as you learn your skills and work hard and perfect your craft, you can be the most powerful person you want to be.

What do you look for when you're listening to new music?

Before I used to listen to it and be like, oh, this is sick, I'm just gonna spin it.  Now I’ll listen more to the style of instrumental, whether it's more trappy, grime-based, if it's got techno elements or house elements to it, the drum patterns and that kind of thing. Obviously the bars and the quality of bars and the type of flows matter. I look for where they’re from and the different styles that everyone seems to have. Like Birmingham grime and the instrumentals and music they listen to can be completely different to the London sound of grime.

Do you feel it's hard being a woman in the music industry especially?

Oh, yeah, definitely.  Definitely.  I've had a lot of rubbish when it comes to being a female in the industry.  Like I've had lies said about me and people saying that she's got the wrong intentions and ulterior motives to be here.  People don't know my story and how far I've come. When my friends see stuff happening or they hear things, they're just like, “Forget about all them 'cos we know how hard you've worked, we know your background, we know you.”

You seem like a really confident person throughout your social media outlets and you definitely come across as confident but in yourself, in your body and how you express yourself, do you feel confident?

I used to be very self-conscious about my body but now I've got to a point where I'm just like I don't care about my body. I don't care about certain things, I love me. I'm proud of my body. I'm proud of my skin colour. I'm proud of my African heritage. I’m blessed to have my body, I can say, “Oh, I'm a bit frumpy and I've got big thighs, I've got a bit of a belly or back fat.” There are people out there that haven't even got enough food to eat. There are people out there that don't have limbs or have a terminal disease.  I'm happy to be the way I am. I'm not trying to say I love myself, like I'm arrogant or anything like that, 'cos I have my flabby bits but I'm proud of them, that's fine by me. 

 Everyone's gone through something to make themselves think that, "I don't love myself, I'm not beautiful, I'm not amazing." I don't want girls think that.  I want them to think that they’re smart, they’re beautiful, and intelligent. You've got to just love yourself.  Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone has their own body.  You're not the same as the next person. Everyone's different. You’re you. Love you.

Photography: Lottie Bea Spencer

Set Design: Amy Stickland

Make-up and hair: Ezana Ove

Styling: Holly Macdonald

Editorial Assistant: Rhea Dillon