Photography by Donavon Smallwood
Styling by Imaan Sayed
Sasha Belyaeva first caught the fashion world’s attention after walking in the Chanel Fall 2016 Couture show in Paris. Her Karl Lagerfeld-approved performance even earned the Russia-born beauty a glowing write-up in Vogue. With her porcelain skin, bee-strung lips, and cool green eyes, Sasha seemed poised to conquer the industry. However, a quick internet search will turn up surprisingly little information on someone you’d expect to be blowing up right now. Sasha, it seems, dropped off the radar for a little to focus on some new artistic endeavors. Now, she’s reemerging to release her first EP, a collection of four songs entitled Greatest Illusion, which will be released later this month.
Sasha seems to be a renaissance woman in the truest sense. A classically trained violinist, she gave up her bow and strings for a catwalk at the urging of her father a few years back. She’s a bookworm who loves art-films and museums, has studied economics and has a gnarly sweet tooth. Music has always been her passion, however, and she’s recently refocused her attention there. That doesn’t mean she can’t dabble elsewhere, though. After breaking with her management company mid-EP, Sasha formed a talent management group with her friends, Lead+Develop, that’s focused on management, public relations, and creative production. She’s also about to publish her own magazine called Fourth Turning that will cover “true culture, completely unbiased.”
Sasha’s step back from the fashion spotlight doesn’t mean anyone has forgotten about her, though. She’s just as buzz-worthy as ever. While the buzz around Sasha is anything but quiet, she and her team have been decidedly close-lipped on sharing her soon-to-be-released tracks. A few lucky souls have been treated to what can only be described as in-person immersive experiences over the last few months where Sasha’s songs are played. One such event reportedly involved the attendees sitting in a dark room which had been filled with live butterflies which were then backlit as the music played. It’s safe to say that Sasha and her team are forgoing the traditional promotional route for her music, which honestly makes us all the more excited to finally get our hands on it.
We recently caught up with Sasha to learn more about her forthcoming EP and her plans for total world domination.
RYAN KILLIAN KRAUSE: Sasha, tell us a secret.
SASHA BELYAEVA: I can see into your future. If you ask me the right questions, I may help you see it too ;)
RKK: We’ll have to ask the right questions then! Next question: To you, what does it mean to resist?
SB: Currently, it means to keep your dignity.
RKK: Can you suggest three books to read that you feel will change our lives forever?
SB: 1. Stone Soup 2. The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain 3. They are not books, but have you ever read Napoleon Bonaparte’s Letters To Josephine? You'd find them lovely.
RKK: You have a new EP coming out on July 26th, what can you tell us about this collection of work?
SB: Foremost, I'm thankful to everyone who will listen to it. My team and I decided to put out this first release fully independently. To be honest, we feel like we have something to prove. We wanted to have no constraints on our creativity, so we challenged ourselves to offer the fans something completely our own. It was the only way we could feel truly confident that our careers are in our own hands. For this EP, we collaborated with Tom Krell (How To Dress Well).
RKK: If I wasn't a fan of your music yet, why would someone like me want to listen?
SB: My music seems to be attracting people who want something different. There is a soft power to every song, and I try to communicate that power to my fans. I want to make them proud.
RKK: What place were you in (mentally) when making the EP?
SB: Well, let’s just say that the vision and the voice aligned on this.
RKK: Was the process peaceful or chaotic?
SB: May I be honest? It was chaotic and thrilling. We went about it unconventionally and figured out the whole process by ourselves. I left my former agency mid-recording, so it was a true War of the Roses while being in studio. We decided to rent a Victorian mansion in the mountains in upstate New York and wrote most of the EP remotely with Tom Krell. There was a real sense of destruction and rebirth to the whole experience. I think this comes through in the lyrics.
RKK: Are you on the light or dark side? Be Honest.
SB: That depends...is there heartbreak involved?
RKK: For this new EP, what do you imagine when you hear it, in your mind what are the visuals/ mood this album paints?
SB: Well, the EP is about illumination. That’s why it is only three songs. Illuminations, true ones, are just a glimmer before you wake. You see, most people are asleep. They are unaware or so focused on one thing. The EP, which is called "Greatest Illusion," represents that moment when light hits your eye for the first time. That moment, and the mental visual, is different for everyone. The first single on the EP "Your Eyes" is my version of that light.
RKK: If your song came on the radio, what would be the perfect setting for it to be played at?
SB: I put on these secret listening parties every month or so (I'll invite you to the next one, I promise) where we try and create the perfect setting and experience. We had one where there were thousands of blue butterflies flying in a room with a subtle backlighting to bring out the colors. I heard it was amazing (I never attend the secret listening parties).
RKK: What is the last song you listened to?
SB: It must have been Fighting in Built Up Areas by Ladytron
RKK: Would you say you are a mysterious person?
SB: Am I allowed to say that I'm mysterious? I'd say that I feel a sense of mystery between me and my fans. It's like we are just getting to know each other and aren't sure yet if we are leading each other into glory, lust, or danger.
RKK: What are your goals for the future of today’s youth?
SB: Today's youth need to be themselves, but really themselves. There's this single-mindedness that comes with being a teenager or young adult, especially in the creative fields. It’s as if everyone wants to be outrageous and absurd because they can. But in the end, they lose.
RKK: Well, there are so many great things coming your way, would you say everything is all progressing pretty fast or how would you describe your progression as the Most Anticipated Music Artist of 2019?
SB: It's strange and interesting. Everything recently changed. The last few months have been full of press and our secret listening events. It all truly came to life one day. It was the first day of the rest of my life, I suppose. It seemed as if I fell asleep and woke up right on time.
RKK: Are you fazed by all this new success in your life? How crazy is this all for you?
SB: No, I am not fazed by it. Do you ever feel that you are special and that you always have been special? I feel most people are this way if they listen to their hearts. I've been listening to my heart for a while now and, because of this, the success seems to just be things falling into their right place. With that, the challenges I face as an artist, and there have been so many, are taken as tests and not tragedies.
RKK: What are your goals for the future in music?
SB: I’d like to remain creative. I think this is any musician's goal if you were to ask them. If I keep my creative freedom, everything else will be righteous and the dream will continue to be awakened.
RKK: What are your goals for the future in acting?
SB: Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone wrote a screenplay about the Mona Lisa’s life? It could be completely imaginary and up to their interpretation, but the film would need to be incredibly strange, dark and unusual. I’d like to play that Mona Lisa. It sounds interesting, don’t you think?
RKK: Is there anything you can share about your talent management firm Lead+Develop that’s launching the same day as your music?
SB: I am so glad you asked! Lead+Develop is the future. It’s more than just an agency: it's a rebellion, a lifestyle, a creative cult. It all started very naturally. We got to a point where the youngest, most creative and well-connected people were all drawn to each other to work on my music projects. At the same time, my management and I felt it was time to part ways. The situation was decaying and it was time to build something new. We are a collective of three agencies that specialize in management, public relations, and creative production. It allows me to build all the ideas I have in my mind with competent teams full of people who are on the same page. It’s all about dreams, risks, and rewards.
RKK: You’re quite the businesswoman, involved in advertising, music, and acting. Do you see your career path leading towards any particular one of these specifically?
SB: It’s my goal to own equity in multiple businesses. Once you know your worth, you realize that your presence in a new idea or situation can help it grow. I look for people with ideas and bring them together.
RKK: So, it’s safe to say that you want to take over the world then?