Shea Diamond has arrived on the music scene to deliver a powerful, sultry first taste of her upcoming debut EP Seen It All, with the release of “Keisha Complexion.” Putting a spin on the term “Ebony Complexion”, Shea’s “Keisha Complexion” glorifies dark skin and embraces the beauty in discovering self-love, which Shea puts on display in the song’s video that premiered via Refinery 29. Her debut EP will drop June 29 via Asylum Records, and is executive-produced by acclaimed songwriter/producer, Justin Tranter (Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Gwen Stefani, etc.). Tranter also co-wrote on three of the EPs tracks, including “Keisha Complexion.”
“Everything about Shea exudes confidence, love and the secret beauty of being an underdog,” says Tranter. “‘Keisha Complexion’ showcases all of that and then some. Getting to make music with her is a career highlight for me.”
Shea first caught the ear of Tranter after he heard an a-capella performance of her original song, an empowering trans anthem, “I Am Her” at a Black Trans Lives Matter event. “A friend sent me a video of her singing,” recalls Tranter. “I just kind of lost my mind and was like, ‘Who is this? Why is this song so good? How have I never heard of this person?’ From there I tracked her down.” Shea immediately impressed Tranter with her talent. “When I brought her out to L.A. to work together, I was blown away within the first couple minutes,” he continues. “Not only does this woman have a very beautiful, powerful story to tell, she can back it up as a musician. Vocally, her tone is magical; it’s so rich and so beautiful. Every time she opens her mouth to sing, you believe every word. And in terms of songwriting, she’s a real storyteller.”
Shea (pronounced she-uh) has always had to fight to live her truth. Indeed, she has fought to live her very she-ness. As a black transgender woman, that’s just what she does every time she walks out into the world–representing herself and amplifying the voices and experiences of her community. But now after all of her struggle, this game-changing new singer-songwriter is living her dream with the upcoming release of her soulful and soul-baring debut EP.
“The struggle looks different for different people. But this music is for everyone.” So testifies Shea Diamond, who, with a gritty mix of sounds that digs into everything from R&B, rock and hip-hop to blues, folk and gospel, makes music that speaks to the universal experience while sharing from her very personal one.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas before moving to Memphis and then Flint, Michigan as a child— Shea says that “as early as I can remember, I always identified as being a girl. It was hard work to pretend to be a gender that you’re not. I should have gotten an Oscar, really. I had so much pressure on me as child to be masculine. Even when I was the choir director for our church, my mother would still whisper in my ear that I was singing too high. Growing up trans takes a lot of guts.” While the music of childhood idols like Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Dolly Parton (“She was pure magic to me”) provided some relief, Shea was unable to cope with the pressures at home and ran away at 14. Entering the foster care system as a ward of the state, she eventually became emancipated at 17. Then in 1999, desperate to get money for sex reassignment surgery, she committed armed robbery and consequently served about 10 years in the men’s prison system, getting shuffled around “because I was too feminine.” During her incarceration, though, she found her voice as an artist, singing and writing songs like “I Am Her.” Shea’s fellow inmates even became fans. After being released in November 2009, Shea moved to New York City and was introduced to the trans activism world where she was able with connect with others who understood her, and were fighting the good fight alongside her.
It is Shea’s life and experiences that make her who she is, and it is her voice and soul that changed her life to what it is today. Now living in Los Angeles, Shea uses her story to empower herself as a woman and artist, encouraging others to live in their full truths as well.