R & B singer, Natalie Fine Shapiro, talks about starting a henna design business, taking inspiration from her Jewish roots and how the Renaissance Festival nurtured her gifts as a performer.
Are your from the Twin Cities originally? What part do you live in?
I was born and raised in Minneapolis and I lived there until last fall, when I moved to Chaska to live with two of my lovely friends and their three-year old son. I still work in Uptown, so I commute every day.
Tell me about your henna design business? How’d you get into that?
I began doing henna about three years ago. My best friend went to India, and brought some henna back for me. I’ve always been artistic and very detail-oriented, so I picked it up pretty quickly. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a group of established local henna artists, and went to a conference where I learned a lot from them. I started by doing henna on my friends, and it sort of naturally turned into a side business as people began inquiring about hiring me for events and personal appointments.
You’re also a singer in the band, More Than Lights. How would you describe your sound?
More Than Lights is a live hip-hop band, bringing lots of different sounds, including funk, pop, and blues. However, describing my own voice is a challenge for me. I was trained in classical voice for a while, and then was into jazz and musical theater before discovering R&B and hip-hop. I’m a belter. My voice is strong. Soulful.
Where can we hear the band play?
More Than Lights is currently recording our next album, so we aren’t performing much right now. My other band, Nightlights, which is a 90’s R&B cover band, will be playing at Cafe Caribe at the MN State Fair on August 28th, 29th, 31st, and September 1st, from 7-11pm.
You’re a woman of many interests already, but what’s this about working at the Renaissance Festival?
The Renaissance Festival was my very first job! I worked there for thirteen years, for games and rides, and it was a blast. When I started there, I was a pretty shy girl. The Renaissance Festival helped me come out of my shell, and I think that made a difference in my confidence when it came to performing. I don’t work there anymore because I have too much other stuff going on, but I miss all my Renaissance people.
Do your Jewish roots inspire any of your career aspirations?
I read an article by a Jewish comedian about why there are so many Jews in comedy, and at one point he connected making people laugh with Tikkun Olam. I believe that creating art brings more beauty into the world, and that’s a form of Tikkun Olam. So I hope I’m achieving that on some level.
On a completely separate note, not too long after I began doing henna, I discovered that the henna tradition has ancient Jewish roots. Because the henna plant is native to the Middle East and North Africa, henna has roots in several cultures, including the Jewish culture. Henna was common among Moroccan Jews and Yemenite Jews, to name a few. What a cool coincidence.
What’s next for you?
Making an album with More Than Lights that I’m proud of and continuing to find joy in performing and creating. Hopefully some traveling.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I think Pesach is my favorite. I usually spend it in Chicago, with my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Celebrating with them makes me happy. My little cousins always expect henna while I’m visiting!
What’s your favorite Jewish food?
My Nanna’s noodle kugel, hands down. Also, I got hooked on falafel last month when I was in Israel.
What makes you folkin’ awesome?
I’m true to myself. I do what I love, while continuing to explore the person I am, who I aspire to be, and what I want to do with my life, and that takes courage.
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