When the lyrics and melodies of Will Michiels reach your ears, they go straight into the blood. His music is caressing the soul: sensitive, yet so powerful that it carries you away into the remarkable world of the Belgian musician. Known as TheColorGrey, Will has long been established outside of Antwerp and is no longer an underdog. The single "Out Of My Hands", from his 2020 album "OVERCOME", has nearly 3 million streams on Spotify.
The artist name TheColorGrey is not a coincidence. Will Michiels could be described as a man of subtle shades on more than just one level. As the son of a Congolese mother and a European father, his background combines two worlds and various influences since early childhood. His mother’s African music met his father’s faves, reaching from Prince to Bob Marley. And while the granny played classical piano, the brother preferred to play loud Hip-Hop and RnB tunes in his room. The personal history of Will is also reflected in his music which doesn’t follow conventions. Several genres, from Hip-Hop to Pop Rap and Blue Jazz, merge into an orchestra that makes his tunes and live performances a unique experience.
“Nobody’s perfect. People are not black or white, people are grey.”
This musician frees himself from all theoretical restrictions and mixes seemingly difficult transitions in a virtuous way. This creative liberation is one of the principles that he wants to convey with his music. Also, the story behind the rapper’s name reflects this precisely. TheColorGrey is based on a book that stuck with his teenage self. Its message: One should not be disappointed because people are not perfect. They should not be seen as black or white, but as shades of grey.
“I think first and foremost, music has always been like a tool for people to forget about their everyday life, their everyday struggle, their problems.”
For Will, music combines two aspects of liberation. First, it is a tool to forget your everyday worries, but also the chance to find representation and make single voices be heard. Music offers him a stage on which he can be himself, where he doesn’t have to care about others’ opinions. After all, the mere fact that someone like Will, who grew up in modest circumstances, can now make a living off of the creative outpourings of his heart and brain is not only priceless but a personal liberation. And perhaps it is precisely these numerous shades of freedom that appear like a rainbow to give his serious music the lightheartedness it needs. Just like that, it does justice to both musings and dreams.
Haters Gonna Hate, Teddy’s Gonna Love
If you google the term confidence, you shouldn't be surprised to find a picture of Teddy Quinlivan. After all, the successful model is not only at peace with herself but is also not afraid to voice polarising opinions. Silently treading the catwalks of this world would be out of the question for the 27-year-old. She has fought for her very own liberation, and now she wants to share one message in particular with the world: Screw the haters.
“What really liberated me was just not caring how other people perceive me because I don't waste any more energy or time on the opinions of others.”
Teddy knows from her own experience that the struggle for one's liberation is complex and not an easy one. Often, it's not just about external circumstances but also about one's own fears. Naturally, her public coming out had an impact on the transgender model. Although Teddy had already transitioned in high school, she kept this to herself when she started working in fashion. She wore her secret across all the runways until the height of her career. When she finally overcame her fear of not being accepted and decided to be fully and officially herself, it was not just about her own freedom but also about being the role model for trans kids that she never had.
“We are on this earth for such a short amount of time. Do you really want to waste your time thinking about what other people might say about you or if you're good enough for them, or if you're doing it the right way?”
Teddy's secret ingredient for the ultimate liberation is simply detachment from the opinions of others. And not just as outward protection but also as a measure against one's own mindset. Teddy refers to today’s cancel culture by considering: All of us are currently experiencing a period of extreme self-censorship because we are constantly afraid of saying something wrong and thus offending someone or exposing ourselves by not having the right moral attitude.
“I think we're all human, and I think we have to get to a place where we're comfortable messing up sometimes and giving people the grace to move on from that and not to have their character defined by one thing that they said five or ten years ago.”
We should not be so hard on ourselves and others, and keep speaking truths that are difficult for others to swallow. Teddy admires especially those who are unafraid to speak truth to power in such a raw way. She's also not afraid to speak out, something you’ll notice when listening to her podcast "unholy and curious". After all, humans are not a monolith - We need to get to a place where we're comfortable with our ideological differences, Teddy advises. But anyone who assumes stubborn self-indulgence is wrong. Although Teddy likes to invent herself again and again, and enjoys the free time between her modeling jobs to create and perform her own look, she still loves being part of a global community.
“I feel the most comfortable on the streets of a big crowded city walking around in a beautiful outfit. The world is my runway.”
But to make this runway as colorful and diverse as possible, Teddy's advice to anyone on a similar journey as herself is: Find your own path and don't let anyone get in your way. Be badass. Life is short.