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La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: ‘People See That This Is a Long Struggle’

Emerging Mexican-American femmetón singer-songwriter La Doña’s new album, Algo Nuevo, dropped March 12 via Human Re Sources just as the coronavirus pandemic intensified in the U.S. Concerts, festivals and other large gatherings across the country were canceled, including her planned South by Southwest debut, interrupting her early career momentum.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with La Doña — whose real name is Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea – each week to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis. (Read last week’s installment here and see the full series here.)

What’s changed for you over the past week?

Honestly, not too much has changed this past week. I’ve been trying to maintain more social distance just so people in my apartment can go see their dads or children for Father’s Day. But, besides that, I have been working on some music and seeing my family at a distance a little bit.

I also performed for Sean Monterrosa’s zoom memorial on Saturday night. I played a few songs for them and it was special to hear from his sisters that they would listen to my music with Sean and that he was a supporter [of mine].

Did you release the Sean-inspired song?

I guess I haven’t really done anything on that since last week. I would like to send it to the family first to see if they have any use for it or want to do anything for it. It is complicated even when I’m creating art around this moment. It’s complicated for me to really feel like promoting any of my stuff.

You were scheduled to perform at this year’s 50th edition of San Francisco Pride and that was canceled too. Are you planning on being part of any virtual live streams or celebrations?

Yeah, definitely. Most of the pride stuff got pushed back because of everything that has been going on. We still are planning on doing a video for the SF Pride live stream [June 27-28]. As a non-black artist, I felt that it wasn’t useful to put out music right now. It’s not really what I want to focus on right now. I’ve been feeling some type of way and not taking the time to do whatever promo stuff I’m supposed to be doing but I think after speaking to my housemate who has been helping me with this video, she reiterated that any activity is a good opportunity to strengthen the connection and the historical significance of the gay community rallying behind the black community. We’re going to take the opportunity to reiterate our solidarity and our focus on safety and justice for black trans lives.

What black artists are you listening to for inspiration?

I’ve been listening a lot to Stunnaman02. Right now he’s taking a strong stance on black/brown solidarity. A lot of his music is community-based and has worked with a lot of other Bay Area artists. I’ve been listening to “What Ya Want,” a song by A-1 who is also a San Francisco-based hip-hop artist and the song is basically just about defunding the police and what’s going on. And, I’ve also been thinking about Qing Qi. I’m actually writing a song called “Hunt What Hunts You” because there’s a lot of rhetoric about an “eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and I think we’re saying now that that kind of respectability rhetoric is not really what builds pressure or makes changes. I want to send it to [Qing Qi] because she’s an amazing rapper and hopefully get her on the track.

Anything else you want to add?

I feel really excited by all the different groups that are standing up and all the different tiers of organizing. I feel happy that people see that this is a long struggle and not just like, “Oh [San Francisco mayor] London Breed says she’s going to defund the police, we’re good right?” I think that everybody is seeing this as a much longer struggle which brings me hope. I still have to figure out how I will make music but I’m excited to collaborate with all of my super radical black homies out here and make really cool stuff. If my audience hasn’t been listening to Black artists then I would love to be an agent of change in that.


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