A lady who has always been vocal about issues that touch her heart, singer-songwriter, actress Monica Dogra is a gem in the industry. Be it voicing her opinion for CAA/NRC in December, or giving tips and tricks to her fans on staying sane during Lockdown, Monica Dogra follows her heart in every action. Recently, the singer mesmerised everyone with her latest release, ‘Secret Sauce,’ where she collaborated with actor and her first co-star Prateik Babbar for the video. Secret Sauce became a sensation on its release and garnered five million views online. Voice of Woman caught up with the songwriter during lockdown to peep into her life, her interests, and her actions during the ongoing lockdown: How do you divide your time between music, movies, and reality shows? I flow between priority and my heart longing. It really depends, there are no rules. What inspired you to take up music as a career? I remember when I first got into NYU, it was freshman orientation, and all of the new students were seated inside the auditorium. The head professor asked all of us to close our eyes and imagine something else we could be doing, besides taking up a life in the arts. He then asked us to open our eyes and instructed that anyone who could imagine something else should just get up and exit the auditorium immediately. For me, there has never been another option. And there never will be. How would you define your music? I would define my music as experimental. I’ve worked in bending and crossing genres in the space of dance music for so long. Currently, I’m enjoying playing with soca and softer, sexier grooves. What are the challenges you faced as a woman in the industry while building up your career? When I started, there were few women in the industry, and I felt I had to fight a bit harder, not just to get tokenized. I didn’t want to be the token girl. I tried to stand apart as someone who defined herself with herself. Now that there are so many other women in the industry, I still feel confident about who I am and where I stand. I feel so grateful to have a flourishing career. You are a fashionista and have many followers on that front. How would you describe your style and what fashion attracts you? My style is quite relaxed, nothing overtly feminine, and with a real lean towards vintage pieces. I love pieces that have been created with love. In a short series by MX Player, you focused on the fundamental right ‘Freedom of Speech. What inspired you to take that stand? Too many people have tried to silence me throughout my life. I’ve faced incredibly harsh criticism for being outspoken and brave in the way that I speak my truth, whether it was about dealing with abuse and misogyny in childhood, or being one of the first women in Indian Indie and reduced for my body or my sex. I don’t think anyone has a right to judge, if the way we self-express isn’t harming anyone, we stand to live a luxurious existence if we celebrate our differences and diversity. Don’t you think? Do you think the fundamental stand is justified in the current scenario of the country? Absolutely You are among the few in the industry who are vocal about social issues and the happenings in the country. Do you think it’s time other icons too speak out being the role models of many they can be the voice of the masses? I make up my mind about what I know to be right for me. It comes with my sovereignty over my life, the decision to put my career at risk, and those I love at risk, is a positive thing. And it’s a decision I’m willing to make for several personal reasons. I don’t know the lives other people have lived. I am no one to judge. But, I think that society as a whole would benefit from becoming more empathic and participatory. We must look after those who are weaker than we are, and I believe it is my duty. You travel a lot. What is your favorite hideout in the globe? I love New York and Bali. Tell us about your interests other than music. I am a writer, a poet, and a dancer. I love reading and travelling. Since lockdown, I’ve started to really enjoy the therapy of cooking. I love to box. I’m very interested in meditation and different modalities of healing. I love fashion, animals and also try to dedicate a portion of my time to seva. Your Instagram stories feature a lot about yoga and meditation. How much are you into practicing it? I am very interested in it. I study Kriya, Pranayama, and am teaching myself mantras as well. I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible thought leaders and spiritual guides in my life, both in India and abroad. I feel fortunate. We often hear talks of women empowerment, but then also see heinous crimes on the rise every day on women. What do you think should the women of today do to empower themselves to tackle the crimes and stand at par with the society? Women do stand at par, if not immeasurably superior. We see female-led movements, as we did recently with the issue of CAA/NRC. Women give birth to every human in existence on this planet. They have all come from a woman’s womb. I believe the feminine is waking up more than ever before. We can contribute to this change by breaking silences, living our truth, and by dedicating more time to the healing of the planet. How is Monica Dogra dealing with the lockdown situation? It’s been up and down for me. My mom was in the hospital with COVID, and I was terrified. That made me fall into a bit of depression, but she is doing much better now, and I am returning to my meditation practices. I am writing music, starting a book, exercising and cooking a lot. What are your thoughts on the aftermath of this lockdown and the pandemic that has gripped the world and India? I feel that we are bowing down to the magnificence of nature’s fury. We are so small. I trust we will all emerge much better for it. We will value the planet and one another far more after this. Any message that you want to convey to the women and your fans reading this. Love yourself, and then watch ~ Monica Dogra.