My name is Avara, and my top Google search when I was 15 was “how to bleach your skin white.” I traveled to India every summer with my immigrant parents and I remember lying to my friends that I was going to Paris or Germany – anywhere white-passing. I was embarrassed of my brown skin, but I couldn’t pinpoint why.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it was how my environment interacted with my circumstances. I grew up in southern Georgia, where no one at school looked like me, and I was bullied for my skin, my misunderstandings of common words, and my Indian food at lunch. I was too “white-washed” for the Indians, and too “brown” or “curry” for my American friends.
Music was the only thing that made it better. I had been learning to sing Indian classical music since I was six, but it all clicked for me in fourth grade when my mother bought me Taylor Swift’s CD. Her songwriting made me feel like I belonged.
I asked my parents for a guitar when I was 11 and started writing my own songs. Supplementing this with my seven-year residency in chorus, I recorded my first songs on GarageBand, playing and singing into my headphones.
However, the cards were all stacked against me. I was brown, female, and not “pretty” enough. I’d be better off getting a job like all my Indian/South-Asian peers in computer science or the medical field.
When asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” my answer was always to sing, for multiple reasons: of course I wanted to create beautiful, meaningful music, but I also wanted to prove everyone wrong. I wanted to show everyone who was mean to me as a child that I was capable. To show everyone that a brown girl could be a musician, not an engineer or doctor.
Feeling inferior for the majority of my life took a toll on my self-esteem, identity, and mental health. It took years to embrace myself as a South-Asian woman. But I wouldn’t change my story in any way, nor do I want pity for it.
Because of the hurdles I faced, one of my missions is to never see another young, brown girl feel shame or embarrassment for their culture. I want to let them know they are not alone; they are loved and enough as they are. And transcending my experience as an Indian woman, I am a human who feels things just like anybody else. As a highly sensitive person, things affect me incredibly deeply.
Dealing with eating disorders, assault, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder is something countless people of any gender, race, or color have gone through, and I want my music to serve as a haven for anyone who is struggling with mental health – whether it brings them out of a funk, helps them feel supported, helps them finally make that decision, or even just to facilitate a short release of dopamine.
So that’s where “golden” was born from. I was incredibly hurt from a long relationship I had been in, and had this realization that I’d also been changing who I was at my core to fit in. I didn’t realize my dysmorphia with my own culture had cut so deep.
It wasn’t the reason for our end, but my ex was from a white family, and it started to become difficult for us to reconcile the huge, fundamental differences in our culture. There were simply things he’d never understand about the female and South-Asian experience.
The world of “golden” takes you through an imaginary world. We begin in a medieval castle made of marble, with large and hollow stone walls inside hollow. The air smells like sweet honey, and there is a king and queen who are supposedly in love.
The queen gives up everything for her king and molds herself to be exactly what he wants her to be. She is malleable, soft, and shapeless like honey, and her radiance is golden. They live like this for a long time.
After some time, however, the king grows bored. He takes for granted his power and status, discarding her to the side like she’s a lowly beggar. The queen gives up her crown and throne (“I was your queen only by name“).
We start to realize the castle is haunted, crawling with ghosts and skeletons. We learn the woman has superpowers, she turns into a wildfire. She can no longer be tamed. She burns the whole castle down. But, she’s still radiant as ever. She has always been golden.
All most people want is to fit in, to feel like they belong, to feel safe in their own skin. I’ve watched myself, my friends, and others become different versions of themselves, trying to fit a mold of the person they think they need to be.
My message with “golden” is that you don’t need to be so soft and malleable, to people-please. Whether you are honey or wildfire, as a human, you are still “golden.” And when I say golden, I mean you are worthy.
Gold is one of the most rare and precious metals on earth – just as you are. I hope that whoever listens to this song finds the strength to realize that they are “golden” and do not need the validation of anyone. You already have everything you need within you.
Thank you so much for giving me this platform to share part of my story with you today. I hope “golden” helps to offer some healing for those who need it.
Listen to “golden” below and stream it everywhere else here.
Words by Avara // Follow her on TikTok