Singer Mabel on coming to terms with her mixed-race identity

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Mabel didn’t always think of herself as an outdoors person, but that all changed when she decided to pursue a hobby other than singing.

“When your hobby becomes your job, you need a new hobby,” says the 26-year-old – and her first step was getting a dog, an Italian greyhound called Imani, little time before first lockout.

“I was like, OK, I need a little emotional support, so I invited her on my last tour with me. She was amazing. It was a good reminder like, cool – she needs to go for a walk outside, so Let’s go outside and get some fresh air. It gave me a good sense of routine.

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Mabel – full name Mabel McVey – liked the fact that she had to go out so much that she soon got another dog, Tahini, also a greyhound, and decided to get back to riding, which she did in his childhood.

“Some of my favorite memories from this year were riding horses,” she says. “I’ll get on the horse and I’ll take my dogs, and they’ll run alongside the horse, and after that we’ll go to the studio – and I’m going there with this super calm, life-changing state of mind. “

She qualifies this new configuration of her life as very healthy. “I’m a very chaotic person, but this is the most mature and healthy decision I’ve ever made for myself.”

Mabel’s two dogs now travel with her everywhere, and she says, “We’re a really funny, dysfunctional little family.”

She credits walking her dog and horseback riding with helping with her anxiety, something she says “has been around for as long as I can remember” but is “reinforced when you’re well known”.

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Mabel comes from a famous family – her parents are Swedish singer Neneh Cherry and English music producer Cameron McVey – and she released her first single in 2015. “While making the album [her second album, About Last Night… comes out on July 15]confinement and spending more time with my family, I realized that the negatives that come with work are far from the positives,” she explains.

“When I look back on all the amazing things I’ve done as an artist and the things I’ve been through, it’s something I want to keep doing – yes, it comes with some tough stuff to deal with But, in general, isn’t the human experience difficult enough?

Mabel accepts that attention can sometimes be difficult to navigate. “No matter how confident you are or not, I think we’re all, at some point in our lives, worried about what people think of them,” she says.

“By being in the public eye, you get to know what people think of you. everything time. I was pretty young when I started doing what I do, and it took me a minute to accept the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that can’t change how I feel about myself.”

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In addition to her animals, Mabel takes care of her mental health by making music and taking occasional social media breaks. “If you feel like this is becoming the source of your happiness, and validation is what wakes you up in the morning, or makes you sad if you don’t get it, you need to take a break and you need to find physical, real things in the real world that make you happy,” she advises.

After moving around a lot as a child (she was born in Spain and grew up in the UK and Sweden), Mabel says: ‘I didn’t find my voice properly until I moved to London’ age of 18.

“Moving around a lot as a kid is amazing, and I see that as an asset, but I think for a long time I was like, ‘Where’s home?'” she says. She is multilingual (speaks English, Swedish and some Spanish) and grew up with her mother’s African-American stepfather, jazz musician Don Cherry, and her Sierra Leonean biological grandfather.

“It was like all these different puzzle pieces, and I didn’t really understand how they fit together. Here [in London]there are so many different cultures, but there are [in Sweden], I definitely didn’t look Swedish. I would have this confusion about my identity – being mixed, I understand my privilege 100%. However, at the same time, you find yourself with this conflict within yourself, where I felt like I was afraid to own my darkness. But also if you put me in a room with white people, I’ll never be white either.”

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The fact that London is such a “melting pot of all these different cultures” helped Mabel navigate those feelings, and she says it all culminated in winning the Brit Award for British Female Solo Artist in 2020.

“Winning my Brit Award and being in the O2 – you’re in London, you’re in the most important arena,” she says. “I feel like I’ve always struggled with my identity, but to feel like I love London and London loves me back – it was a really precious moment.”

Mabel is celebrating her London concerts again this summer with a special concert to close the Somerset House Summer Series with American Express. To win tickets as part of the Amex Summer Drop campaign, go to amexsummerdrop.co.uk.

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