With Fashion Week here Harlem World spoke to Harlem’s Sheena Satana, who was on Cycle 11 of America’s Next Top Model. In true Harlem flavor, she was the contestant who was told to tone down her sex appeal and the one who always spoke her mind. We hung out with the singer, actress, celebrity hostess and Buddhist on a cool day in Morningside Park about fashion, Harlem food, the Asian Beyoncé, Huwarlem and the future.
Harlem World: What doors has America’s Next Top Model opened for you?
Sheena: It has definitely taken five years off my career in terms of exposure ANTM has a viewership in 120 different countries. Without ANTM would not have been this famous and for that I’m thankful.
HW: It gave you a lot of different experiences?
Sheena: It confirmed my place is in the industry. I’m definitely an entertainer, modeling is something I can do but it’s not what I am. It showed me who I appeal to and I have had so many amazing responses from people of all different ethnic backgrounds; not just Asian but black, white and Latino. Everybody, I’m like hey, okay join the rainbow (laughter).
HW: America’s Next Top Model saw you on the street one day or did you have to apply?
HW: An ANTM scout?
Sheena: Yes, she sent me an email saying “…this is not fake, call me…I’m 100 percent for real” (laughter).
HW: I know you have a lot of different things you doing, acting, singing, modeling, jumping off of 30 feet buildings so what are you doing these days?
Sheena: Right now, I’m hosting events, going on castings, doing all types of promotional work. I’m definitely in the men’s market, just doing everything I can, eventually I’ll get into music and film again.
HW: If you had the offer to be on Maxim magazine, Playboy, etc., would take that offer?
Sheena: Count me in (laughing)
HW: I know that before America’s Next Top Model you were into your music, so your music career is still tops on your list?
Sheena: Definitely, I will always be a performer first and Top Model was something I never really was interested in. Then the opportunity came up, they called me and said would you like to try out we don’t have an Asian girl so I did it. One thing led to another and I got in, but I definitely was perusing music first, that’s why I came to New York. I worked with a producer and we made an album that we got on the radio. The label didn’t know how to market me because I was Asian, so we went to a Korean label, JYP. JYP was trying to have control and sign me to a 10-year contract cause they needed someone to cross over from America. They needed someone with a hood stamp, but that could also do the Korean side.
HW: Do you think you represent the Asian American community or something more?
Sheena: I don’t feel like I represent an Asian American person. I feel like I represent an individual, that’s who I am. I’m Asian, I’m aware of my ethnicity and I embrace it. I love my Asian food and my culture but I am American first so it’s really a combination of all kind of cultures that influence me. As for the industry, Asians are very limited. We only make up 4% of the population in terms of marketing, so it’s very difficult for Asians to be on top and in the mainstream.
HW: Is there anyone that inspires you career wise?
Sheena: There is this 1960 cult actress named Tura Satanna that’s where I got my name. She really inspired me, she was a minority, very exotic and controversial based on her look and vivacious body. I was so inspired by her story and struggle.
HW: If you could be in a movie with any male actors, who would it be?
Sheena: Male actors? Well, if they pay me well enough I don’t really care as long as their good actors and we have that chemistry. That’s all that matters but I really would love to be in a “Kill Bill” Quentin Tarantino film or Robert Rodriguez film, that’s definitely what I want to do or work with Tim Burton. These are directors, I’m talking about, I don’t care about the actors.
HW: Who are some musicians that you listen to on your iPod?
Sheena: Girl, that’s a lot. I’m so eclectic with music. I honestly love underground Hip Hop, R&B, 70’s disco, 80’s, blues, punk and jazz. I love Jimmy Hendrix, Johnny D Hooker , J Dilla, Foreign Exchange, Little Brother, Andre Nickatina, Curby Donoman and Legends. I can go on and on, let me pull out my iPod (laughing).
HW: No Beyoncé? Rihanna? Lady Gaga?
Sheena: Girl, who you talking too? I wanted to be the Asian Beyoncé. I love her, I can never get enough of her. I do like Lady Gaga too, I think she is dope. Honestly I don’t like the rap now a days; there’s no poetry, there’s no depth, there’s no story line and there’s just words like “I’m in the club, I’m drinking, I’m smacking, I’m getting low…” anybody can say that.
HW: Yeah and making a million out of it.
Sheena: Right, just have an instrumental. The beats are cool, just don’t talk.
HW: I know you’re from Honolulu, how would you compare Honolulu to Harlem?
Sheena: For me, there’s no difference I call it Huwarlem. I bring a mix of it, Harlem is beautiful we have Morningside Park and the Apollo. It’s just a lot more walking for me since I’m used to drive in Honolulu.
HW: At least you get your workout on.
Sheena: I’ve always said that they both have different things to offer. If I want to escape the city, I go to Hawaii relax on the beach and be with my family.
HW: How has Harlem contributed to your personal style?
Sheena: My personal style is vintage. I’m not afraid of accessories, put on some cute shoes when I want to, because it’s New York we can wear whatever we want to.
HW: What are three things you would say that are Harlem style?
Sheena: 1) urban chic, 2) the new nerdy business class with the glasses, 3) Diva chic, that’s all I can say from a womans perspective .
HW: What is one of places you like going in Harlem (no dress up)?
Sheena: I really like Best (Yet) Market.
HW: Me too, did you try their BBQ chicken sandwich?
Sheena : No, but I do love it because I used to go down to Fine Fair with my big shopping cart and walk so many blocks down . I love this little café over by 119th called Patisserie des Ambassades I wish I could say the name, I just know the location (laughing). The food is delicious especially their spring rolls and the pastries .
HW: Speaking of food, can you just eat a cheeseburger and not gain any weight or do you workout?
Sheena: Honestly, I can eat whatever I want but it’s starting to show. As you get older your body slows down, but I do love my cheeseburgers.
HW: I did my research and I know you’re a Buddhist, what role does Buddhism play in your life?
Sheena: I don’t really practice Buddhism like that. I really do like the philosophy, I do follow it and apply it to my life. I do like material things and its very difficult as a woman with clothes, shoes and all that good stuff.
HW: Do you say stop don’t touch those material things?
Sheena: I want you know (that) I want to live life, I want what my resources are offering so I try to find a spiritual balance.
HW: You’re sexy, young, and vibrant but can you ever see yourself settling down with someone and having a family?
Sheena: Yeah absolutely, as far as settling down that’s definitely everyone wants to find love…. I didn’t want to have kids unless it was planned, because my pet peeve is unplanned parenthood.
HW: Are you with someone now?
Sheena: I’m not telling.
HW: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a diva like yourself?
Sheena: Like Beyoncé said singing that song, I guess that success is not measured in fame and glory. It is measured in accomplishing something in life. Live it to the fullest, embrace every moment you have and be happy. Find your genius and pursue it.
HW: Yes, three snaps in a z formation
Sheena: Exactly (laughing)
Interview by Meagan Tracy.