Olay Noel just released her debut single called “Flowers,” and we can’t stop listening! The female empowerment anthem is directly inspired by all the idols that shaped and molded Olay into the woman she is today, from Beyonce to Sade to Brandy. On the record, Olay gives each artist their flowers, reminding audiences all around the world that female artists wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for these greats.
Hailing from Atlanta, spending 6 years in New York, and now calling Los Angeles home, Olay is a fashion model, designer, recording artist, and digital maven who’s here to inspire females all around the world that they too can turn their dreams into a reality.
Olay’s parents are both from Guyana, and fondly remembers singing and dancing with her sisters around the house all day. After getting into modeling as a teenager, she moved to New York before taking time off to be in a girl group called XO. During that two-year period, Olay had the opportunity to tour with Monica, deeming it a “really good and enjoyable experience.”
Sheen spoke with Olay Noel in downtown Los Angeles to discuss her journey in music, why she made “Flowers,” working with Beyonce, the meaning behind MIANIK, and more!
Talk about your love for music, being in the girl group XO and now being solo.
It was a TLC vibe, two singers and a rapper. It was a really cool experience. I’ve always been into music. I was in music in elementary schools, in choir and church. Throughout my life, I’ve always been doing music. But I wanted to pursue it as a solo artist, that’s when I moved to LA and the pandemic hit. I was just here, existing. I’m now able to blossom and spread my wings now that the world is opened up again. Network with producers and writers, so it’s all coming together.
You’re still modeling, how does it feel to be able to do both?
Oh, I do that — my main three M’s is MIANIK, modeling, and music. MIANIK is my brand, I sell accessories and womenswear. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want anything else to try to come up in there, that is the focus and life. I do all of them, not at the exact same time. But within a week’s time: I’ll do two days on this, two days on this. Of course, you can never schedule it because other things come in the way and you have to juggle. But I try to keep a balance of those three things, make sure I’m feeding into all of them and they’re all growing.
How would you describe your sound?
My first song as an “Flowers” is more pop. I really wanted to highlight the women who came before me first, before starting my journey. That was the intention behind that, to give them their flowers. Now I’m going to move into more of an R&B vibe, which is my main love. That’s what I listen to all day, aside from soca music. Because when I need my energy hype, I gotta put on soca to wake me up. Aside from that, it’s usually R&B. Me and my feelings all day. That’s the pocket, but I’m gonna go between both pop and R&B. Maybe a little bit of hip hop, you never know. I might start rapping. [laughs]
Can you rap?
Never say never. I mean, I can today. [laughs]
How did you get the idea or concept for “Flowers”?
That’s a good question, it just came naturally. I’d been listening to these women my whole life. All my records are Sade, Beyonce, Brandy. It’s all of them, so I see it every day as a part of my life. I always think about, people wait until people pass away then they want to be like, “oh, I loved you so much.” No, why not thank people while they’re here? While they can hear the thank you. Whether they hear it or not, the intention is out. If I didn’t see them, I wouldn’t be able to imagine myself doing it or learn their songs to even know that I could sing. Just wanted to give them something to thank them, before I started my own journey.
How are your fans responding? Because I’m sure everyone’s loving it.
They love it! “We love this message, it’s so fun and happy and positive.” Everyone’s like “it’s such a nice positive song. You look so happy!” [laughs] It’s gonna get a little sexier, but for now… gotta give the kids a little summer anthem.
How was it recreating all the icons?
Oh my God, that shoot… we literally did all the looks in one day. I went to get my hair braided and did Beyonce first. You got to set the tone, with the “Check Up On It” braids. Got that done the day before, came to set with that done. We were there taking out all those braids, then did wigs, wigs wigs. Thank you to my team, that was amazing. I really wanted to pick iconic images from each of those artists, because there’s a million women I want to thank, that have inspired me. Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Toni Braxton were people I wanted to do as well. But okay, I have to stop at some point. Who has the most iconic images that when you see it, you know this is this person. This is from this cover. That’s how I dwindled it down to the final six.
What is Beyonce’s influence on you?
Where do I begin? I’m an OG fan. I know everybody’s obsessed because she’s an icon, we know this. But I’m a day one. My whole family is obsessed with this woman, since the first Destiny’s Child. Our neighbor growing up had a dog named Destiny. Destiny had children, she gave us one of the children. So Destiny’s Child, we named our dog Beyonce. My first dog in life’s name was me Beyonce.The second dog’s name is Sasha Fierce, her alter ego. It is in my DNA to love this woman, listen to her forever, follow her forever. Knew she was a star before she was even going down her own journey. We were all like “Bey’s the one!” at 3 years old. [laughs] So the love is deep, and it continues.
Can we expect a video for flowers?
Yes! I’m working on figuring out what I need the editor to edit. I shot in Singapore and Bali. It wasn’t on purpose, I was there for a modelling job. Me and the videographer were like, “let’s shoot your music video!” I was like, that’s a good idea. This is a beautiful location.
Talk about starting MIANIK and what that stands for.
MIANIK is a name that I made up. My middle name is Mia, so I combined my middle name and my sister’s middle names. I chose random letters that I liked, that worked, and made up a name. To me, it means sisterhood and united, coming together. I’m gonna have to get that in Webster at some point, somehow. [laughs] I started it when I was in the girl group, as a means to make more money.
How old were you?
I was 22. I was trying to sew chokers and figure stuff out. It was working, but now it’s a different level. I’m only gonna grow as time goes on, I’ve learned so much. I love it. I have an Amazon store now, it’s on there. These are from there. [points to earrings] I never don’t have it on. [laughs] The pants are from there too.
What does it mean to be a boss babe?
Oh my God. creating the life that I want and being in control is extremely important to me. The older I get, the more I’m like: why am I doing something I don’t want to do? The logic. You only live one time, why would I not create a life that I’m truly happy in every single day. Even though there’s good and bad days in every career that you go down, but getting up and being excited about what you’re going to do. Being excited to share what you’re creating or doing or helping, Whatever gets you going, being able to have that choice to do it. That’s the wealth that you want. The money will come with that, when you’re loyal to it and continue to grow.
What is the reality of starting your own clothing and jewelry line?
The reality is that thing is hard. It’s all day, every day. Man, I would’ve never imagined. I love it. I have to be the one to do it. It gives you a sense of responsibility. Because even if I have an assistant, have somebody helping me or have an employee, they’re looking to me. I have to make sure that I know without a shadow of a doubt, how to lead. It puts me in a position to really step into that.
It’s easy to fall, it’s easy to be told what to do. I’ve been told what to do my whole life. But being that this is yours: if you don’t know how to do it, you can’t teach anybody else how to do it. Right now, I’m trying to learn how to delegate, because I like things a certain way. I’m very particular because it’s my first baby. I’m trying to allow other people to come in and help, so that it can grow and get to the next level.
Do you have a favorite product from there?
I work so hard to make sure everything is special and unique, so it’s hard for me to favorite things. But I’d say the Africa earrings, because that was one of my original designs. The shape holds the Africa outline. That one because what it means to me and and what it represents. When I see people wear them and see them for the first time, they’re like “oh my God, I love these earrings. They’re so cute!” It gives people a certain pride to remember where they come from, remember their roots.
What are your beauty go-to’s?
Anything iridescent. [laughs] I need to get some iridescent highlighter. I know chapstick as a random thing to say. But since I was a little girl, I’ve never not been able to leave the house with some sort of balm or butter. The lips have to be hydrated. Hydration in general. Night creams, moisturizers, the SPFs, the dew that goes over the makeup. Whatever it is that is hydrating, I’m here for. I really like the Charlotte Tilbury setting spray. As far as lip balms, LANEIGE. It’s a pink tube. Listen, everybody needs that. And the color is good on everybody, it’s nice.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
I need tea. I always have to have some tea and lemon with me. Some Throat Coat, some honey. Anything in that category for sure. My phone because I might have lyrics on there. What else do I need? To be barefoot. I’m the kind of person who walks in the house and the first thing I do is get naked. Before I wash my hands, before I set my bag down, I want to be comfortable. In the studio for me to be comfortable and forget about everything, that is the closest thing I can get to working in the nude. [laughs]
What can we expect music-wise?
I am coming out with my more R&B sexy vibe in July. No exact date yet, but it’s being mixed and mastered now.
How’s it being an independent artist?
It’s definitely a different experience. Because the girl group was very curated. I was replacing someone else, so everything was set up. My looks are already set up, my sound’s set up. So doing it my own is a lot of dedication, a lot of learning every single aspect. Business, the video, every little piece of what makes an artist I’m tapped into. I do like that part about it, but obviously it takes a bit longer. You gotta invest your own money. With the MIANIK money: you’d think that I could go shopping, but it’s going right into the studio. It’s going right into building the next thing. It’s a hustle. [laughs]
Talk about meeting Beyonce!
I met her for work, I was working with her for Ivy Park. I was totally chill. I was well-behaved. It didn’t even matter where I was or what I was doing, just hearing her actual voice resonate in my ear. I genuinely have been listening to her since I was born on this earth. Now, hearing her voice in my real ears, in real time. She was very kind. She’s like “You’re so beautiful.” [sobs] Just take my heart. More to come. I met her 3 times, I worked with them. I didn’t get to be like “hey, I can sing! Can I sing for you?” Which I really would like to do. I wanted to be able to see her again. I’m sure if I did it the first time, they’d be like “you’re banned.” Now she knows my name, so we’re warming it up.You never know. [laughs]
Favorite Beyonce song?
Mmm! “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA,” right now. I love them all, but as of the most recent, that and “VIRGO’S GROOVE.” I’m not gonna say “CUFF IT,” because everybody is annoyingly obsessed with that song. Even though I was doing the TikTok challenge, I did it 4 times on my page. But “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA,” the runs. The mood. [sighs]
Anything else you want people to know about you?
I can roller skate. I’ve been skating since 7 years old. Growing up in Atlanta, it’s a part of the culture. I grew up on the eastside, so I went to go to Golden Glide. Both my sisters, that was their first job. So while they’re working, I’d be skating. That’s what I do to let go and forget about everything.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Olay Noel