Tiara Thomas seems just as relatable-yet-ambiguous in person as she appears to be on social media. Sitting inside the VIBE office, her slender brown frame rocks a pair of high-waisted jeans and a natural-tone striped crop top, which she seamlessly pairs with a black fanny pack, worn cross-body style and a black beret tilted just right atop her head.. The 28-year-old singer-songwriter’s free-spirited disposition is a proudly flaunted souvenir from her journey through self-discovery and the music business.
Thomas is fresh off tour with H.E.R., yet the expectation of a fatigued mood is met with an energetic attitude. The tour was the first time Thomas left the country, hitting stages at venues all around Europe and the UK, with who she calls her “little sister.” “We’ve been working together for years,” Thomas says of H.E.R. “I’ve written so many songs with her that she just got in the vault when she was just starting out, and she was just needing help writing songs. She would come through my sessions and lay little ideas down.”
Thomas and H.E.R go way back. They had the same manager when they met; H.E.R. was 15 years old and Thomas just signed with their management team, MBK Entertainment. They also collaborated on a song, one of Thomas’ old joints, “Satellite Shawty.” “We’re all family. We’ve all known each other for years. The tour manager, we’re all family,” she says. “We’re really close. But that was fun, that was a good experience.”
The Indiana native is gearing up for a tour of her own to help promote F**king With My Mind, her latest EP which was released in March. Tracks on the project dive deep into nagging thoughts about sensuality, success and relationships that frequent Thomas’ mind. She told Billboard that penning some songs from the EP like “I Need” was therapeutic.
“I’m somebody who lives in my head a lot. I think a lot. Sometimes I overanalyze stuff,” she told Billboard. “When I wrote that song I was trying to bring myself out of something. Sometimes I try to bring myself out of something even if I’m not talking about it in a good way, but just talking about it period helps me out of it.”
Visuals for “I Need” and a closer listen to the rest of FWMM reveal androgynous lyrics, but Thomas said she purposefully doesn’t make an effort to dispel the hush and whispers about her sexuality. She said this is not a coming out, but she wants her music to be bigger than her sexual preference. If that means keeping people guessing, it is what it is.
“It’s like that [sexuality] becomes bigger than the music, or it becomes bigger than anything else,” she says. “I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. I don’t want anything to be bigger than my music. I don’t want my looks to be bigger than my music… It’s cool if you think I like girls, it’s cool if you think I like guys. It’s cool, whatever. I like to wonder about people.” With buzzed hair dyed pink and a style uneasily categorized, Thomas said she can understand the confusion, but it’s only a part of her self-expression. Maintaining individuality as an R&B singer is her main concern, despite the constant pressure from the music industry.
“If you’re an R&B singer, you gotta have the starter pack R&B kit. You gotta have the long weave,” Thomas explains. “That’s cool, that’s fine, but I don’t want to be like [that]. I want to do what I want to do, and from the back, I’mma look like Soulja Boy, and from the front I’mma be cute.”
Thomas credits her nonconformist attitude to her sheltered upbringing. She says growing up in a very religious household gave her anxiety about every deviant thought and decision made, until one day she finally let it all go. The singer carried the same energy throughout her career, and it’s allowed her to learn a few things: trust your instincts and be unapologetically authentic.
“Some [artists], you can write all their songs and they’ll be on vacation and listen to a bunch of songs and are like ‘Okay I want to sing all these songs,’” she says. “And that’s fine, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do music if I have to do it like that.”