Heartist with a purpose
Singer, songwriter Tenelle Christine Luafalemana has travelled the world using her voice to inspire listeners of all ages. The Grammy recognized artist and CEO of 10x10 Clothing, has travelled the world touring with the likes of reggae superstar Fiji. What captivates audiences across the world is Tenelle’s humility, beauty and grace. HER has the honour of talking to the Carson native about her journey, the #HEARTISTMOVEMENT and the legacy of her grandmothers.
Growing up in Gardena, California was nothing but a dream for Tenelle. Summer days were spent playing all day and night with her closest cousins on Mariposa Avenue where they all resided. Her love of music naturally flourished as she remembers singing barefoot in her father’s garage while his big boombox would be blasting all the latest tunes.
Born to high school sweet hearts Venora Stein and Antonio Luafalemana Jr, Tenelle is a mix of African American and Samoan descent. As the eldest of seven siblings, she was labelled the ‘miracle child’ from her Pops. And so, from the very beginning, she knew there was an anointing over her life and her gift.
“My Pop says when I was born I was his, ‘miracle child.’ I saved his life from the reality of the streets and gang activity in Los Angeles 1988,” she says.
Throughout her schooling years, she excelled in education and athletics and started taking vocal lessons at the tender age of 12. After High School Tenelle started touring with a group called “Chord Brown” and she began her musical journey.
Tenelle describes her sound as her own genre. It is a twist of street, old school R&B with a touch of reggae. All influences reflecting her family and what they listened to while growing up.
“We all have our own fingerprint and mine is pretty raw. Growing up my Samoan Pops loved Bob Marley, Asward, Mary Wells, Tony Toni Tone. And my African American Mom loved Whitney Houston, Tevin Campbell and Yolanda Adams. My sound is a melting pot of events, sounds and time,” she shares.
For Tenelle, allowing God to use her voice to connect with others inspires her. The gift of music has enabled her to unite with people she has never crossed paths with.
“Music is truly a universal language and I am truly the most vulnerable when I’m on stage in front of people. Most times, in front of complete strangers,” she shares.
“At this particular show in Australia I started singing Bulletproof and a lady in the crowd stood up from her wheelchair and smiled at me. It was the best feeling ever! When she raised her right arm and started singing along with me it made me so happy to see that young lady so happy.”
A pivotal moment in her musical career occurred while she was on tour. Her first cousin was tragically shot and as a result, was left paralysed. Fittingly, the gift of music then truly became Tenelle’s ministry.
“I got a call at rehearsal that would change my life forever. My faith journey honestly started after my cousin Justin was shot. The reality made me so depressed that I did things that I am ashamed of. My first cousin Kristy Kronberger and I started to go to church by ourselves. We fasted, prayed, and searched for WHY? Justin was the one person that this didn’t deserve to happen to. So, that’s why I started to read the Bible. I fell in love with music. With the worship team. With the pastor's prophesying over me and my gift of music. Faith is now EVERYTHING.”
“My first songs Brand New and Bulletproof were both inspired by the event that left him paralysed. His testimony has seriously shaped my testimony. Through the struggles of growing up and the visions I have in my heart. Life is beautiful. Life is music. Life is love. Life is your gift and I am so thankful for mine.”
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them
The 30-year-old has started #HEARTISTMOVEMENT. An independent, non-profit organisation with hopes of enhancing the gifts within individuals.
“The kaupapa behind Heartist Movement is HE before us. We all have a gift because of Him. Whether we know it or not, it is up to us to wake up daily and reach for the stars. We know what it’s like not to have support, financial backing and proper planning. There are stepping stones to life and we hope to be a step towards knowing your purpose,” she says.
Purpose is what inspires Tenelle. And unleashing the potential in others is an initiative she and her cousin felt called to do.
“My cousin Alipate Fetuli and I started this mission while in the backyard of our house in Laie, Hawaii. I just got offered my first sponsor of $75K studio equipment and Alipate has always had a passion for art and tatau,” she shares.
On a recent trip to Samoa with an organisation named Pacific Hearts, the Heartist Movement allowed her to donate 400 notepads, 300 backpacks, pencils and many other educational necessities.
“We collected clean water filters and distributed them throughout the island. We also visited the Samoan Victim Support Centre with Mama Lina. Hearing the children’s unimaginable stories left us all in tears. We were able to pray, worship and play volleyball with them all.”
1 Peter 4:10 As each one of us has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Both Tenelle’s grandmothers are her biggest female inspirations. Most family members even say that she has qualities of both all mixed in one.
Her father’s mother, Tuileisu Christine Kuaea Luafalemana, grew up in Pagopago, lived in Hawaii and then settled in Los Angeles. She raised five children, and despite passing away when she was a baby, her heart works is what family members say that Tenelle has inherited.
“She had a heart of Gold and always showed loyalty, respect and love. No matter how people treated her she gave the love she wanted them to give her. I am just like her.”
Margaret Cravin is Tenelle’s mother’s mum. Her story is one of courage and determination.
“My granny has always been a scholar and a caretaker. She was pregnant with my mom when she moved from Texas to Carson. She put herself through college in the 60’s. Can you imagine being single, alone, young, pregnant and African American in those times? She finished at the top of her class.”
It is important that Tenelle remembers the sacrifices of these women and she is proud to come from a family history filled with such courageous women.
“My lineage has such respectable, noble, rewarding, powerful, and more importantly independent women. Women that bit their tongue, swallowed their pride, gave no excuses and just got on with it. This is the legacy that I carry and will carry on.”
For now, she is going to continue to share her gift of music to her fans worldwide. Being grounded in her faith gives her the perseverance to keep striving for more.
“I have the certainty and knowledge that I am the daughter of The Most High. Being a woman in OUR world today there are many eyes and slurs. I don’t respond to pressure with pressure. I trust God. That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything or understand everything He does, but I’ve made my decision about God. My steps are ordered by The Most HIGH.”
Q & A WITH TENELLE
With 50K followers on Instagram, Tenelle knows of the pressures of comparison online on social media platforms. Her encouragement to women that may be facing this issue would be to remove yourself and immerse yourself in other activities.
“It’s so important to not be consumed by social media. Go read a book, meet new people, go do something that you have never done. You are the only you that will be and count that a privilege. Go get it!”
My favourite right now would have to be Romans 8:28,
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called to his purpose.”
Invest in your heartbeats wisely by Theo Etzel
How’s your soul by Judah Smith
I am Number 8 by John Gray
Follow Tenelle on IG!
Thank you Tenelle for sharing a part of your journey with us. I know God will continue to work inside you to minister to others. Praying for an over-flow of blessings over you as you continue to use your gifts for His glory xxxxx