Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Saskhia Menendez, Keychange, The F List, LIVE

Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Saskhia Menendez, Keychange, The F List, LIVE

During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted game-changing industry executives (including one posthumous award) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok.

They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who have been selected since the awards began in 2014. The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are trailblazers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.

Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.

As an equality and diversity ambassador, researcher, public speaker, artist, mentor and social change activist, Saskhia Menendez works to help diversify the music industry landscape, as well as help improve representation, access, visibility and education. As well as being part of Keychange, she is on the board of directors for The F List Music and is a LIVE Diversity Expert panel member.

Mendendez is a multi-racial trans woman, a parent of two children, and is passionate about and dedicated in her work to informing people of the issues and barriers underrepresented groups face across the music and entertainment industries. She has over 10 years of experience in the music industry, and is also in the process of making brand-new music, due to be released early 2024. 

How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?

“I found my journey in the industry to be varied and extremely interesting. It’s helped me build the knowledge and skills in a variety of different sectors, as well as gain the experience needed to have longevity in my career. It allowed me to network, as well as meet some amazing like-minded creatives across the business. There have been many ups and downs, but I’ve learnt to trust the process and go with the flow. 

“There were so many closed doors and sometimes still are, and I’ve often found myself to be the only trans person in the room, which has been isolating at times. But I’ve stayed positive, dedicated and passionate, and I think that’s what really shines through. I’ve always treated people equally and with respect, and [whenever] I couldn’t find an opportunity, I would make my own, and help others in the process. This has helped me build meaningful relationships, as well as an engaged and supportive community. It’s also taught me to never give up and follow my heart. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the music industry evolve over time, how the eco-system operates, and I’ve made some amazing friends along the way.”

Did you have a mentor at that stage? 

“Yes, I’ve had a mentor at every stage of my career and have learnt so much from all of them, as they’ve brought different skills to the table. Some of my mentors have been based here in the UK and others across Europe and the USA. I’ve been lucky as they have all been music industry veterans with an average of 15 years’ experience. They’ve advised me on creative ideas and supported my work, and sometimes have introduced me to people who could help me or have the expertise I need. My mentors have always inspired me and pushed me to think outside the box, do more and to stay determined. I appreciate all of them so much, and have built great friendships. I know if I am stuck, I can always ask for some advice.”

As an activist for diversity in the music industry, do you think the business is doing enough to support and champion the LGBTQIA+ community?

“It’s so nice to see more people from the LGBTQIA+ community actively thrive in the music industry, but best of all is watching the industry become more accepting, inclusive and diverse. We still have a long way to go, but positive steps are being made to ensure this continues. It’s so nice to see more opportunities opening up, especially for the underrepresented and disadvantaged communities, which is extremely exciting.

“Overall, most of the community is now represented, however I still feel we have a long way to go to ensure more trans and non-binary artists and industry professionals are equally seen and heard. I think we need more representation, visibility, empowerment and education covering these important topics. Funding bodies need to be more aware of the issues and barriers we face, and we need more platforms to support and promote the work we do. The infrastructure is not quite there yet, and there are more trans performers than [are represented] in the music business itself. We also need better data collection, more role models and an industry wide organisation to support this. I am also in the process of bringing out a Trans Charter For Music And Entertainment in 2024.”

I will continue to ensure we are seen and the views from my community are heard

Saskhia Menendez

You were appointed director of the The F-List For Music CIC for their Transmisogyny Inquiry to the Houses Of Parliament in 2022. Have you seen any move to positive change from the Government or the music business in the wake of the inquiry? 

“I was extremely disappointed to hear the comment from the government on the topic of trans women a few weeks ago by Suella Braverman. For someone in such a high position [Braverman has since been sacked as Home Secretary] to make such negative comments doesn’t leave me with much hope on the issue. Regardless of this though, I will continue to ensure we are seen and the views from my community are heard. Trans women always seem to be in the firing line in the trans debate, again making it harder for us to succeed. We are already a minority within a minority, and transmisogyny is rife and has really had a negative impact on my work and progression in the industry. I am a human and deserve to be treated equally and fairly, regardless of my gender identity. 

“On a good note, it’s nice to see the government acknowledge that there is a problem and that things need to change. We need to push for proportional representation for all underrepresented and disadvantaged communities, this way we will have an industry that reflects the communities in which we all live.”

You are a mentor for 04U & Queer Capita. What is your main advice to young individuals entering the industry? 

“Firstly, I would say to follow your heart and never give up, be proud of yourself and know that you’re not alone. Things are changing for the better, and now is a great time to be part of the music industry. Surround yourself with positive people who want you to succeed and learn as much as you can. Stay true to yourself, and most importantly be you!”

What’s your biggest achievement so far? 

“My biggest achievement to date would be being able to speak at a variety of international public speaking and educational conferences through Keychange, which has been amazing. It has allowed me to build my confidence, educational content and gain more international contacts. It’s also enabled me to educate others on intersectionality, trans and non-binary inclusion, real-life experience and other important topics around diversity and inclusion.” 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?

“The best advice would have been from my nan, who brought me up but died when I was 21. She always told me to go into a room and hold my head up high. She said to me, ‘Don’t forget that you are just as good as anyone else.’ I hold this closely and never forget her wise words, they have served me well.”

Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry?

“I would like to give a massive shout out to Gaby Cartwright, she is head of partnerships at LIVE and runs the LIVE talks, awards and sits across all expert groups in the live music sector. She has been such a great ally, working tirelessly to ensure the live music sector is inclusive and diverse. She is a true beacon of light and hope and deserves recognition for the amazing work she does. Thank you Gaby.”

Finally, that’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far? 

“Not everyone has your best interests at heart, that’s the life we live. Make sure you surround yourself with people who have the same values and goals you do. It’s a highly competitive industry, and you need to have friends you can confide in and trust.”

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