Conversations: Habibi Caramel Princess

Jude Mansour is an icon in the Vancouver scene. She is constantly planning events, supporting artists, and perfecting projects of her own. An outspoken representative for people of colour (POC), especially women, Jude’s work is striking for its visual honesty. Her social media is colourful, bold, and never hides the frizzy fly-away hairs or tries for flawless skin. It bears a striking contrast to the carefully curated perfection of most Instagram content and makes us, at Grounders, feel more confident in our skin. As Habibi Caramel Princess, Jude has branched into the music realm. Her mixes are an eclectic mix of worldly sounds with an irresistible dance beat. Grounders co-founder Ash sat down with Jude to talk about her experience as an immigrant and future projects. 

Listen to Jude’s newest mix Flutter

First off, tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am an immigrant, I moved here almost seven years ago from Alexandria in Egypt. I’m an Egyptian – born and raised – I moved here in Grade 9, and I live in Burnaby. My highschool life was miserable. There weren’t a lot of African Arabs, Middle Easterners, or Arabs in general that I could relate to in anyway. I experienced a lot of micro-aggressions as a Muslim woman of colour (WOC) living in Vancouver.

I started coming out to shows in Grade 12 and went to Emily Carr. And I started meeting people and making connections and that’s when my life started taking more of a positive turn. I’m so lucky to have met the people I know now. I’m an artist – I’m a DJ.

So why did your parents come to Vancouver?

Well growing up in a non-western country the goal is to get anywhere. My Mom always thought Vancouver was safe and it worked out perfectly when she got accepted into SFU. I was living through a revolution and she got accepted right when the revolution ended. It was perfect timing and we got the fuck out of there.

Growing up in a revolution, do you find social media changes things? How does it empower people?

I think social media is such an important tool. I was so uneducated even growing up as an Egyptian woman. I was so uneducated about myself. I didn’t even consider myself as a WOC, I didn’t even know what that was. But, when I moved here I felt “othered.” I didn’t know where that was coming from or why I was feeling that way. Going on Instagram, I saw a lot of people talking about the same problems I had and it really helped. I think it’s such an important tool, especially for women in non-Western countries to learn. Those resources are really lacking and WOC need to know what’s going on and why they feel the way they do.

I really vibe with that. I always grew up in white societies and I never realized what it meant to be a WOC – not until I came to university. But seeing people on the internet who talk about being a WOC and how they feel, realizing I related to them was such an important experience.

Honestly, shout out to Nazlie Najafi, my baby – my child. She saved my life. She is one of the co-founders of Elastic Collective. When I met her I was so insecure. I straightened my hair everyday, I was scared to go into the sun, and seeing her talk about that stuff online made me feel inspired.

Seeing how proud you are of your heritage now, it’s hard to imagine. Did you try to hide your heritage in highschool?

Oh yah, I was so embarrassed. Where I’m from we hate ourselves and each other. Even in Egypt, women suffer the most. Women of darker skin are the most oppressed. I hated myself so much as a woman of colour. 

When did you start becoming proud of your heritage?

I would say half way through first year university when I started unwhite-washing myself and my values. Because I tried to be that for so long. Again, social media, seeing beautiful women of colour who are so proud and outspoken. I thought, I’m like that too why can’t I be proud and like that. I’d say every POC country and society carry a lot of internalized racism.

photos by Shanice Bishop

Switching topics, when did you start making music?

That literally started last December.

That’s so recent wow!

Yeah, it all started when Rhi Blossom and Mairin Miller came up with Recess. One day I was at Rhi’s house and they asked if I wanted to try DJing and they showed me how and then asked if I wanted to do an event. And I thought “hell yeah!”

Wow, you jumped right in, were you confident about your first gig?

I kind of was, I was always a dancer so music feels like a part of my blood. So I went into it right away and Habibi Carmel Princess started popping off and I realized DJing is my shit.

Is that your go-to art form right now?

Definitely, I used to study photography at Emily Carr but I wasn’t really passionate about it. And every faculty in every university is normally male dominated but the photography department was very dominated and I was so uncomfortable.

Your mixes blend a lot of ethnic sounds, do you have a vision before you start a mix?

I usually do have a vision for sure. My art and music is mostly inspired by how vibrant and lively my culture is – it celebrates happiness and dance. I try and project that into all of my work, even if my mix is sad it’s still upbeat. My new mix is called Flutter. I’m also working on two other projects. One of them I want to release in the summer because it’s sexy and dance music. The mix afterwards is going to be all Egyptian artists, I’m so excited for it.

When does Flutter come out?

April 12th! I already did a photoshoot for it. I worked with Zuleyyma Prado on the photos.  

Listen to Flutter here!

photos by Zuleyyma Prado

In the future do you want to start producing your own stuff with beats and vocals?

Eventually yes but I’m very shy so hopefully in the future.

How would you compare the art scenes in Alexandria, Egypt versus Vancouver?

Alexandria is the second biggest city in Egypt after Cairo and it’s still pretty small. This shit doesn’t really happen there and I was really young. My life was school and sports, I was an athlete. I was a rhythmic gymnast and competed nationally, I was a competitive tennis player, I did equestrian, and I spent my youth in motion. I love to execute my feelings through energy and dynamism.

You’ve been pretty involved with the Elastic Collective, could you give me a quick rundown on them?

Hannah Turner, Rhi Blossom, and Nazlie Najafi are the founders and they are trying to make a space that celebrates art while including people who are often marginalized in society, such as women, BIPOC, and queer folk in Vancouver.

Are you guys planning to do anymore events?

Yah Elastic, Nazlie and I want to do a MENA party. Like a Middle Eastern – North African party with an art show and some poetry readings, maybe a DJ. Because Vancouver lacks a lot of representation in that region. 

Looking to the future, do you think you will stay and try to make Vancouver a more inclusive community or try to move?

I definitely plan to live here for a bit but I also plan to travel a lot. In a couple of months I’ll be going to Toronto and Montreal, hopefully playing shows.

What’s something else you want to say to readers of Grounders, POC, or people who moved here?

Stick to your roots, stick to what you know. You’re going to get confused in the long run. For immigrants, what you are is what white girls wanna be. You are what society is trying to profit off. You are magical and special, just glow and do your thing and no one can steal your glow because it’s impossible. 

 

To keep up with Jude follow her on Instagram and SoundCloud