NOT-SO-SEXY With Rotana
The LA-based Saudi artist delves into her outlook on freedom, sexuality, belonging, and her latest venture, F*D and Blessed.

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their real, raw, and “not-so-sexy” work-from-home experiences. 

Lately, we’ve been swooning over LA-based Saudi artist, Rotana (@iamrotana), and her ability to speak volumes driven through visual narratives and expressive sounds. A force like no other, Rotana is not one to shy away from the reality of the female experience and disrupting cultural, generational, familial narratives – a taboo subject for most. Keep reading for more Rotana. 

Tell us about your space. How does your home influence your creativity and peace of mind?

For starters, my room is my sanctuary. It is uber minimal and doesn’t have any bright or bold colors. I have a bed, a dresser, my prayer altar, a painting of a warrior goddess I have had for ten years, and my books. That’s it. As an artist I am constantly dialoguing and creating about topics of freedom, sexuality, belonging, and beyond. These topics are loud and thick and can create a sensation of crowdedness in my being. It’s incredibly important to me that the space I live in feels spacious and expansive. 

Beyond that, it’s really all about light and plants. More light. More plants. Never enough. That’s the rule.

What inspired you to launch F*D and Blessed?

My whole life I have lived with an inner conflict. On one hand, I had a hunch, intuitively knowing that my body as a woman was powerful and that moving, dancing, stomping, expressing my body, and listening to my body was sacred. I had a hunch that sexuality was a holy and inherent part of who we are. While on the other hand, I believed I was the worst person in the world, that I was shameful and my body and its expression were a sin. This inner conflict is something I have lived with my entire life and it began to reach a boiling point. I developed negative self-talk, codependence crutches, unhealthy relationships, and other things all so I didn’t have to face the reality of what I truly believed. 

For two years I learned and read about sexuality, pleasure, consent, boundaries, eroticism and started to understand my body and its magic. I had so many aha! moments, it became impossible for me to not share this content with others that might feel as lost and ashamed as I did. F*D & Blessed is the show I needed as a lost and confused 15-year-old in Saudi Arabia.

Favorite book that inspired you to help others reconnect with your sexuality.

Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown is by far the book that has had the most impact on me and the foundation of so much of F*D & Blessed. That book allowed me to understand that my body is a holy site, a compass, and a revolution. It taught me that my pleasure is necessary, not only for my well-being, but for the well-being of the entire planet.

What has brought you joy in this year of self-isolation, introspection, and self-reinvention?

I love this question! I learned how to cook in quarantine and that was something I absolutely refused to do as a teenager — I swore I would not be a housewife! Cooking is such a beautiful way to commune with food and the earth and to feel our ancestors through the recipes. It brought me so much joy.

Also, kettle salt and vinegar chips.

Go-to song that makes you dance?

Hayati Inta by Natacha Atlas

Do you have a daily routine, if so, walk us through it.

I wake up around 7AM and pray. Prayer looks different every day, usually, it begins with Fajr prayer, then I will sit in silence for ten minutes. Sometimes the sitting turns into movement and making sound. 

I drink an eighth of a cup of coffee (I am crazy sensitive to caffeine). 

I drive to Crossfit and workout (this became necessary due to all the kettle salt and vinegar chips). 

Emails, emails, emails. 

I write for my musical/one-woman show. Sometimes I have a music writing session. 

The rest is random but there is always a serious attempt to take a short walk at sunset, take a bath, read my books, do a self-pleasure practice, get in my body.

One thing that has brought you peace of mind lately.

Knowing that my purpose cannot escape me.

Tell us about how you fell in love with music.

I first fell in love with music in school when I began reciting the Quran, which is incredibly melodic. I felt in a trance reciting it. Then I got my hands on Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morisette and everything changed. I felt like I could do anything. Alannis was big and loud and angry and sad and cool all at once. That kind of permission made me fall in love with music. Then Sade came and kind of sealed the deal.

The hardest part of your job?

I’m my own boss so sometimes I struggle with when it’s time to stop and when I have done enough. I am getting better though. Also, disrupting cultural, generational, familial narratives but that’s a whole essay.

Advice on coping with sexual shame?

First and foremost, know that you are not alone. Begin to cultivate a self-pleasure practice. A self-pleasure practice is a time for you to touch yourself and be with your body in a conscious way. Carve out time just for you, put on music that is soothing or expansive, light a candle or incense, and just breathe and touch your body. You can start small. Maybe at first, all you do is gently stroke your arm. This can be enough. When you are ready you can move to your sexual centers. The point is to breathe, pay attention to any and all feelings that come up, allow everything. If there is grief, breathe deep and let the grief flow. If there is anger, breathe deeper and scream or punch the pillow. If there is numbness, breathe deeper and be numb. If there is joy, breathe deeper and play. 

This is powerful because being with your body in an intimate way will bring to the surface many of your blocks, confusions, numbness, and really anything that you may be suppressing. 

Look around you, as my teacher Elana Meta says “everything is fucking itself into existence” the plants, the bees, the bonobo monkey, octopus mushrooms. 

You are good, you are nature. You are good.

Something that’s giving you hope right now?

The other day I asked my friends to hold space for me. We lit candles, I laid on the floor and they gave me what we called “friend reiki” then I got words of affirmation and cuddles. It was hard to ask for my friends to show up for me like that, but the ease and joy that they said “yes” with was beautiful. Community is hope to me.

NOT-SO-SEXY With Rotana
The LA-based Saudi artist delves into her outlook on freedom, sexuality, belonging, and her latest venture, F*D and Blessed.

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their real, raw, and “not-so-sexy” work-from-home experiences. 

Lately, we’ve been swooning over LA-based Saudi artist, Rotana (@iamrotana), and her ability to speak volumes driven through visual narratives and expressive sounds. A force like no other, Rotana is not one to shy away from the reality of the female experience and disrupting cultural, generational, familial narratives – a taboo subject for most. Keep reading for more Rotana. 

Tell us about your space. How does your home influence your creativity and peace of mind?

For starters, my room is my sanctuary. It is uber minimal and doesn’t have any bright or bold colors. I have a bed, a dresser, my prayer altar, a painting of a warrior goddess I have had for ten years, and my books. That’s it. As an artist I am constantly dialoguing and creating about topics of freedom, sexuality, belonging, and beyond. These topics are loud and thick and can create a sensation of crowdedness in my being. It’s incredibly important to me that the space I live in feels spacious and expansive. 

Beyond that, it’s really all about light and plants. More light. More plants. Never enough. That’s the rule.

What inspired you to launch F*D and Blessed?

My whole life I have lived with an inner conflict. On one hand, I had a hunch, intuitively knowing that my body as a woman was powerful and that moving, dancing, stomping, expressing my body, and listening to my body was sacred. I had a hunch that sexuality was a holy and inherent part of who we are. While on the other hand, I believed I was the worst person in the world, that I was shameful and my body and its expression were a sin. This inner conflict is something I have lived with my entire life and it began to reach a boiling point. I developed negative self-talk, codependence crutches, unhealthy relationships, and other things all so I didn’t have to face the reality of what I truly believed. 

For two years I learned and read about sexuality, pleasure, consent, boundaries, eroticism and started to understand my body and its magic. I had so many aha! moments, it became impossible for me to not share this content with others that might feel as lost and ashamed as I did. F*D & Blessed is the show I needed as a lost and confused 15-year-old in Saudi Arabia.

Favorite book that inspired you to help others reconnect with your sexuality.

Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown is by far the book that has had the most impact on me and the foundation of so much of F*D & Blessed. That book allowed me to understand that my body is a holy site, a compass, and a revolution. It taught me that my pleasure is necessary, not only for my well-being, but for the well-being of the entire planet.

What has brought you joy in this year of self-isolation, introspection, and self-reinvention?

I love this question! I learned how to cook in quarantine and that was something I absolutely refused to do as a teenager — I swore I would not be a housewife! Cooking is such a beautiful way to commune with food and the earth and to feel our ancestors through the recipes. It brought me so much joy.

Also, kettle salt and vinegar chips.

Go-to song that makes you dance?

Hayati Inta by Natacha Atlas

Do you have a daily routine, if so, walk us through it.

I wake up around 7AM and pray. Prayer looks different every day, usually, it begins with Fajr prayer, then I will sit in silence for ten minutes. Sometimes the sitting turns into movement and making sound. 

I drink an eighth of a cup of coffee (I am crazy sensitive to caffeine). 

I drive to Crossfit and workout (this became necessary due to all the kettle salt and vinegar chips). 

Emails, emails, emails. 

I write for my musical/one-woman show. Sometimes I have a music writing session. 

The rest is random but there is always a serious attempt to take a short walk at sunset, take a bath, read my books, do a self-pleasure practice, get in my body.

One thing that has brought you peace of mind lately.

Knowing that my purpose cannot escape me.

Tell us about how you fell in love with music.

I first fell in love with music in school when I began reciting the Quran, which is incredibly melodic. I felt in a trance reciting it. Then I got my hands on Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morisette and everything changed. I felt like I could do anything. Alannis was big and loud and angry and sad and cool all at once. That kind of permission made me fall in love with music. Then Sade came and kind of sealed the deal.

The hardest part of your job?

I’m my own boss so sometimes I struggle with when it’s time to stop and when I have done enough. I am getting better though. Also, disrupting cultural, generational, familial narratives but that’s a whole essay.

Advice on coping with sexual shame?

First and foremost, know that you are not alone. Begin to cultivate a self-pleasure practice. A self-pleasure practice is a time for you to touch yourself and be with your body in a conscious way. Carve out time just for you, put on music that is soothing or expansive, light a candle or incense, and just breathe and touch your body. You can start small. Maybe at first, all you do is gently stroke your arm. This can be enough. When you are ready you can move to your sexual centers. The point is to breathe, pay attention to any and all feelings that come up, allow everything. If there is grief, breathe deep and let the grief flow. If there is anger, breathe deeper and scream or punch the pillow. If there is numbness, breathe deeper and be numb. If there is joy, breathe deeper and play. 

This is powerful because being with your body in an intimate way will bring to the surface many of your blocks, confusions, numbness, and really anything that you may be suppressing. 

Look around you, as my teacher Elana Meta says “everything is fucking itself into existence” the plants, the bees, the bonobo monkey, octopus mushrooms. 

You are good, you are nature. You are good.

Something that’s giving you hope right now?

The other day I asked my friends to hold space for me. We lit candles, I laid on the floor and they gave me what we called “friend reiki” then I got words of affirmation and cuddles. It was hard to ask for my friends to show up for me like that, but the ease and joy that they said “yes” with was beautiful. Community is hope to me.

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