By Maurice Pinzon
Sasha, a twenty-something, singer-songwriter and actress from Russia, appeared on a brisk fall morning for an interview over breakfast at the Standard Grill in downtown Manhattan working on just four hours of sleep. Sometimes that’s all the down time she gets, but she shrugs it off as part of life as an entertainer.
Sasha speaks with a tinge of a British accent she picked up in London and uses only her first name as she refashions her brand of music and performance style for American audiences. Inspired in her childhood by American and British pop stars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and George Michael, she was also exposed to European electronic music. Sasha’s parents, who worked for the airline industry, would bring from their trips new music that was difficult to find in Moscow.
Sasha performed as a professional figure skater and studied acting in her youth, but was steered to a singing career by her manager. She achieved success in Russia after releasing two music CDs, 11 music videos, and starring in the Russian MTV reality show, “Girls Power.” In the Russian music scene, Sasha was a bit of a “revolutionary” as she bucked music conventions. But even as a child, the future singer-songwriter was kicked out of the school chorus because she could not follow the rigid rules.
Perhaps that is why Sasha was determined to move to the US, where she thought she could use more of her eclectic sensibilities. Her friends and family thought it crazy for her to leave behind her success in Russia. She moved to Los Angles anyway, but decided it was not the place for her and planned a move to New York City. As soon as she arrived in New York, she said to herself, “This is my environment, my people.”
Sasha seems energized by just about everything in the US. “It’s fresh and new to me and that’s why I pay attention immediately. I think there are amazing things about America,” she said. Although sometimes critical of her adopted country ”“ she thinks taxes are too high ”“ she tends to focus on the aspects of American life she finds admirable.
“If we pretend that the earth is a body of a human being, New York would be the brain, because everything is going on in New York. So many important things for the world happen in New York,” she said.
Sasha showed her strong-willed personality during the interview, at one point saying, “I have a problem. I’m always right.” Later she acknowledged that this was obviously not literal, but that she had learned to trust her inner voice. In October, she attended a breast cancer awareness event right after a fashion show. She was wearing a Dolce & Gabbana dress and thought that it was perhaps too revealing for the event. She later regretted listening to others who told her to take off her coat and pose for pictures in the dress, even as she was assured that it was elegant and appropriate.
Not that she is a prude. Sexuality in her performances is fine. “If it has an idea and purpose, it could be done very tastefully. It could be treated as an art,” she pointed out. She is struck by how much more sexual a performance appears to an audience than to the performer.
Ultimately, the goal of any artist is, she said, “to create something new, something that will touch people’s hearts and something that people are gonna remember.” Even if that means introducing some European music that not even her producers have heard. This Sasha mix includes dance, “electro music,” American music and European pop music. In the works is an event which will feature Sasha ice skating with “ice skating girls,” singing and dancing. There will supposedly be some fire in the performance.
According to her manager, Danny Estrada, part of the strategy is to tap into the Russian community in the US. He said, “That demographic hasn’t had that artist that they can really embrace and pick up and call their own.” Especially, since Mr. Estrada added, “The Russian community is an industry leader in the fashion and beauty markets.”
Sasha insists she will not forget her Russian upbringing, but precisely because she is so sure of that background, she feels free to experiment with her music, her performances and her image.
It may be an auspicious moment for a young woman from Russia who wants to bring a modern European sensibility to her performances. Recently, New York has been lavishing attention on Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets. Reportedly the wealthiest man in Russia, the Russian billionaire represents big money and big interests. There is speculation he will lure a Russian high society cosmopolitan crowd to New York.
For more information about Sasha you can visit her website SashaNow