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From New York to Accra, this is How Dellasie Aning is Empowering Africa Through Fashion and Advocacy

We love hearing stories of Ghanaians dedicated to helping make the world a better place by sharing their gifts and talents.

One young lady deserves her flowers as her journey is a testament to the power of passion and purpose. She is the epitome of a life devoted to creativity, advocacy, and empowerment. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dellasie Aning about the many hats she wears— a recording artist, entrepreneur in sustainable African fashion, award-winning public speaker, and committed humanitarian work through her NGO the Panalove Foundation.

Tell us about yourself; where did you grow up and how was your upbringing and life like?

I am a recording artist/songwriter, entrepreneur (sustainable African fashion + e-commerce), award-winning public speaker and humanitarian. My NGO (Panalove Foundation) focuses on skin cancer and diseases in Africa due to skin bleaching. The things that I do now, are all things I’ve been doing since a child.

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I was born and raised in New York City. First Harlem, then we moved to Queens. I attended the United Nations International School (UNIS) from grade 2 through to grade 12. I then went on to study politics and marketing at Emory University. My love for music started young and as I was a pianist at the age of 9 and sang in my church choir which led me to write rhymes in high school.

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I have always been passionate about fashion, and have worked within the industry as a photographer, marketer and socialite attending fashion weeks from New York to London, Paris, and Lagos. In terms of public speaking? I’ve been speaking since 18 months and haven’t kept quiet since! My teachers always used to remark that I was a good student and talkative in class; it’s funny, now I get paid to talk.

As for my activism, colorism is pervasive and something I’ve faced as an artist and just a dark-skinned black woman navigating the world. I lost my aunt when I was 12 due to skin cancer from bleaching. This issue is close to my heart. So, all the things I do today, are all the things I’ve always been deeply passionate about all my life. That is why the work doesn’t feel like work. I enjoy it all!

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What are some values that were instilled in you that has shaped you into the person you are today?

A value that was instilled – especially from being a Girl Scout – is to give back to your community. Even if you just have a little, you always have something to offer the world. Giving back your knowledge, sharing your experiences, or supporting your younger peers is important in building strong societies. I’ve always felt this way. Growing up going to the UN school I always knew that there was beauty in the diversity of this world. Our differences should be celebrated – not used as a tool to divide. Beauty comes in all shades, colors and sizes. We were always taught that we are all equal as human beings. And we should treat others the way that we would like to be treated. I deeply believe in all these values, and I do my best to express them all through my brand and Pan-Africanism.

Does that have an influence on why you decided to start your NGO Panalove?

Yes, this all absolutely has an influence on why I started my NGO. It is sad to see that people’s lack of self-worth or self-confidence would lead them to unhealthy practices, but I do understand. We are not in a perfect world and a lot of the images and advertisements we see subliminally send messages that we absorb. If you are not careful, you can allow this world to convince you that you are not good enough. I am here to teach the youth that they are wonderfully made, and that having high self-esteem will make them successful, healthy, and inspiring human beings.

Tell us more about Panalove.

The name “PANALOVE” comes from Pan-African x Love mixed. Since I am a Pan-Africanist and have demonstrated that throughout my branding and my work – it felt very natural to have a name that reflects this. I began this work in New York back in 2016, and the NGO was 501-c officiated here in Ghana in January. Our NGO initiative is primarily educative; we seek to build knowledge and awareness of these health issues that plague our communities, create sustainable solutions to prevent crises in the future, and inspire healthier habits (and skincare practices) to the African community at large.

What are some events or programs you’ve done through Panalove, and which has been your favorite experience?

Just recently during Women’s Month, I launched “The Panalove Summit” – which is a hybrid event of panel discussions and performances. The goal of this summit was to bring like-minded individuals in the arts, tech, wellness, and finance together to create a holistic experience of learning, sharing, networking and enjoyment. The maiden event was a success! I am proud to say we are most certainly onto something. And the best part about this event and what makes it stand out from the mountain of conferences and summits in the city is – vulnerability. We really shape our themes and questions to tap beneath the surface and get to the intimate parts of life that we do not normally talk about in these settings. It is about creating a safe space for people to share their vulnerability and experiences. And I believe we are achieving just that with The Panalove Summit.

Not only are you a philanthropist, but you are also a singer/songwriter (talk about multifaceted). How has that journey been for you and navigating the music and entertainment industry?

The journey has been long (I started music training as a child), challenging, but certainly rewarding along the way. Like anything else, there are a lot of ups and downs – and one must have a lot of confidence and spirituality because there will always be more no’s in this industry than there are “yes’” – that is the part of the game they rarely speak about, however.

Moving to Ghana and switching from the US music market to the Ghana music scene has been one of the hardest transitions of my life. Ghana doesn’t have the infrastructure, resources and capital that other music markets have. It makes it very challenging for artists when they don’t have financial support from investors, subsidies from the government, or even royalties for their work. A lot of people with power in the business exploit the artists because they know it is a desperate climate here. I find it all quite shameless. These are all things that hold the local Ghanaian artists back and give them a huge disadvantage compared to their peers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa – for instance. Luckily for me, I have very strong tenacity, I made strong connections abroad, and I am very determined. If not for these, I would have quit long ago. But, despite Ghana being a much more challenging terrain, I have still managed to secure a distribution deal with GT-Digital/Universal and I also was on the Grammy ballot this year for the power ballad “Freedom” by Keri Nicole and myself. So, God is constantly showing me that despite any challenges music was made for me and it is in my soul.  I can never give up. I must keep marching on.

What genre would you say your music and style resonate with?

I started off as a strictly hip-hop artist until 2015 when Reggie Rockstone heard my work, was very impressed and took me under his wing. He guided me into the African music space and today I make what is called “Afro-fusion” music. It is hip hop mixed with West African (Ghana and Nigerian) production, with some sprinkles of dancehall and Afropop. It’s really delicious. Like a bomb and spicy stew!

What has been the most challenging thing about your journey as an artist?

Staying the course. The music business is challenging. It’s not like other industries where you put in a certain amount of time and effort and can gauge exactly where your next step will be. As an artist, your “big break” can come at any time, and you must always be prepared for it whether it takes months (very unlikely), a few years (still unlikely), or many years (more likely, but still a toss-up). You must really have faith in what you’re doing because everyone who tries won’t make it, everyone who is talented won’t make it and everyone who works hard won’t make it. It is a very elite position to be a household name as an artist and a very hard position to reach. It involves some luck and knowing the right people and being in the right place as well. As difficult as it may seem – your faith, your determination, and your unwillingness to quit is what will see you through.

I always say to myself; no matter what happens I can only lose if I quit. If I do not quit my wins are just ahead of me… I just must keep going. Hwang Dong-hyuk is my inspiration on days I want to give up. He is the Korean screenwriter who wrote “Squid Games”. It was one of the highest performing shows on Netflix. He had been shopping it around since 2001. And it did not get picked up until 2021. How many people do you know who believe in themselves so much that they can wait 20 years for validation? Not many people have that kind of resolve. Imagine how many people told him to quit? His story brings me a lot of peace and joy.

How do you overcome those days where doubt creeps into your mind?

I remember that we are all blessed with a gift and music is mine. I would not want to disrespect this blessing by turning my back on it and not sharing it with the world. It means a lot to me to be able to reach people; make them smile, make them dance, or make them forget what is troubling them. There is a lot of power in that and it is really special. Having a dream and having a vision is special. I wouldn’t want to let that go.

Anything exciting you’re looking forward to? Single or album releases? Or philanthropic projects?

This year I will be doing 4 Panalove summits. We just had the first one in March, and the second will be on May 18th for ‘Skin Cancer Awareness Month’. I also intend to kick off a speaking tour before year’s end in Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Musically, I intend on releasing a few singles and an EP at the end of the year. My first release will be at the end of April; a teaser verse from a song I did with Kelvin Black called “Zeroes”. My next single afterward will be in June. I am releasing a capsule collection for my Panalove fashion brand. It is a collaboration project with GTP fabrics called KISS of AFRICA. It will be released worldwide during the first week of July. Please stay tuned for it all!

How can we keep up with you and support you on your amazing endeavors?

You can follow me across social media platforms @Dellasie_ (IG and X), Dellasie (on Facebook and LinkedIn), @1dellasie on TikTok and WWW.DELLASIE.COM for music, videos, upcoming events, pictures, news and so much more!

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