In Kali’s house, femininity reigned, and during those formative years in Colombia, she got to know her grandmother, a fiery woman who, at 70, still dated men in their twenties, she said. She was the kind of woman who rid people of their demons through her shaman work and then went out to dance after. She harnessed her beauty and sexuality and owned her womanhood, even if the neighbors had something to say.
“As an artist, I’ve kind of tried to make sure that as I’m getting older, the image that I’m portraying is proud, grown woman energy,” Kali said.
At home and in her head, Kali was surrounded by strong women who were not afraid of their own voice or their husbands. She became inspired by Latinas like La Lupe, Selena, Shakira, Celia Cruz, Salma Hayek and Ivy Queen. But, she says, she also considered herself a bit of a tomboy. Growing up with three brothers influenced how she expressed her gender in a way that she did not immediately reject.
“When I was out of town or when I was in places where no one knew me, they were confusing me for a boy,” Kali said. “I remember that I liked it sometimes.”
So she slid out of one gender presentation into the other, until she was ready to choose.
“I remember going home one day and looking at myself in the mirror thinking: ‘Do I want to be a boy?’ I could be a boy if I wanted to,” she said about that moment. “Ultimately, I decided to be a girl.”
The whimsy, the sensuality, the air in her step, how she seems to creep out of a fantasy world where hummingbirds part her hair and clouds break to reveal a ray of sunshine perfectly lighting her face, all came from her intentional journey through womanhood.