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Singing, designing and dancing: how to do it all with Livia Rita

Being part of a new generation comes with many challenges. For many, doing both what they love while fighting for what they believe in at the same time can often feel near impossible. Where do you find that balance, and how can you juggle the many skills you’ve come to learn in order to find professional success using them? We asked multidisciplinary artist and star-in-the-making Livia Rita to share the steps she took when starting her own career.

From ‘country girl’ to Londoner

Rita grew up in a rural village located in the Alps, which didn’t stop her from “dreaming of the radical other—in this case, of the big city.” As soon as she turned 18, Rita left for London and dived into London’s artmaking scene, the nightlife and the new communities. “It was so overwhelming. I just didn’t have access to the world of arts when I was younger. I took my first ever dance class aged 18, surrounded by 6-year-old ballerinas and felt completely out of place. I loved to sing but I was told by teachers that my vocal technique just wasn’t good enough, even though the expression was there.”

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But she persevered. After studying acting and going to a string of unsuccessful auditions, Rita realised that she didn’t fit into that one space either. “So many people were always telling me to choose one thing and become a specialist at it. But when I felt that pull to express myself, I found that I had this much wider perspective, this drive to build worlds and visions and identities, that needed sound and movement and visuals to truly come to life.” Nowadays, she explains, she’s not interested in our society’s constant need to define and categorise something. “I want to break free of categories, explore questions rather than answers, examine the sliding scales and the in-betweens and the unknown—I guess, the future,” shares Rita.

Promoting progressive ways of thinking through your work

Through the varied mediums she explores as an artist, Rita not only aims to promote the messages she deems important, but also to introduce others to safe spaces where progressive values are welcomed. “With these different art forms, entangled together and bleeding into one another, I want to bend time and reality to jump into an in-between, future world. I have always struggled to feel at home in this world and this life, so I try to create alternative ecosystems with my work. Maybe it’s about creating my own safe space, my creature habitat, and then inviting others in with dance and music, hoping they will share that need for a future-forward community, hoping that I’m not alone.”

Rita grew up surrounded by nature, which led her to build a tight relationship with it, one that is apparent as an influence through her career. “Nature doesn’t have a voice in our society, so I do feel like I need to incorporate it into my future visions, to treat the natural world as an active player. In today’s time, it feels more relevant than ever: it’s impossible to think of the future without thinking of the climate!”

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How to efficiently juggle the skills you’ve come to learn

When asked what her advice would be to young creatives living in big cities such as London, who are trying to make a living all the while standing up for the causes that they care about, Rita told us, “If it looks easy for me, then that’s not the truth—it’s still a daily struggle.” It’s been said before that gen Zers tend to consider themselves the hardest-working generation, yet other studies show that they won’t tolerate being forced to work when they don’t want to. As a result, this paints the contradicting picture of a generation that, in all honesty, is constantly worrying about whether it’s fully equipped for what different workplace environments have to offer them.

As a gen Zer myself, I feel as though it can be hard sometimes to find the right balance between the amount of work actually being put into something behind the scenes, and the constant flow of success stories that we are being fed through social media platforms such as Instagram or even LinkedIn. We’re part of the digital generation, we’re as internet-savvy as it gets, and we’re ready to dab in and out of our many interests, yet we’re lacking guidance from others. Instead, what we end up following is a glamourised depiction of hustle culture—even though we love promoting self-care at the same time.

And Rita can relate to the point made just above, “When one looks back on their path to getting to where they are now, it’s so easy to glorify it and forget the problems and shit moments. Still, now there are things I don’t love about my daily work, even though I’m so grateful for where I’m at—for example, I spend far too much time on my computer!”

When it comes to advice, Rita recommends people learn when to ask for help. “No one does it by themselves completely. You need to find symbioses; find people at the same point in their artistic journey. I was constantly reaching out to others.” Secondly, “give yourself time. I’m an independent artist, so it is slow work: unless you are born into it, with crazy connections or lots of money, then the Hollywood stories of making it by age 18 barely ever happen,” she adds.

Like many other things in life, finding your niche and thriving in it takes time. “Being an independent artist can absolutely become a strength, in the long run, it just takes time because there is a lot to learn. I think the slower grind is worth it down the line though, to take a position of independence: it sounds like the future, doesn’t it?”

Speaking about self-care and how she balances hard work with ‘me time’, Rita explains that it can sometimes feel impossible for her too, “I have begun to look after my wellbeing by reconnecting with nature on a daily basis whenever possible. There’s no one-size-fits-all, but I would recommend the healing wonders of the natural world.”

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From environmentalism and feminism to eco-feminism

“Eco-feminism basically brings together two big movements—environmentalism and feminism—into conversation with each other, and finds the many links between the exploitation of nature and the subordination of women. We find that they can marry each other and it’s all one big collective,” explains Rita.

As an artist who draws inspiration from both movements, Rita fights for these causes, both separately and together, through her work. “I have really gotten to know myself and find my identity through the prisms of gender and of nature. There’s a big exploration there for me and the world is so full of information but also tension and trauma around these topics.”

As a singer, Rita’s voice—produced from her assigned female body—dissipates itself into the air surrounding her, in turn echoing around our environment and becoming a part of it. “We think of natural and human-made as opposites, but humans are creatures like any other, a part of nature too,” she adds. In that sense, eco-feminism is one of the main driving forces behind her creative work and life in general.

The influence of eco-feminism on Rita’s career as a singer and musician is also hard to ignore. Her new song, titled ‘SCREAM IT’ was initially created as a love song. “But then later I added a second layer of vocals, more urgent and underground. I think it marked my own progression as a person. The main lyrics were written at a time when I was making sense of myself, my own experiences and my own relationships,” Rita tells us, but as time passed, “I started to think more about my place as part of a bigger whole. So these secondary vocals are about community, the need to support one another and drive social change through unity.”

In a way, ‘SCREAM IT’ has expanded outwards from the micro-level of personal romantic love to the macrocosm of love as a driving force, existential love that could be deemed ‘the zest of life’. “Altogether, SCREAM IT is still a love song, but it is a love song to be screamed—a cacophony of desires, expectations and fears for the future.”

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You’re up next

When asked what she thinks it will take for the young generation of creatives to shift things around when it comes to matters of sustainability, equality, diversity, and more, Rita shares that “on the one hand, the young generation has immense power and we have to use this power well. We are the future, we are shaping culture, and it is important we inspire future generations to have a positive impact and carve paths forward.”

On the other hand, however, “we are consumers in a failing capitalist structure—we must demand certain ethical and moral standards. In FUGA FUTURA [Livia Rita’s upcoming debut album], I think mostly about preparing for the future, getting ready for the revolution. So the next step, for my next album, is to think about how we shape that revolution, which future scenarios can we realise?”

As an artist, Rita cherishes both utopias and dystopias. Utopia is a sacred fantasy place; even if it’s not real or attainable, “I find it so helpful to have something to strive towards, a driving force. Then I also spend time in dystopias, in apocalyptic scenarios; even in dystopias, there is the element of possibility, the chance for rebirth.”

In order to ‘make it’, you must learn how to share the workload

“I’ve made it to a certain point. Nowadays, I have collaborators with me at every step of the process instead of taking everything on my own shoulders: the workload is less suffocating and collaborating gives such space for artistic growth, inspiration and playfulness,” shares Rita. In a hyperconnected world, collaborations have taken on a deeper meaning than ever before—making them as valuable, if not more, than other solo projects you might be working on.

“Another piece of advice I have is for other independent artists; we need to support each other and raise one another up, there is strength in that. That’s how we can thrive and create without having to bend our moral compass or compromising too much. We don’t have anyone to push our work, to put us on platforms—but we do have the power to do that for each other.”

When creatives work together, they not only promote each other on their respective organic as well as digital channels, which helps them both grow their reach, but they also learn from each other along the way. Collaboration helps you create a brand image around your name, and mature your approach to your work.

Singing, designing, and dancing: you can do it all, and more

The new generations are inherently creative beings—by growing along with new technologies and the way they impacted our society, millennials and gen Zers have evolved from the singular approach most people took when it came to life in general, from building a career to picking a hobby. As a result, this means that they’re also more inclined to thrive in multidisciplinary careers or actively take part in various causes.

In order to do that successfully, it’s up to us to know when to take a break, ask for help, or even rely on someone else. Only collectively will we be able to do it all. Oh, and stream ‘SCREAM IT’ here when you’re looking to release all those pent-up emotions.

Inside the digital dating lives of China’s new generation and COVID-19’s impact on its dating culture

‘Dating in China’ is a three-part series created in partnership with cross-cultural agency TONG with the aim of providing our readers with an insider’s point of view into what dating in China is truly like from a young person’s perspective. In order to offer you the deepest insights into China’s dating culture, each piece is centred around the point of view of one Chinese citizen (and serial dater).

When it comes to dating technologies—a topic that we at Screen Shot have always been particularly fond of—different cultures always result in contrasting trends and etiquette. In the UK, dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge dominate the market. But what about other cultures, in other countries? In this three-part series titled Dating in China, created in partnership with cross-cultural agency TONG, we spoke to three Chinese ‘serial daters’ in order to provide you with an insider’s point of view into what dating in China is truly like from a young person’s perspective. First things first, here’s an introduction into the world of digital dating in the country as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted China’s dating culture.

China’s most popular dating apps

In the world’s most populous country, online dating has become a profitable industry as 200 million Chinese are eager to find a partner. According to Statista, “for every 100 females aged below 24, there are over 110 males.” Overall, there are about 32 million more men than women in China, which is derived from the country’s decades-long one-child policy and a general preference for boys.

The gender imbalance has in turn had a strong influence on dating, matchmaking, and relationship services. In 2020, the annual revenue of China’s online dating and matchmaking businesses was estimated to be 6.5 billion yuan (around £717 million).

Now, in a landscape like that, it seems easy to get lost, right? When it comes to the most popular dating services in China, as of December 2020, Momo takes first place. Amassing over 52 million monthly active users in the market, the mobile app’s company also acquired another one of China’s most popular dating apps in 2018, Tantan. This move further secured its dominance in the country’s ‘casual’ dating app market.

It should be noted however that Momo technically isn’t a dating app, while Tantan is fully marketed as one. Officially founded and launched in 2011, Momo is a free social search and instant messaging mobile app. The app allows users to chat with nearby friends and strangers through different features—think of a hybrid between WhatsApp and Bumble BFF, only better.

Although Momo is widely considered as a social media application, in April 2012, a viral video titled 12 Beijingers defined the app as “a magical tool to get laid.” Since then, the company has spent a lot of energy (and money) towards reversing its image as a one-night stand app.

In comes Tantan, China’s very own Tinder, which reported over 30,000 monthly users in December 2020. On the dating app, users can—you guessed it—swipe through profiles, connect and chat with potential partners, but also add updates on their profiles, upload albums, play icebreaker games, and more. The app, which is based on geolocation, offers matched up profiles with features such as live group chats using text, voice and video, enabling users to find their perfect match and potentially meet them in real life.

Tantan pushes matches based on a specific user’s common tags. For example, if you share the same hobbies and interests as someone or even visited the same places, chances are they’ll pop up on your feed. Similar to Tinder, users have to fill in their profile description and interests to then be able to swipe left or right on someone. You can start a conversation with that person only if both of you select each other. As the 8th social app on the iOS store, Tantan reported having 5 million paying users as of the end of 2019.

Other popular Chinese dating apps include Soul, which requires users to take a personality test before using it and gives them the possibility to go on a voice date, a video date, a location-based date, or a text chat date. Blued, another one, is the top LGBTQ+ dating app in the country, along with Grindr. Except for its demographic target, Blued functions much like Momo; “users can find people nearby, enter livestreaming rooms, share a glimpse of their life, and consume sex education content,” reports KrAsia.

Millennials and gen Zers as users

“Online dating is the future in China,” said Eric Zhou, founder of the dating app Slow and former head of global operations at ByteDance’s viral short video-sharing app TikTok when speaking to the South China Morning Post. Just as we saw a rise in single-person households in the last five years across the world, from Angola to Japan, China saw a sharp rise in its population of single people too.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by 2022, the number of people living alone is forecast to reach 92 million, reports the South China Morning Post. Understandably, this first resulted in a boom in downloads of casual dating apps such as Tantan. But things didn’t stop there, because then, the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on hold, China first.

As China’s younger generations of daters experimented with livestreaming and video chat features, a new market started appearing on the country’s dating scene, one born out of a longing for meaningful connections when feeling more isolated than ever before. New dating apps such as Zhou’s Slow started appearing while messaging app giant WeChat became a hotbed for DIY dating groups created by millennials and gen Zers, such as HIMMR, which stands for ‘How I Met Mr Right’.

As of today, HIMMR is available as a WeChat mini programme—another fascinating topic that you just need to read about, by the way—as well as a web app, and has since attracted 80,000 active users and organised over 300 physical events in eight cities, according to South China Morning Post.

Highlighting the country’s recent migration towards smaller domestic dating apps that provide niche cultural solutions is the success of the gay dating app Fanka, which hides the profiles of paid users from their acquaintances for an annual fee of 300 yuan (around £33).

In other words, China’s younger generations are fully ready to explore the many different facets dating technology has to offer, and the pandemic most definitely played a part in the acceleration of this shift.

Meet Chloe, 26, headhunter living in Shanghai

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Chloe was stuck in Hubei, the Chinese province where the virus first appeared. “I was stuck there for 60 days, and my then-boyfriend was in Shanghai. He had lost his job as a chef and he ended up meeting this chick. They decided to get engaged a month after they met!” Like many other heartbroken souls who’ve been there, done that before, the news led her to turn to dating apps again. While at university, Chloe had experimented with her audio dating skills through the app Soul and had also previously used Tinder a couple of times about two years prior, mostly when her ex-boyfriend was away, “for a little fun,” to which both consented, at that time, Chloe decided to use dating apps as a distraction she felt she strongly needed.

As her two ‘weapons of choice’, Chloe picked both Tantan and Tinder—the best of bost worlds, some could say. Speaking about the differences between the apps China’s dating market has to offer, Chloe confirmed that while apps such as Tinder represent the opportunity to connect with foreigners living in China, overseas, or at least at the other end of the country, many other apps such as Soul have a more local userbase.

Tinder for global reach, Tantan for ‘locally sourced’ crushes

In order to access apps that range from Tinder to Twitter in China, users need to install a VPN on their smartphone as many remain banned from the country. Nothing the new generations can’t easily get around though. “I would say that Tinder is marketed towards foreigners or even Chinese citizens who’ve been overseas before. As for Tantan, it relies on its livestream feature where users can actually promote their profile, and it is way more local,” Chloe told us.

On Tantan, users can also play around with the app’s geolocation feature, meaning they can select to round up profiles from people within a one-mile radius or more. “I mostly use Tinder because filtering pictures and putting fake information is very common on Tantan. You’ll get those really dodgy profiles of people using celebrities’ photos—there’s just no way that guy is on Tantan!”

When it comes to different ways of interacting with people on both apps, Chloe shared that Tantan has more to offer than what most of us get on Tinder, “You can comment on a person’s photo without even having to match with them. If you matched with someone and decided not to speak to them in the end, Tantan will send you a notification as soon as they unmatch you—that’s so extra!”

In many ways, Tantan can be considered as a hybrid between a dating app and a social networking one. After all, it was bought by Momo, which implied that some kind of similarities would potentially appear between the two.

China’s misogyny and how it applies to different dating apps

As Chloe confirmed during our in-depth conversation, Tantan’s userbase mainly consists of Chinese citizens. For heterosexual women using the app, it implies that men’s approach might not be the same as on Tinder. This, Chloe said, is due to the fact that most Chinese men aren’t respecting women the same way foreign men might. “I have to acknowledge that the respect shown towards Chinese women is not evolved enough yet. People will say ‘of course I respect women’ but then their profile will say something completely different. Some guys on Tantan feel comfortable using terms such as ‘bitch’ to describe women who don’t answer their pick-up lines, for example. I’ve seen so many offensive things on there that sometimes I swipe without even reading their bios.”

Of course, generalities should not be made. As someone who’s never used dating apps in China specifically, I’ve also encountered my fair share of backward thinkers on dating apps popular in Europe. However, Chloe points out that in China, the contrast is so different from the views of men on the two apps that it led her to favour Tinder over Tantan.

Then again, she precised, Tinder has also a plethora of foreign men thinking so highly of themselves that they just expect Chinese women to fall at their feet due to their ‘exotic charm’.

From building a profile to dating etiquette

Speaking about how she tends to edit her dating profile on Tinder, pictures and bio included, Chloe first explained that she likes to keep it real but fun, “My photos are pretty but not edited to cheat someone. I’ve never walked on someone for them to go ‘oh, I don’t think you are that chick from your pictures’ you know? So that’s also something I expect from others. Let me show you actually!”

Inside the digital dating lives of China’s new generation and COVID-19’s impact on its dating culture
Inside the digital dating lives of China’s new generation and COVID-19’s impact on its dating culture
Inside the digital dating lives of China’s new generation and COVID-19’s impact on its dating culture
Inside the digital dating lives of China’s new generation and COVID-19’s impact on its dating culture
Inside the digital dating lives of China’s new generation and COVID-19’s impact on its dating culture

“My bio reads ‘No guarantees just possibilities’ along with my Instagram handle underneath. If you want to find me, now you know,” jokes Chloe, adding that she includes her social media handle in there so that people who are willing to make the extra effort can reach out to her on there instead, which she says she checks more often than Tinder. On the other hand, she also explained that people who are less likely to receive a match from her usually tend to be more ‘desperate’ and therefore slide in her DMs on Instagram. Sounds pretty familiar, right?

‘What about the real game of chasing?’, I hear you ask. It goes without saying that we all have different preferences, especially when it comes to the world of dating—one might like cheesy approaches while someone else might be looking for a direct, no-fuss one-liner. For Chloe, “compliments are always welcome,” and she would make sure to answer them in a timely manner, but humour also plays an important part in the matches she tends to go for. “Instead of a random joke that you can send to literally everybody, a comment related to one of my pictures or my bio shows effort, and that can definitely strike a chord for me.”

From sliding into DMs to hijacking Tinder

Saying that dating app users in China never receive (or send) first messages offering to meet up for sex only would be a lie. As you’ll see in our next two articles, it does happen. However, as we’ve seen above, certain dating apps cater to different user profiles. As a result, this has an impact on the varied ‘reach out standards’ observed by users.

Chloe, who mainly uses Tinder, thinks that sending an offer to meet for a hook up as a first message is not acceptable, “I’m not trying to shame anyone, it’s just that we don’t do it much here—or at least not from what I’ve seen.” Speaking about her other dos and don’ts when it comes to dating apps, she adds that users taking advantage of those platforms to promote projects or events that have absolutely nothing to do with connecting with others is one of her biggest pet peeves. “It’s a real thing! You can find online courses teaching people how to use dating apps as a marketing tool for their own business.”

Considering the importance of China’s dating industry, which is still booming as we speak, it only makes sense that citizens are already trying to hijack its success in a way to gain something from it too. In a way, this approach isn’t that different from Love Island partnering with Tinder in the UK to gain access to the dating industry’s giant and its colossal userbase.

How Chinese dating apps turned into a necessity during COVID-19

According to an article by KrAsia published in the South China Morning Post, “More than 622 million people used dating apps in China in 2020, and the market is set to hit US$290 million in revenues by 2024.” As Chinese dating apps become more popular as well as more mainstream, they are further adopting features previously used mainly by social media platforms. Livestreaming and the ability to comment on someone’s dating profile is only the tip of the iceberg—as Chloe highlighted, dating apps in China are often being used for different purposes than ‘finding the one’.

But China’s dating industry is not planning on stopping here: dating apps have also added elements that are not so common for the rest of the market, such as matchmaker-mediated chats and voice message speed dating.

By the end of 2020, the nine largest dating apps on China’s iOS app store ranked as follows: Yidui, Tantan, Momo, Soul, Yimu, Zhenai, Hezi, Blued and Rela. Foreign players like Tinder have fallen far behind local competitors.

In the world’s most populous country, people still felt the need to meet and connect with others, but the coronavirus pandemic forced citizens to turn to more creative alternatives, leading in turn to Chinese dating apps introducing features never seen before on other markets. According to Statista, online dating is the category with the highest amount of available services as well as the highest amount of users worldwide.

When it comes to China, where the one-child policy left a deficit of women and where flirting remains relatively new, our research and conversation with Chloe have clearly shown how things are rapidly shifting. The country’s new generations have already fully adopted new dating technologies, and are now expanding their influence on the way these are shaped depending on worldwide events such as the coronavirus pandemic.

As Tinder’s influence on the Chinese market slowly decreases, local apps are proving themselves as modern, creative and different alternatives. From Yidui, a video-based speed matchmaking app that targets singles in lower-tier cities to voice-based social app Hezi, which was founded by two senior executives from Momo—one thing is obvious, China’s dating apps are big business. Something that the likes of Bumble and Tinder could definitely learn from.