Guayaba: A balancing beauty

by Caitlin Cohen

Olivia Hatfield (aka Guayaba) is insightful, self-aware, and adaptable. She’s able to find hope in the dark and see beauty in the bizarre. 

As an artist, Guayaba is open about her experiences being a queer woman of color, mental health, the work in progress of finding self-love, and her fascination with insects and nature. She uses a lot of insect references and imagery in her lines, as bugs are commonly disliked and feared. Guayaba, who once also found them repulsive, has found parallels between how she felt about bugs and how she felt about herself. It wasn’t until she faced her fears at the Pacific Science Center and held a cockroach that her perspective changed.

“I realized that something I thought was going to be gross and feel scary was actually gentle and beautiful…. Now, I think about them as essential for our ecosystem. They’re so necessary and yet there are people who treat them as pests or are afraid of them when they’re literally harmless,” Guayaba said.

She applies music and her personal style to balance out the light and dark in her life.

“I was an emo kid and metal head for the biggest portion of my life… I was collecting all this taxidermy and natural history stuff. This very, kind of obsessed with death and just darkness… it’s always been fascinating to me and comforting in a way,” Guayaba said. “One day I just got tired of wearing black every single day of my life and really wanted to change. My own personal style started developing during those years. I went on the opposite end of the spectrum and was dressing like cyber punk with a lot of neon things then toned it down a bit… I like to acknowledge the dark parts of my life… but the light parts are just as important to me.”

The wordsmith uses writing as therapy, putting feelings on paper. Her lyrical process is like completing a puzzle; often written in short bursts that she’ll refer back to when placing all the pieces together.

“The best therapy for me is through writing… I’m pretty used to writing out my feelings versus talking about them. Sometimes, I don’t necessarily have the verbal language at the time to talk about what I’m feeling,” Guayaba said. “Sometimes, I can get very easily overwhelmed in the situation. I have to take time to process… I won’t know how I’m feeling until after the fact. Writing definitely helps to create a record of how I’m feeling throughout that process and also to stay authentic… I’ll read it and it will take me back to that time. It allows time for thoughts that I’ve forgotten.”

Guayaba makes music to empower herself and hopes her music will reach out to others. She hopes that people outside of her experiences will understand them more deeply. Another goal is to validate those who share similar experiences and for them to know they are heard.

Understanding how stigmatized mental health and getting help—whether that is through taking medication or going to talk therapy—the artists speaks out to why people often feel disgraced for seeking help. It’s important to normalize self-care and we don’t hear enough that it’s okay to take those steps when necessary.

“I think it’s something that people feel a lot of shame over… I think when people think of that, it resides to being medicated or in therapy and I think it scares a lot of people. You won’t know or have confirmation until you go into those things…and for some people it could be necessary…. It’s not just depression that I’ve seen do something that people would call ‘just depression’ like, it could completely ruin someone’s life without them getting help,” Guayaba said. “It’s very easy to trivialize at this point because in a lot of ways it is being commodified. As that happens, we need to be more aware of how the people around us are feeling and be able to check in more often. My best advice is to be honest with yourself and the people around you… if you’re at a point where you need some help, just get it. That’s really the hardest part. If you’re at the point where you feel like you can’t get out of bed then that is the point where you should be getting help.”

Guayaba will be performing at BAMF! on May 6. Follow her at facebook.com/aguadeguayaba/ .