Actress Hailie Sahar is best known for her roles as Lulu on Pose and Jazmin Martinez on Good Trouble. But Sahar is an ever-evolving creative force. This week she’s showcasing her euphonious voice with a newly released debut single, “Star Traveler.” While in full glam in between takes on set of an undisclosed project, Xtra recently caught up with Sahar via Zoom to discuss this new phase in her creative journey.
The arts were always present for Sahar growing up in Los Angeles in a musically inclined Baptist family. “My grandfather was the pastor, so being in the choir and having uncles and aunts that sang, it’s always been in my blood. My siblings played the drums and guitar, so music was always in our household,” she says. Outside the church, in true ’90s fashion, her mom always played artists like MC Hammer, Salt-N-Pepa, Prince, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill and Janet and Michael Jackson. These artists would become Sahar’s musical touchstones. “Music was always around, and it’s really in my DNA as a performer. That’s where my passion started,” she says.
Because there’s little freedom in the binary ways of the world, Sahar purposefully unchains her creative process from mundane matters to focus on her emotions. And while she admits her debut single, “Star Traveler,” leans more into the pop genre, she says she loves all types of genres of music—old and new— depending on her mood. “As an artist, I don’t personally like to label myself,” she says. She’s worried that if she claims one label, she won’t be allowed to move beyond it. “I came out of the womb [being] so much more … I’m always growing as a person, which we all are.”
While many people know Sahar from her time on Pose, she’s adamant that she is nothing like her character Lulu. Sahar, the actress, is just that. “Lulu had moments where she was the B-word and layered with hurt and stuff,” Sahar says. In real life, she says she was more like the character Blanca. “I was picked on, so I knew what it was like to be an antagonist because of that. With acting, you have to find some truth within your own life to make your character believable.”
Her music, however, is the true Sahar at her core. She pulls from real-life experiences and inner thoughts, letting the world in through music. Because she is a bit reclusive and shy, the art form becomes her way to communicate authentically.
“It sounds so cliché, but it’s an avenue of a diary for people to connect to, which is not something I typically do. So this is me letting you know how I really feel, and you’re going to get the real me, not the actor me,” she says.
Creatively, Sahar is a true Cancerian. “Once I feel something, I have to get that out. That exact feeling has to translate through the sound or the visuals,” she says.
The inspiration for “Star Traveler” came to Sahar one night at the beach. She recalls stargazing, and thinking, “What if the concept of life is an ongoing thing? What if all of us were these balls of energy that really are the stars that we’re seeing up in the sky, and we’re on these journeys of self-discovery?”
According to Sahar, “Star Traveler” is a metaphor that embraces everyone. “We’re all travelling this journey and navigating this world to find ourselves and discover who we are. It is meant to give hope to that spiritual side of yourself, to be confident, fulfilled, passionate and authentic and dominate your aura, who you are, and own that,” she tells Xtra.
With lyrics by Kes Kross (Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Joe Jonas) and choreography by JR Taylor (JLo, Beyoncé), the “Star Traveler” music video, co-directed by Sahar and Jayce Baron, marries Sahar’s love of vintage and futuristic aesthetics. The visuals show the singer guiding a traveller from the past to an idyllic arcade that simulates endless new possibilities in the universe. “It’s so interconnected. We’re all on this journey, and it doesn’t stop,” she says.
“Star Traveler” is the perfect debut single for Sahar, authentically capturing her beliefs and unique sound. It’s a bit of techno-pop with some ’80s flare and Janet Jackson-esque sultry, smooth vocals.
For Sahar, success is defined by her happiness. “When we hear ‘success,’ we usually think of some form of job or money. But success is also like, ‘Did you wake up today, and did you smile and have laughter in your life?’ That’s successful. If you can go through life with all its traumas and still come out happy, that’s [success],” she says.
Utilizing her gifts and sharing them with the world makes Sahar happy, and she’s grateful to be doing that with music in this new chapter of her career.
“We’re on this planet, and it’s like being in an amusement park. The amusement park opens, and it will close at some point. While you’re here, get on all the rides. Do everything, try all the foods. Use all of your gifts,” Sahar says.
At the end of our interview, after noting that more music is coming soon, Sahar tells me how it is sometimes challenging being trans and an advocate and activist in the entertainment industry. But her fans keep her going.
“To my fans, I want them to know that they are a pulse in my heart. I want them to know I genuinely love them. They love and support me and are always like, ‘Keep going.’ I appreciate that. I do. And it’s recycled energy. I give to them, but they give to me, too.”