Vocal Fry Unraveled: Reclaiming Your Vocal Identity

Vocal Fry Unraveled: Reclaiming Your Vocal Identity

Embracing My Roots, One Espresso at a Time

As a child, I spent my summers in São Paulo, Brazil, immersed in the vibrant rhythms and flavors of my family’s heritage. The mornings would begin with the familiar sights and sounds – the hissing of the stovetop, the clatter of pots and pans, my grandmother’s voice humming along to Elis Regina. I’d sip my strong, sugary coffee, mesmerized by the ebb and flow of Portuguese flowing around me.

Yet, when I returned home to the United States, that connection to my Brazilian identity would somehow shrivel up, like a warm, buttery coxinha left to go cold at the airport. Despite being surrounded by a thriving Latinx community in Miami, I never fully claimed my roots. There was always a sense of uncertainty, like I didn’t quite belong.

It wasn’t until college, when I dove deep into the history and culture of Latin America, that I began to unravel the complexities of my identity. I learned about Brazil’s tumultuous past, the military dictatorship that silenced so many voices. And I realized that my own mother’s experiences of discrimination and racism had nothing to do with her being Brazilian – they were the result of bigotry, pure and simple.

Armed with this newfound understanding, I made a conscious decision to own my heritage, to let the vibrant colors and rhythms of my family’s legacy fill me up, rather than constantly feel like I was performing it. Because as Toni Bell so eloquently puts it, “The problem has never been the Latinx community.” The problem lies in the systems and attitudes that seek to other and diminish those who don’t fit the dominant narrative.

Vocal Fry and the Battle for Self-Expression

As I’ve grappled with my own identity, I’ve also had to confront another aspect of myself that has been the subject of constant critique and judgment – my voice. More specifically, the vocal fry that has crept into my speech pattern over the years.

Vocal fry, that low, raspy quality that some find grating or unprofessional, has become a lightning rod for debate, with women often bearing the brunt of the criticism. We’re told our voices are “annoying,” that we sound “uneducated” or “lazy.” And heaven forbid if we dare to pair that vocal fry with the dreaded “uptalk” – the rising intonation at the end of sentences that makes us sound unsure of ourselves.

But you know what? Screw that noise. Because vocal fry, much like my Brazilian heritage, is an integral part of who I am. It’s a reflection of my lived experiences, my emotional cadence, my unique way of expressing myself. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone shame me out of using the full range and power of my voice.

As podcaster Jamie Loftus shared, “I’ve been adjusting my voice since I was a little kid to make myself sound more appealing to people and I wish I hadn’t.” Too many of us have done the same, molding our voices to fit someone else’s idea of what is “proper” or “acceptable.”

Well, no more. It’s time to reclaim our vocal identities, to embrace the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make our voices truly our own. Because in a world that constantly tries to silence us, our voices are powerful tools of resistance and self-expression.

Unraveling the Myths Around Vocal Fry

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: what exactly is vocal fry, and why does it elicit such strong reactions?

Vocal fry, also known as creaky voice, is a low, raspy sound that occurs at the end of a phrase or sentence. It’s created by the vocal cords vibrating loosely, resulting in a deeper, more guttural tone. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not unique to any one gender or age group – it’s a natural part of the human vocal spectrum.

Yet, for some reason, vocal fry has become strongly associated with young, affluent women. Think the stereotypical “valley girl” or the Kardashian-Jenner clan. And this association has led to a barrage of criticism, with pundits and commentators decrying vocal fry as a sign of laziness, unintelligence, or even vocal deterioration.

But as Toni Bell points out, the problem isn’t the vocal fry itself – it’s the underlying biases and prejudices that lead people to judge and devalue certain ways of speaking. After all, we don’t see the same level of scrutiny and disdain directed towards the low, gravelly voices of men in positions of power.

In fact, research has shown that vocal fry is a natural speech pattern that serves a variety of linguistic functions, from conveying intimacy and sincerity to signaling the end of a thought or phrase. It’s a vocal tool that both men and women employ to add nuance and meaning to their speech.

So the next time someone tries to shame you for your vocal fry, remember: they’re not critiquing your voice, they’re revealing their own biases and insecurities. Your voice is a powerful part of who you are, and you have every right to use it however you damn well please.

Reclaiming the Power of Your Vocal Identity

Now that we’ve debunked the myths surrounding vocal fry, it’s time to embrace the full range and potential of your voice. Because your voice is so much more than just a means of communication – it’s a reflection of your lived experiences, your emotions, your very identity.

Think about the way your voice changes when you’re excited, or angry, or moved to tears. The subtle shifts in tone, the fluctuations in volume and rhythm – these are the unique fingerprints of your vocal identity, shaped by the intersections of your gender, your ethnicity, your life experiences.

And just as I’ve had to reckon with my own Brazilian heritage, it’s time to stop apologizing for or hiding the aspects of your voice that make you who you are. Whether it’s the vocal fry, the uptalk, the regional accent, or the way you naturally modulate your speech – embrace it all, unapologetically.

Because when you own your vocal identity, you’re not just asserting your right to self-expression, you’re also challenging the systemic biases and power structures that seek to silence and diminish marginalized voices. You’re saying, “This is me, in all my messy, glorious complexity. And I won’t be bullied into conforming to your narrow standards of acceptability.”

So, the next time you catch yourself self-consciously clearing your throat or trying to “fix” the way you speak, stop. Take a deep breath, and let your voice ring out, full and true. Fill the air with the rhythms and cadences that are uniquely yours, whether it’s the samba-infused lilt of your Brazilian heritage or the vocal fry that punctuates your every sentence.

Because when you reclaim your vocal identity, you’re not just liberating your own voice – you’re paving the way for others to do the same. You’re creating a more inclusive, equitable world where all voices are celebrated and amplified, regardless of how they may challenge the status quo.

So let’s raise a cup of strong, sweet coffee to that, shall we? After all, as my grandmother always said, “É a promessa de vida no teu coração” – it’s the promise of life in your heart.

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