Safia Nolin


“Being assertive is not always easy. Sometimes I’m really sick of it. But I can’t live in half-measures.”

Since her debut on the musical scene, singer-songwriter Safia Nolin, winner of four ADISQ awards, has left no one indifferent. While her sad songs touch our hearts, her eccentric personality, authenticity, and refusal to give in to social pressure challenge us. True to herself, she forges ahead, carried by her love for music and her fans.

When host and stand-up comedian Jay Du Temple had his mane shaved in front of thousands of fans at the Bell Centre, he asked his friend Safia Nolin to come up on the stage to sing The B.B.’s hit Tu ne sauras jamais by his side. “I was so moved. I knew that Leucan was a great cause but I never thought that my turn would come this year!” Because her hair “looks like a battlefield,” Nolin mistakenly believed that she could not take part in the Leucan Shaved Head Challenge. “I believed participants were donating their hair, and who would want mine?”

For Rosalie

When Leucan reached out to invite her to join Les Audacieuses, the singer was really surprised. “It took me three seconds to say yes. I obviously wanted to do it!” Her mind automatically went to Rosalie who died from leukemia. Rosalie is her primary reason for taking on the Challenge. “Rosalie listened to my music and came to my shows. Her mother put us in touch and we communicated a lot. She has left a huge mark in my life. She was such a special person: determined, inspiring.” Among other things, Rosalie pleaded for the right to vote from her hospital bed.

Safia Nolin is a frequent visitor at the CHU Sainte-Justine where she sings at patients’ bedsides. She wound up in Rosalie’s room by chance, a few weeks before her death. She sang for her friend. “When Rosalie died, I was on a plane, and her mom was texting me. They were listening to one of my songs when it happened. It was such a privilege to be included in their bubble. It was really intense.”

In her death notice, Rosalie asked people to donate to an animal refuge: Les Chatmoureux in Granby. Her plea did not fall on deaf ears. As part of her show at Quai des Brumes, the artist passed the hat. “We collected $1,000! I took her wish and disseminated it. I was her channel. Thanks to her, several cats were saved. I still feel the same vibe. By getting my head shaved, I feel like she will live the experience through me.”

Hair: a love-hate relationship

Since she made her debut, Safia Nolin has had to endure a volley of scathing comments. About her body shape. About her fashion choices. About her colourful language. About her sexual orientation. About her decision to denounce an aggression. She is fully aware that her shaved head will open her up to more insults from the people who chase and harass her all the way to her university classes. “Being assertive is not always easy. Sometimes I’m really sick of it. But I can’t live in half-measures.”

As the Challenge draws nearer, she is running the gambit of emotions. “I’m really excited and I can’t wait. But I’m also a little scared. With everything going on in my life, I wonder how much of a shock it will be to look at myself in the mirror. I’m worried my self-confidence will take a hit. Then again, that’s what cancer-stricken children go through. That’s why I chose to do it. That’s why it’s so important.”

Stark naked

The singer thought of shaving her head many times but never dared to. Yet, in 2019, she did not hesitate to bare it all in a video for her song Lesbian Break-up Song in an effort to promote body diversity. “Weirdly, I think it was easier for me to shed my clothes than to lose my hair. When Marie-Mai shaved her head, she looked gorgeous because she meets beauty standards. Whereas me, I’m fat and not exactly feminine.”

For Safia, her shoulder-length blond hair might be the only part of her body that fits femininity standards. “I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I find it hard to get rid of it, yet exciting at the same time.”

All together now!

In front of the mirror, she hides her locks under her grey tuque. “I keep on picturing myself without hair. I’m preparing myself mentally. I can’t wait for the day, can’t wait to touch my shaved head. I’ll probably put my tuque back on right away. I think I’ll be cold!”

She applauds the courage of the women who will take on the Challenge with her. “It’s so electrifying to see those women come together. They work in environments where it’s already difficult to be a woman and where it will be even harder to do so as a bald woman. In the artistic community, there’s not that kind of decorum. It’s easier to beak out of the mold. Those women are amazing! It’s such a fantastic thing to do, and it really sends the message that we are united for the cause.”

The project comes at the right time for Safia Nolin. On a forced break due to the pandemic, she has no show scheduled for a while. She wishes she could write but cannot find the inspiration. “I’m waiting for COVID to end. I have zero motivation.” With her partner living in France, she spends her days alone with her dog, Pizzaghetti. “The hours are long. I’m so grateful for my dog!” So, she welcomes with great enthusiasm the Audacieuses project that will bring a touch of colour and fun to her life.

Photographer, Andréanne Gauthier; stylist, Simon Venne (Judy Inc.); hair & makeup, Alper Sisters (Teamm Agency)