Raffaella Weyman talks really fast, especially when she’s recounting her youth. “I loved doing accents and being the lead character, which is shocking, I know,” she says. The rising singer-songwriter is combing through her crate of nostalgia from the early 2000s in the west end Toronto apartment she shares with her best friend. Inside, she finds fairy wings, clippings from her stint as a child model and plenty of poems that, if read over a synthpop beat, could easily be the precursor to her songs today. As her alter-ego, Ralph, Weyman writes about everything from break-ups to body image. As a six-year-old, she wrote a little diddy that went a something like: “If I were a dog I’d be a bad dog and I would have fleas and I would be fat and poo all over the place.”
Lols aside, it’s clear to see that Weyman’s skills started early. As a student at an alternative, arts-based school in the city’s Annex neighbourhood, she embraced everything from musical theatre to writing. “I think that [my school] ignited a love for anything artistic and allowed me to be creative and explore,” she says. “I also always felt supported by those around me, especially my teachers and parents, so I took risks and wasn’t afraid. I remember wearing a tutu and Vans to school in Grade 7.”
"Being on stage and on camera a lot is definitely a little scary with my background, but I refuse to let my past get in the way of my love for performance, fashion and music. I just keep workin’ on that BOPO (BOdyPOsitivity), baby.”
Weyman originally dreamed of being an actor, but hated the scrutiny of auditions. “Walking into a room and being physically judged was not something I could deal with,” she says. As a kid, she struggled with body image. “I was always a chubby kid, but it only became apparent to me around Grade 6 that I was the ‘nice’ girl and not the ‘hot’ girl in my class. I decided to change that and dove into an 11-year battle with eating disorders,” she says. Nowadays, she feels comfortable talking openly about the subject because of years of work and self-care. “Telling that secret was like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders,” says the singer. “Being on stage and on camera a lot is definitely a little scary with my background, but I refuse to let my past get in the way of my love for performance, fashion and music. I just keep workin’ on that BOPO (BOdyPOsitivity), baby.”
After pivoting away from acting, Weyman transferred her passions to music and listened to everything from Joni Mitchell to Aretha Franklin to Mandy Moore. “My early musical influences were the artists my hippy parents listened to on vinyl, and then I became obsessed with pop in my tweens,” she says. “I listened to a lot of hip hop in high school, and then I was in folk bands for years. And now here I am! A hybrid of all of that!”
Weyman’s latest EP, Flashbacks and Fantasies, includes references to those early influences. Her song, “Headphone Season,” took inspiration from the political messaging of folk stars like Joan Baez, while “No Muss No Fuss,” is a combination of girl groups like the Spice Girls, All Saints and TLC. “I just wanted something fun and catchy and flirty and sassy,” she says.
Weyman’s popstar-dom is something her younger self could have only fantasized about. She recalls a favourite and totally foreshadowing birthday celebration: “I had a ‘Superstar’ themed party and we had a makeup artist come and do our face and hair, which was the most exciting thing ever until a mother fuckin’ stretch limo pulled up in front of our house and we freaked out,” she says. “I was like ‘OMIGOD MY PARENTS ARE THE BEST!!!,’ but it turned out that my next-door neighbours had rented the limo and the driver had the address wrong.” Luckily, her neighbours let them take a spin around the block. “I remember opening the sky light and we were all just squealing and losing our minds because it was the most glamorous thing we had ever experienced.”