Talina Toscano is sixteen-years-old, an autism advocate, an anti-bullying advocate, fights for girl’s rights and just for good measure….is an award winning singer and songwriter! She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Citi Field, the United Nations and been featured on virtually every major television network. You can follow here journey on her website here.
Kerry: When did you first start pursuing music as a career?
Talina: I started singing professionally when I was eleven years old and my first appearance was on New Year’s Eve in Times Square for ABC. I had a chance to meet with Ryan Seacrest, we spoke about music and I have been driven ever since. I recorded my first single, “Thank You” a few months later. Most of my music, awards, and updates in music can be seen and listened to on my website at www.talinaworld.com
Kerry: What have you learned from being an autism advocate?
Talina: I can relate to other kids with autism as we sometimes share the same challenges, abilities, likes and dislikes. As an advocate, it’s nice to know that I can be a role model and impact another person with autism and their family. Being an advocate can be confusing sometimes too as there are many different views out there on autism. All I can do is my very best to help where I can.
Kerry: Who has been one of your biggest inspirations in your life so far?
Talina: My parents of course as they have guided me in every aspect of my life. My dad has really taken the time to help develop and build my music career. I have a great relationship with them. I’m also inspired by musical artists like Estelle who is not only a fantastic R&B artist but she has also grown into an amazing voice actor. I love her depth and realness. I’m inspired by Lady Gaga because she is so original and not afraid to be herself. I love individuality. Alicia Keys and Mary J Blige have also played important roles in my life.
Kerry: Is there a specific challenge that girls on the autism spectrum face that you feel should be addressed?
Talina: I think girls with autism can get very emotional like myself and we have to learn to harness our emotions to some extent but not to the point where we can’t express ourselves. It’s most important to be ourselves.
Kerry: Bullying is a huge topic in our autism community. What are some of the things you share in your anti-bullying campaigns with the audiences you speak too?
Talina: I try to identify many types of bullying like cyber bullying, verbal bullying and physical bullying. We talk about scenarios if you were being bullied or if you were witnessing a bullying incident and how you should respond. To this day I still receive emails from students wanting to talk about bullying and other life issues.
Kerry: What would be a piece of advice you would share with others on the autism spectrum who are pursuing their dreams?
Talina: Well I once asked Mary J Blige what advice she would give a rising pop singer like me. I think her answer speaks to all kids with or without autism. She said that we should be true to ourselves and never let others judge us. If we’re true to ourselves in whatever we do then we have succeeded. Success can be measured in many ways. I also think parents of kids with autism need to focus on what their child is good at, maybe it’s a particular skill or talent and help them develop it as it will help them find themselves as they get older.
Kerry: You write most of your own music, what inspires you?
Talina: I write about my life experiences which in general are pretty unique. For instance my latest song “Tidal Wave” is about my respect for Estelle. I wrote “I’ll Be There For You” just hours after the tsunami and earthquake hit the coast of Japan in March 2011. I was devastated by their loss. I guess I’m a very inspirational songwriter.
One of my songs which has over a million views on youtube is called “Mockingbird” and I wrote that about my brother Michael who died before I was born. Many people can relate to “Mockingbird”.
Kerry: You’re sixteen years old and have had so many accomplishments thus far, what’s next for you?
Talina: Well college is on my mind of course but I’m going to continue to write my music and do the things I love to do. I’m going to play out and tour some more. Playing in front of large live crowds is what drives me and what I love to do the most!
Kerry: Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Talina: I think mentoring is a key part of development for everyone. It’s important to have a good role model in your life and I have been very lucky in that area. As I have gotten older I have decided that I want to be a mentor for younger kids with autism, not just a role model but an actual mentor. In October I will be performing at a Big Brothers Big Sisters Gala in Hershey PA and I will also speak about the importance of Mentoring. At the Genius of Autism this fall, which highlights talented kids on the spectrum, I’m hoping to mentor and perform with a younger kid with autism and really pay it forward. I think we’ll see more of this coming from my generation.