Chaka Khan | We Plant These Seeds, and They Always Exceed Expectation

In Conversation with Sia, via Issue 191, Fresh Cuts

Written by

Photographed by

Jamie Nelson

Styled by

Jules Wood

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 NORMA KAMALI dress, vintage triangle hoop earrings from Paumé Los Angeles, and talent’s own bracelets.

Unfurling from the tendrils of time, there are rare voices that move and shake through the space-rhythm continuum and into the sonic psyche. Undoubtedly, one of those voices is Chaka Khan. Born in Chicago, Chaka rose to prominence in the early 70s as the lead singer of the immortal funk outfit, Rufus. Defining a genre and a celestial energy with hits like, “Tell Me Something Good,” “Sweet Thing,” and “Ain’t Nobody,” Chaka still gets even the coolest too-cool-for-school scenesters moving on the dance floor.

After a successful career with the band and in her own right—one that has birthed 22 albums, 10 Grammys, 10 Number One songs, and an equal number of gold and platinum albums— Chaka Khan is emerging back into the spotlight, having paired up with Australian singer and songwriter Sia, whose past collaborations include everyone from Eminem to Beck to Miley Cyrus. A testament to new beginnings, friendships, and synergies, the two have collaborated on a forthcoming single, “Immortal Queen,” with an album soon to follow.

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Ahead of these fresh cuts from hitting the proverbial sound garden, FLAUNT had the opportunity to listen in on a conversation between the two respective icons, speaking their truth on the virtues of napping, godchildren, who to trust, and the joys of new friends.

DOLCE & GABBANA coat, vintage triangle hoop earrings from Paumé Los Angeles, and SIRCIAM JEWELRY rings.


Sia: I think the most amazing thing that I’ve taken away from this is that I’m 48, you’re 70, and we’re still making friends. And that is so beautiful...If we have our hearts open, we can still make these very deep and profound connections at any time in our lives...There’s so much opportunity for love and friendship still at any time in our lives. And I’m just so grateful to know you and to be your goddaughter.

Chaka: I love you so much, and I love your heart, and it really threw me for a loop to finally find you...I don’t even have a word for what we are, together.

Sia: We’re like two naughty, bad girls sitting in the back of the bus together, smoking cigarettes...I love how mischievous you are. It’s the best.


NORMA KAMALI dress, vintage earrings from Paumé Los Angeles, and talent’s own bracelets.

Sia: Do you love yourself?

Chaka: On a good day, I love myself. 

Sia: How did you get to the point of being able to love yourself?

Chaka: You know, I’m still working on it; I’m a real selfless kind of person. I love people. I love everybody.

Sia: And you forget to focus on yourself sometimes?

Chaka: Exactly.

Sia: And then on a day when you don’t feel like you’re in love with yourself, what do you do to get out of your head and out of that negative space?

Chaka: I try to reset and usually go to sleep and get up again. 

Sia: Napping’s not for idiots. No, it’s not. Napping is for geniuses. Napping is when I feel emotional...


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Sia: Religion is weird. I’ve always sort of thought I was what’s called a polytheist, which means I believe in all the gods. If it makes you happy, I believe in your God. But apparently, I’m just an agnostic that is supportive... It makes me feel so sad that [religion] has been so misappropriated and has created so much disharmony.

Chaka: I never remember God coming down and saying, ‘This is God, I am God. This is religion.’ You know?

Sia: Do you have a higher power? Because I do. I made him up, and he’s a surfer. He’s like an old surfing Santa, and he swears a lot. He curses and we watch television together, and he’s super relaxed and nonjudgmental and compassionate. A real groover.

[Chaka laughs]

Sia: I made up a God at one point when I first got sober. They’re like, you can believe in a higher power of your own choosing, so I just made God up. Is it personal or can I ask you what or who your higher power is?

Chaka: I just know that love is the most powerful thing for me. Call it love. Call him love. I don’t know what he looks like, and it doesn’t matter. I think that it is more a way of being than anything, you know?

Sia: That’s beautiful.

NORMA KAMALI catsuit, ALABAMA BLONDE coat, and vintage triangle hoop earrings from Paumé Los Angeles.


Sia: What else do you have coming up?

Chaka: The brightest light in my life right now is us coming together. You becoming my baby girl, my goddaughter. It means so much to me.

Sia: Me too. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I remember we were talking on the phone, and then I said, ‘I’ve got my 15 godchildren coming over tomorrow.’ And you said, ‘15? I don’t have any.’ I asked, ‘Do you want one?’ You said, ‘Are you asking me to be your godmother?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ You said, ‘This is big. We need to do a ceremony.’ So we did the most incredible party, a few weeks ago, and it was so beautiful. I can’t believe it. I wouldn’t be a singer if I hadn’t heard your voice. I wouldn’t sing the way I sing if I hadn’t heard your voice. I just couldn’t believe it when my managers called and said, ‘Hey, you know what? We talked to Chaka and if you want, she’ll sing on ‘‘Immortal Queen,’’ this new song that I... Well, it’s not new to me. I wrote it like a long long time ago, before I could ever think of calling myself a queen. I wrote it thinking about Beyoncé maybe 10 or 15 years ago. My managers were always telling me, ‘‘Immortal Queen’ is such a good song, it’s such a good song.’ And I thought that I could never sing it just by myself. I would have to have some queens on it, you know? … [I heard] you were down, and I nearly shat my pants, I was so excited. I remember we met in the studio and thought you were coming in to cut the vocals for “Immortal Queen.” But instead, we sat down and started talking about conjoined twins.

Chaka: Yes, we did. I know that we’ve been connected this whole time.

NORMA KAMALI catsuit, ALABAMA BLONDE coat, and vintage triangle hoop earrings from Paumé Los Angeles.


Sia: I heard you’re curating the UK Meltdown Festival on June the 14th to the 23rd. 

Chaka: You could help me with some artists.

Sia: I probably know like 20 percent less than you do about what’s hip and cool at the moment because I literally don’t listen to music. I just watch television. 

Chaka: Me too. And that’s why we can tell good music when we hear it.

Sia: It really has to hit you in the head, right? Like, really strike you down. I’ve got such a hodgepodge of friends. All I know is they’re all good eggs. They pass the sniff test. How do you know who to trust?

SONIA RYKIEL cardigan.

Chaka: I don’t. But I’ve gotten better at not getting bamboozled. I’ll say that. I can recognize crap when it is coming, but you know, it usually has to hit me at least once, before I believe it. [I have] faith in people. I just didn’t believe that could be possible.

Sia: I have a lot of people around me that help protect me. Being on the spectrum as well, it’s easier to take advantage of me, and I didn’t know that. Now I have this amazing group of friends and colleagues in place who help me. And they can sniff out someone toxic really quickly, much more easily than I can.

Chaka: I have people like my sister, Tammy. She’s my bulldog. 

Sia: Yeah. You need a bulldog. We need it...I think we’re easy to take advantage of because [as creatives] we’re so open and loving and trusting, but that’s just you and me, I don’t know if that’s for everybody.

Sia: That’s why babies love us.

Chaka: That’s true.

NORMA KAMALIdress, PIERS ATKINSON hat, vintage triangle hoop earrings from Paumé Los Angeles, and talent’s own bracelets.


Sia: Let’s get you fucking back on the pop charts.

Chaka: That’s right... Like you said, ‘Let’s do this!’

Sia: You should be living your most abundant life. I don’t know what happened in the past, whether you didn’t get your just desserts or whether [people] didn’t give you any publishing on [your work] and things like that. 

Chaka: A lot of that has happened. I’ve been fucked by the best.

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Sia: I can’t sit and watch this happen... You’ve changed so many people’s lives, including mine. Let’s get Chaka Khan back on pop radio. Let’s fucking do this. Everybody wants to hear your voice. I’m so excited...We can be so lazy together. You don’t have to promote it, and you don’t have to go on tour if you don’t want to. You can just fucking sit around, and collect those dollars. 

Chaka: That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I should be doing at 70. 

Sia: That’s my big dream for you. 

Chaka: That’s a dream that we can definitely make come true.

Sia: I’m going to keep writing. So, I got to keep writing these hits for you.

NORMA KAMALI catsuit, talent’s own bracelets, and SIRCIAM JEWELRY ring.

Chaka: Keep them coming. We’ll keep writing together, we’ll do what we can do. And we can do this, this I know. I just want to mention, you know, the song by Roberta Flack, which is “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

Sia: Yeah. “Killing Me Softly.” 

Chaka: Talking and singing my fate with his fingers on the guitar. That’s what you do for me. The lyrics that I’m getting from you are, just hit me in such a real honest and deep place. It’s almost like you borrow me, my feelings, and my body for a minute, and you get it, and you write it down.

Sia: It’s so weird because I felt like I was channeling [you ]the whole time. And then, afterward, I wasn’t, I was like, ‘Is this good?’... ‘I haven’t cared about a project for so long that I have forgotten what it feels like to care so much about something that I’ve lost all objectivity.

NORMA KAMALI dress, vintage red earrings from Paumé Los Angeles, and talent’s own ring.

Chaka: I’m so happy this isn’t a chore for you.

Sia: I was waiting to hear feedback and when I heard you liked it, I felt like I grew 10 feet tall... I didn’t think that I would ever be intimidated by anything ever again, but it was actually quite intimidating to be writing songs for someone who I love and respect so much.

Sia: And it was quite confronting, there were three days where I just thought I was lost in space.

Chaka: You really spoke to me. I’m so glad you gave me words, you gave parts of me, words that I didn’t have.

Sia: Thanks, Chaka. Well, I love you so much. Go and live your regular life now. I’m lying down right now.

Chaka: Yeah, baby. I got the TV on with the sound down.

Sia: Love you.

Chaka: Love you, baby.

NORMA KAMALI coat and catsuit and ROBERTO CAVALLI necklace from Paume Los Angeles.

Photographed by Jamie Nelson

Styled by Jules Wood 

In Conversation with Sia

Hair and Makeup: Tinaya Weems 

Talent and Creative Producer: Erica Cornwall

Set Designer: Isaac Aaron

Flaunt Film: Isaac Dektor

Lighting Director: Aaron Morganstein

Lighting: Chaz Brown

Digital Tech: Chris Keller

Stylist Assistants: Jaslynn Espinosa and Jackson Siegel

Production Assistant: Maria Kyriakos

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Flaunt Magazine, Issue 191, Fresh Cuts, Chaka Khan, Sia, Jamie Nelson, Jules Wood