A photo of Victoria Oruwari standing in front of a black curtain. Victoria is wearing an orange dress. The Amber Trust logo is in the top right corner. 'International Women's Day with Victoria Oruwari'.

International Women’s Day with Victoria Oruwari

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we interviewed Amber Trustee and acclaimed soprano, Victoria Oruwari. Victoria, who is registered blind, shares her insight on the reality and barriers faced by vision impaired women in the music industry, and how some of these issues can be addressed.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Victoria Oruwari and I’m a Trustee of The Amber Trust. I’m a classical musician, a singer soprano, a psychotherapist, and I’m registered blind. 

Which women inspire you the most?

That’s a really difficult one. The first person who really inspired me was Julie Andrews. When I watched the Sound of Music and heard her sing “The Hills Are Alive,” it was such a beautiful moment with her running up the hill. I thought, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like her.’  

A photo of Julie Andrews, who is wearing a suit black suit with grey dots.

Another person who inspired me later on in life, when I started to train as an opera singer, was American singer Jessye Norman. She’s late now, but she was an amazing mezzo-soprano of African origin. I loved hearing her sing the aria from Samson and Delilah – it was really beautiful. 

A photo of Jessye Norman, who is wearing a gold outfit, a gold and black necklace and gold earrings.

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is ‘Inspire Inclusion.’ What is the most significant barrier to vision impaired and disabled women in music? 

When I was training as a musician, I observed that music was very much about sound, but it was also a lot about looks. Being blind and being female, I got told a lot of things. Some of them were very positive, but some were very negative.

I feel that the messages blind people receive must be delivered in a way that doesn’t cause anxiety because, without the anxiety, you feel bold enough to bring your true self forward.

Similarly, there are also so many rules for women in music. ‘Don’t do this; Don’t do that; You have to look like this and be like that.’

All of these rules make up the “in” thing today, but the “in” thing is defined by people who can see. This is then splashed over the internet with no one describing it to you. You have to sift the information to know what’s “in” before deciding what is actually right for you. You have to find a way to marry both and ensure you’re putting your authentic self forward.

I feel like the challenge is allowing blind women to be their authentic selves and being okay with that. 

A photo of Victoria wearing a black sequined dress and sparkling necklace. 'Your unique talent deserves to be seen' - Victoria Oruwari. The Amber Trust logo appears at the bottom of the image.

How can the music industry become more inclusive to vision impaired and disabled women?  

The music industry needs to be more descriptive and less prescriptive about what artists should and shouldn’t be. Every musician is unique and what they bring to the table is a part of their soul. No two souls are the same.

So, let people be. Let them bring their authentic selves to the stage. If you’re going to provide rules, be more descriptive about what these are. In other words, don’t just put pictures out there.

What inspired you to become a Trustee of The Amber Trust? 

I was inspired to become a Trustee of The Amber Trust because I admire the charity’s work. It’s important to give children opportunities to enhance their musical talent, at the same time as providing some form of autonomy in a world where autonomy is often taken away from them.

It’s amazing to see children flourish through music as the skills they are taught can be so empowering. 

Victoria sings on stage wearing a floor-length colourful dress in bright shades of pink, green and yellow. Other musicians are on stage in the background. The word 'Africa' is lit up in blue, green and red above the musicians at the back of the stage.

What would you like to say to blind and partially sighted girls and women pursuing their musical aspirations on International Women’s Day? 

I would tell them to work hard, follow their dream, and believe in what they have to offer.

Remember, your unique self and unique talent are important and deserve to be seen.

Thank you!

Many thanks to Victoria for taking part in our interview for International Women’s Day. Follow Victoria on Instagram and visit her website to learn more about her.