Shanelle Gabriel

HBO Def Poet/ Singer/ Activist & Lupus Advocate

What are some of your challenges of living with Lupus and being a performer?

When you book a gig months in advance, you have no idea of if you’ll be in a flare that day or if your doctor might call you in for a check-up.  Fatigue might kick in as I drive to the venue. A few years ago I had to be hospitalized while on the road. It was a unique situation, and praise God I haven’t been that sick in a while, but the extra considerations I have to make can be frustrating.


I’ve learned how to manage things. I build in rest/naps on days I have a lot to do, make sure I take the next day off to recover.  I’ve gotten so much better about taking my medication. I just have to plan my life around Lupus. 

I first heard you some years ago in Atlanta when Eyrk Moore did a showcase. You performed a couple of pieces. The one on Lupus stood out to me. What was the process in bringing this piece to life? Did you know it would become somewhat of an anthem for Lupus Awareness?

That’s a throwback! Eryk Moore! I actually started writing the poem from the hospital. Up until about a year after my diagnosis, I was still forgetting to take care of myself and focused on staying productive 24/7 which isn’t good for anyone. While I was in the hospital bed, I was super reflective and recognized that this illness meant my life had to change. “I asked myself what got me here, and the answer: Vanity. I felt I had so much to prove and an image of perfection to uphold. At the end of the day, I had to decide who was going to be my priority. I never know what a poem could be while I’m writing it, so I didn’t think of the impact it could have. But I’m glad added my experience to this conversation. 

 We ask all our poets to write a Haiku on any subject they desire

This unwanted guest

Showed up unannounced with bags

Lupus is so rude


Tell us about your new fitness initiative. 

The Compound Movement is a podcast and a community. I created Tha Compound Movement after realizing so many people who watched my health journey said that they felt that the fitness lifestyle wasn’t for them. That’s crazy! I grabbed my friend A.D. who is a comedian and personal training manager, and we found a funny yet informative podcast to explore the fact that there isn’t a “one-size fits all” for health. Also, so many of the trends like yoga, Crossfit, etc have been viewed as “things White people do” that I wanted to challenge these stereotypes. The goal is to build a platform for people to find the tools  that work best for them to create a healthier life. The podcast is on Spotify, iTunes, and Soundcloud. 

Who if anyone has influenced you as a artist?

I’d have to say Lauryn Hill. Ms. Hill never limited herself to just singing or just spitting, and she was definitely one of the best emcees (not just female emcees) of our generation. A few friends of mine got together for a show called Plates N Crates where we covered the entire Fugees The Score album with a few others, so I had to learn so much of Lauryn’s catalogue. Having to learn “Family Business” and “Nappy Heads Remix” and more made me realize & remember how ill she was. It showed me that there’s a market for positive music from women who choose to be themselves, not wear risqué clothing, and just create their art. 


If you had one message to get out to the world through your art what is that message?

On the most basic of levels, we all go through the same things. Anger, joy, confusion, happiness, even moments of ignorance. I think we all need more grace, understanding, and empathy to exist together. I hope my art speaks to our humanity.


Photo credits: MIW = Wendy Whitesell; DSC Brandon Wildcard Photography