As a young girl Piera Van de Wiel loved to sing. At eight she fell in love with the song “I Could Have Danced All Night” from MY FAIR LADY. With help from a little karaoke machine, she sang out the tune continuously. One day her grandfather came upon an inhouse performance. Van de Wiel suddenly hid behind him as she belted out the high notes.
Her grandfather asked why she was hiding as her singing was beautiful. “Well I’m afraid of my high notes,” was the reply. Van de Wiel’s grandfather told her to have confidence in her talent, abilities, and to stand in front of him and sing out. She did exactly that and today Van de Wiel continues to stand up, sing out, and have confidence as she moves forward with her career.
Born in England, the singer-songwriter and actor spent a large part of childhood on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. After Hurricane Dorian devastated the region in 2019, Van de Wiel wrote the single “Come Back Home (Abaco Relief Song)” to aid humanitarian efforts. The song won a Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Listener Impact at the Global Music Awards for independent artists.
Van de Wiel has long believed in the power of music. When she was 15-years-old, her best friend was tragically killed in a car accident. Reeling with grief, Van de Wiel found comfort when a music teacher suggested she pour her emotions into songwriting. Through crafting songs, she gave voice to her grief and came to realize music can heal. Carrying that important lesson with her, Van de Wiel founded “Stronger With Music,” a collective whose mission is to promote the importance of music and mental health and music and social impact.
Recently she released her single “Used” with all fundraising proceeds going to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women (UN Trust Fund). The UN Trust Fund’s mission is to prevent violence against women and girls by empowering groups especially at risk of violence, including adolescent girls and indigenous or ethnic minority women. It also engages strategically with boys and men as well as traditional and faith-based leaders to prevent violence. UN Women estimates 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day.
‘”Used’ is an emotional rollercoaster of how one can feel safe, but then used, abused and taken for granted,” Van de Wiel said. “However, it ends with a lasting positive message of strength and hope. With the single, I hope to bring more awareness to the fact women and girls are suffering from domestic violence, especially in the age of COVID-19. Many of us think of home as a safe space, but social-distancing in a violent household has been devastating for women and girls around the world. It was important for me to connect “Used” with the urgent work of the UN Trust Fund and help raise funds and awareness for their organization.”
Van de Wiel became involved with the United Nations through her friend Hermina Johnny, founder of the Aspire Artemis Foundation. On International Women’s Day in 2019 she was invited to sing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City for the Launch of STEAM (inclusion of arts and culture within STEM).
This year in February Van de Wiel also had the opportunity to perform at the Regional Carribean STEAM & Innovation Symposia with the Aspire Artemis Foundation, UN Women and Microsoft. Additionally, she released the music single “Dear Mrs.” in June to celebrate Pride Month.
Period Pieces and Entrepreneurship
Acting is also a big part of Van de Wiel’s life. As a child she was a big fan of the 1976 film THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE. She credits the musical with starting her love for period pieces. In 2017, she earned a BFA degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts attending Atlantic Acting School and Stonestreet Studios. Her first role after graduation was Milady de Winter in the Off-Broadway Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Production of THE THREE MUSKETEERS. It won nine AUDELCO awards, with Time Out New York calling Van de Wiel “pretty and deadly.”
Currently, Van de Wiel has two films she starred in, wrote, and produced on the film festival circuit. STRIP CLARA takes place in 19th century England and tells the story of a woman struggling against her husband, the patriarchy, and corrupt institutions. When thrust into a life-threatening situation, she must choose to endure the pain or claim her freedom.
TAINTED CHOICES is set in the mid-twentieth century with Van de Wiel playing main character Elizabeth. Elizabeth suffers from the loss of her mother and must unravel a mystery surrounding her father. She is pushed to lose her submissive self and finally take matters into her own hands, whatever the cost. This September TAINTED CHOICES will have its premiere at the 2020 Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival.
As founder of “Stronger With Music” Van de Wiel also wears the hat of entrepreneur. The collective currently works with music therapists and a neuroscientist to research how music affects us psychologically and physiologically. Regarding advice for girls and young women, Van de Wiel stresses the importance of finding both a mentor and building a strong support system.
“Every person you meet can bring something to the table and can be a valuable asset in your network,” she said. “If people believe in what you’re doing, your vision and your mission, you’ll find that they’re willing to help you. As an artist you are also an entrepreneur. You are your own businesswoman. It is up to you to develop your passion. Then, step by step, you’ll find the people who are willing to fight in your corner.”
Piera Van de Wiel
United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women
The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism exclusively dedicated to eradicating all forms of violence against women and girls. Since its establishment in 1996, it has supported over 550 initiatives in 140 countries and territories aiming to improve access to services for survivors of violence, changing harmful norms and attitudes to prevent violence and making laws and policies work for women.
Every year, approximately 8 million people, including women and girls, men and boys, government officials and the general public, are reached by projects supported by the UN Trust Fund. In the context of COVID-19, there has been an alarming increase in violence against women and girls, as virus containment measures have exacerbated the shadow pandemic of violence against women. The UN Trust Fund provides life-saving support to women’s organizations, identified as first responders to women and girls who are victims of violence.
Top photo and others provided by Van de Wiel (top photo credit Sara Laufer, second photo credit Elle Halley and third photo credit from film STRIP CLARA, Emory Parker/ Natalia Bougadellis).
Creator Spotlight features interviews with artistic women/girls and showcases their work. If you know an artist you’d like to see spotlighted, email Erin at erin(at)girlsthatcreate(dot)com.