Unfiltered Podcast: Featuring Folk Musician Miki Ratsula

This is an excerpt from our new podcast series, Unfiltered, and has been edited for length and clarity.

Instasize: All right everybody. Welcome to the Instasize Unfiltered podcast today. We are so thrilled to be here with Miki Ratsula today. How are you doing Miki?

Miki Ratsula: I'm wonderful. I'm wonderful. How are you?

IS: I'm doing so great. Thank you so much for doing this for us today. We are so thrilled to interview you and talk to you and hear about your amazing life.

MR: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so humbled. I love, I love talking. I love it all. Thank you.

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IS: I love that. I love talking too. So I'm excited to talk to you. Let's just start. I want to hear kind of how you got started on social media. What inspired you to start, you know, just in social media in general?

MR: So when I, I think it was beginning, it was end of middle school, beginning of high school, I was an avid fan of the US Women's National Soccer team. I played soccer my whole life, so I just looked up to that team so much. And then around that, that age is when I started thinking about, you know, my sexuality and my identity and my queerness. And I mean that whole team, like half of them are queer or at least they're all, you know, it's like women's soccer, it's a huge queer world.

And I, I just fell in love with the team and I was in love with the sport and I just decided I would show how much of a fan I was. And so I started writing songs for them. Some of them I wrote originally, most of them though, I took some popular songs and I just changed the lyrics and I made a YouTube channel for that. And that just kind of blew up within that fandom, I gained a lot of, a lot of people who followed me on Instagram and YouTube and whatnot just because they saw what I was doing with the team. And you know, I met some of the players and I just kind of became my own little unit within the fandom. And as I grew older, eventually I just, I kind of look at it like my Disney channel days. I just grew up and kind of realized I want to make my own music now.

You know, then I fell in love with my girlfriend and I have been together for three years now. And when we first started dating, that's when I really started, you know, I kind of had something to really write about for myself. It wasn't just for the team or it wasn't making up breakup stories. I actually had something to write about. And so it was this switch that I had already built this little fan base of people who just loved what I was doing. And then I just used that to grow as my own musician, as my own artist. And I mean people also loved seeing pictures of my girlfriend and I. I came from a very lucky, lucky family in regards to coming out. And so I was able to freely share my story with her and my music with her and it just kinda blew up from there.

IS: Oh my gosh, that's so awesome. Your story is so, so cool to me. And I actually saw some of those videos this morning on YouTube with the USA Soccer team thing. So cool.

MR: They're so cringy. Sometimes they're so cringy because I'm so young. But I mean I love it. I miss it. I miss the whole, the whole thing. But I just knew that I'd been doing it for so long and you know, I just kinda wanted to, you know, a lot of my fans at that in that, in that channel were preteens or younger girls and... Which there's no problem with that. But as I got older, I realized that I wanted to cater to people who are growing up with me and more my age and just kind of everybody. And so, yeah, I still love them. I love looking at them. My girlfriend laughs at them, but she's great. She's so supportive. But she was so supportive. I mean I was ending it when we first started dating. And so she was like, I stocked all your videos. And I was like, oh no. I mean it got me to where I am, so...

IS: That's awesome. That is so cool. And so you kind of, when you, did you start your Instagram when you started creating music or kind of how did that succession? Or did you already start making music and you're like, oh, I'm going to take this to Instagram or how did it kind of start?

MR: So I had, I mean when Instagram came out, I made one and I posted all the funny videos that you post when you're in middle school and, pictures I mean, videos weren't there. But yeah, so for awhile I hid that I did music. I was kind of embarrassed by it. Especially the the US Soccer ones. I just, I didn't think anyone would get it. And I was kind of a loser in high school and middle school and I was just like, whatever. I'll just keep doing this on my own. I'll build my little army on my own and no one will know about it. And that's what I did for a while. And then I think, I don't even remember when I posted my first YouTube video on my, I made another channel for just me, not like USA stuff. And I was like, I'm just going to post one video of me, I think it was rolling in the deep by Adele. And I posted one video of me singing on YouTube and then I kinda was like, okay I'll start sharing it. And I shared on Facebook. I didn't share on Instagram yet. And then with the US Soccer stuff I kind of, it's lame but I had a fan account for the team in middle school on Instagram, or whenever Instagram came out, I had one.

I had one for a little bit and I built fans and then I had my own Instagram. And then I just realized as I was, you know, building my music, I kind of just slowly, I don't know, I just started using Instagram just as a personal thing. And it really wasn't until when my girlfriend and I started dating, because we met online. So people, you know, it was like one of those Tumblr lesbian things people saw and it was a thing and people liked it. And I just built from there and I was like, okay, I'm gaining fans, not fans, I'm gaining people, I'm gaining followers through this process and people are being directed to my music. And I was starting to write music I was proud of. So that's kind of, it kind of was like I was always using Instagram. But it really started, I started going for it, you know. Because I started taking music seriously when we first started dating because that's when the true music was coming out. So that's kind of when I was like, okay, let's do it.

IS: Oh that's so cool. Oh my gosh. And your music is incredible. In fact, I've actually been a fan of yours before I even knew that we were interviewing you. I listen to Spotify songs all the time. One of my favorites was, I think that was one of your new ones actually. Stones.

MR: Thank you. Thank you.

IS: And I love that song. Can you kind of tell me what, what's the story behind that? What inspired that song?

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MR: So I mean, as most queer people I hope would know, you know, the stoning law in Brunei passed I think what, two months ago now or something like that. There was in the news that the country of Brunei had made it legal, basically, made it criminal to be gay or as they say, you know, act on homosexuality, whatever terms they want to use. And it was just kind of, I mean I know that I had a really, like I said, a really lucky coming out. And living in the United States, you know, as a country we are more forward than everywhere else. And you know, of course states differ and whatnot. But that was really just an eye opener again, was like, I just realized that, wow, we are so lucky. There's a country where you can be stoned to death, which is such a medieval way to die and such a torturous way to die. And it just, it just made me so angry and just was like, I had to do something. And I knew that I couldn't go and walk to the, you know, the guy and be like hey can you stop doing that. Like I had to really, I know people were talking about it and people were, you know, talking about boycotting his, his hotel and all that stuff.

And I just was like, we need something, we need to keep going. Because I just had a feeling it was just going to be a couple people talk about it for a little bit and then it's done. And so I was like, I need to just... I had a writing session that day and I walked in and I worked with Brandon Rogers who's gay himself as well. And I just was like, hey, did you hear about that? Like that's, you know, we got to do something about it. So we just sat down, we wrote that song and at first I was like, awesome. This is great. And then my manager, who was the one who's like, let's get it out right now. It's happening right now. People need to hear it. Let's do it. And so that's why we just literally wrote it and then a week and a half later it was out. And we were just like we need the community to hear this and we need... Just, I'm really proud of it and it made me tear up and I don't cry to my own songs but that's the one song that I've cried to, to my own song.

And, but yeah, it just, it meant a lot. And the feedback was amazing that people here in the United States as well, were like I feel like I'm living that too. And so thank you for, for pointing that out. And they ended up overturning the law and I know that wasn't from my song, but it was just like, see, we can do something about it. And it just was, it was the first time I really felt like I was trying to be an activist through my music. I mean, I already write love songs for my girlfriend. I try to do it in a very normalized way, but this was the first time I was specifically trying to write for the queer community. And yeah, I just, that's kind of where it came from.

IS: That's amazing. That is such a cool story. And I had heard about that. So that, I wondered if that was what that was alluding to. So that is so cool. You know, shaped your music that way. So tell me, you've kind of said like, I got really lucky, you know, with my coming out story. Do you, would you, are you open to sharing that story with our listeners?

MR: For sure. I mean it's funny. My coming out was, there's not really, there wasn't really a coming out. So I had hoped, my girlfriend Hope she is my first everything. I never dated anyone, never did anything. She's my first love, my first, well you know, all of it at once. And before then I just never, I knew I was different. I always, and you know, being a, I was a musician for the, not a musician for the Women's Soccer team, but that whole community opened my eyes to gay women and masculine women and I was a little scared why I was so interested by it. I was like, why do I care so much about these girls? I was like, you know, I realize now that I just wanted to be one of them. And I just kind of always knew I was different. I knew I wasn't straight. That was for sure. I just didn't like boys. I wanted to be like a boy. I didn't, I didn't want to like a boy.

And so, when my girlfriend and I met online and then I told my family that, hey, this girl is coming to meet me. We had already been talking for like a month and a half. They'd met her over FaceTime. And when she came here, right before she ever came to California to meet me, my mom asked, are you going to kiss this girl? And I was like, I'm going to be too scared to kiss her. But if she kisses me, you know, that's it. And that was the first time I'd ever expressed that to my mom. And she was just so excited. And then my family just watched us fall in love in front of them. And that kind of, I mean they knew it. They knew that we were in love. That's all they needed. And so there wasn't ever like, Hey mom and dad, I'm gay. It was just like, I'm in love with this girl and that's all it was. I mean, I had a pride flag in my room for like two years up until that point.

It was pretty obvious. My parents tell me now, I knew way before and you know, and my coming out really was just on my Instagram. I posted a picture of her and I kissing after we first met and that was it. I didn't say anything other than... I think the caption literally was just 'you'. And so that was it. It wasn't a big thing, you know? They were just seeing me do it. And I guess, you know, ideally I wish everyone had that. It was just about, you know, I found someone. It's not this big presentation or anything, but you know, obviously that's not how the world works right now. I got really lucky. It was really just they were, they just saw me fall in love and that's all they cared about.

IS: That's so cool. That's so cool. So what, did you, in doing that, when you did come out on social media, I guess it wasn't really a big hey, you know, a big announcement or anything. But did you deal with any backlash?

MR: Honestly, not really. I mean I don't, I can't think of anything. When I came out as gay, I didn't really, with anybody that I knew personally or anybody. I was really lucky there was none. There was nobody that, I can't even think of anybody. The only time that I had any, some sort of backlash as a queer person was actually when I cut my hair.

I cut my hair off last April. So it's been a little over a year now and it was actually shockingly from the community itself. But yeah, when I cut my hair, all of a sudden everyone was telling me that I'm trans, that I'm waiting, my time's going to come. And that I was just being, I was denying, you know, who I really was. I was just another lesbian who cut their hair off. And it just, it was really difficult because just it, you know... And they were trying to make it seem like they made me feel guilty because I was like, I'm not trans. I know I'm not. But then I felt negativity towards that and I was like, I think trans isn't a bad thing. Why are they making me, you know, it was this weird mental whirlwind for a couple months after I'd cut my hair. And it just was mind blowing that it was from, the people that it was coming from, was from the community. It was all people who were identified as queer and it was just really hurtful that, you know, as a community, we're so for moving forward and letting everyone identify how they identify and you know, finding and being on that journey themselves and the fact that these people were trying to place me into something, it just, it was so hypocritical.

And so it was just, it was awful. And I talked a lot about it though and it took awhile for me to really figure out what I wanted to say. But eventually, I made so many different posts about it and there's so many people who felt like me and they were like, oh my God, I'm not the only one. And so that kind of gave me this whole new level of confidence and this whole new, I connected so much deeper with so many of my followers and it just was this whole thing that we all learned together. And I'm really proud that I was able to point it out in the community, but I mean, it still happens now and again. But that was really the only time I received any sort of backlash with any point in my identity was that.

IS: Wow, that's incredible. I mean to think about, you know, how far its come. Probably, 20 years ago it might've been a different story. Right?

MR: Right.

IS: So that's great. I mean, so what is the one message you would want people to learn from you? If they visit your Instagram or if they, you know, come to this podcast and they hear from you, what would be the one thing you would want them to remember you by?

MR: Oh man, that's a, it's, it's hard to think of, you know, one thing that you could, you know... Ultimately my goal with everything, whether it's just posting pictures with my girlfriend or just, you know, of myself or my music really, is just trying to show the world and show others like me that you can be exactly how you are, you know, no one, you don't have to do anything other than just be yourself.

And I mean, as cliche as that is, it's the truth. You know, everyone should be able to live their authentic lives and everyone shouldn't be ashamed to live their authentic lives. And however that is, I think everyone has the right to do that. And I think also, I'm just trying to normalize queer relationships in the media and queer relationships with music. You know, I'm not writing a song for my girlfriend that's about, hey, this is a strictly gay song. It's just a regular love song that happens to be a girl to another girl. And I want that normalized for other queer kids out there. You know, I feel like a lot of the queer songs right now are about hooking up with a girl when you're drunk or something like that. You know, it's extra.

It's not just another love song for two queer kids. You know? That's what I'm trying to do and that's the approach I'm trying to take with my music and just as a person. And I want to be that for, you know, I wish I had that when I was growing up, you know? And that's what I want to do.

IS: Oh I love that so much. And you really can tell, I don't know, even just from going through your Instagram, going to your website, learning all these things that's like, it's very clear that that is your message and I think that's really cool that you've been able to inspire others through that. And I guess my question with that, is there something you wish you could have, if you could go back in time, right? And tell yourself when you were younger, is there something that you would tell yourself before you kind of came out about everything and told your family, told your friends, told your people, followers on Instagram. Was there something you would tell yourself when you were younger?

MR: Yeah, I think, I mean for my specific situation it's easier. It would be easy to tell myself that it's not as scary as you think it is. Because for me it was really, I was just scared of coming out to myself. That was the big thing. Coming out to everybody else I knew was going to be a breeze. Again, I know that that's really privileged. I'm super privileged when it comes to my coming out and I know that for a lot of people, even coming out to yourself is scary because you realize you're going to have to go through a lot of 'sht' before you get...

So it's hard for me to say that, but you know, in my specific situation, I wish I could tell myself that it's not as scary to come out to yourself as you think it is. But to everybody else, I would really try to push that while losing blood family is terrifying. At the end of the day, you have the right and you will find your chosen family. You will find that group of people that love you, that support everything about you, that are there for you, that you can be your authentic self. Those people are out there. It's just they're going to either find you or you're going to find them. But I know that it's terrifying and unfortunately that's how the world is right now. And I wish I could change that in a heartbeat. But you know, those people are going to be out there and if it's not, if it's not right away, you know, I'm there. I want to be, I want to be that person for those people who don't have anybody. And it's really just you can make your own family, you have your chosen family and you know, I could keep going on about all of this, but that's really the main thing, you know, outside of my own situation.

IS: No, I love that. And I think that's a message a lot of people need to hear. Right? I completely agree. How do you, I guess how do you feel social media has really given that message? How has it aided in the LGBTQ community's message that you know, it's okay, you have a family. How has social media kind of played a role in that?

MR: I think a massive role. I mean, I think first and foremost the sense of community and then the sense of representation. So I think, you know, first off just seeing, you know, all sorts of queer people online, you know, not just the, you know, prettied down version that we see in movies. Literally anybody. You could find every shape and form and look of a queer person, you know. We look so different. Everybody looks so different. I think that's really hidden in media. You know, people just want something that looks like everybody else and so it's awful. But you search social media, you'll find people who are living fully as they want to live and how they identify and it's beautiful. It's amazing. And you don't see that, you don't see that in the regular media. So I think that's a huge thing. And then on top of it, that sense of community where you're talking with other people, you're sharing with other people, you find your groups and your followers and friends online that... The Internet can be a shitty place, but it's also can be a really safe place for people.

You know, people can have their private accounts where their family can't see and they can live, talk as gay as they want with everybody, you know, have that queer family finally. And then on top of it, companies like Instasize, you can make these apps and can make rainbows and everything and you know, everyone can get involved to this community online. That's, you know, everyone can have access to across the entire world. And I think it's just, it's beautiful. And I think when it's done right and it's not abused, it's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing.

IS: Oh I agree for sure. And I was actually going to tell you too, we just released a sister app called Made and it's specifically for stories. Just, you know, making your stories on Instagram look beautiful. And we actually have an entire pack dedicated to pride and we're actually donating...

MR: That's so amazing.

IS: Yeah. And we're donating a dollar to the Trevor project. Are you familiar with the Trevor Project?

MR: I love the Trevor Project.

IS: What is really cool is we're donating a dollar every time someone uses the pride template in Made. We're donating a dollar to the Trevor project. So really super excited about that. And I feel like social media, there are so many cool social movements with social media so we're just excited to be a part of that.

MR: That's exactly what makes social media such a great place. And, you know, the fact that just it's, it's there, it's a safe place. Like just imagine one queer kid who's in the closet but they see that there's an app where they can have, you know, they can post whatever they want with this awesome filter that's pride oriented. That, to see, that companies care about that. And then on top of that it's been donated. Like that's amazing. I think, you know, I know that's a big thing that the queer community talks about when pride month rolls around that we see these companies who make rainbow flags and rainbows, rainbow shirts and rainbow stuff. But then it's only to make money off of the queer community. But then when you have companies like Made or you know, I think Ikea has their bags that they're donating 100% of the profits to the Human Rights Campaign. Stuff like that. When it's used right. That's when it's, that's when it's, you know, we can appreciate it. And I think that's awesome that you guys are doing that.

IS: Totally. Totally. And we were actually talking because we actually have a member of our team who is part of the queer community and we were asking if it gets annoying when people slap on the rainbow or, you know, talk about pride just to get, oh, you know, the recognition. And I don't know, what is your perspective on that? I mean you kind of already covered that, but do you have an opinion on that at all?

MR: Yeah. I think like I said, it all depends on the intent, you know? And I think it also all depends on what the company is doing the rest of the year. If the company is silent the rest of the year when issues come up or if they have horrible rights when it comes to their employees and they're not hiring queer employees and stuff like that. Then I think it's all for show. And I think that that's, that's horrible to just market off of pride, which on top, which pride is already, it's supposed to be, you know, it came from a freaking riot and a protest. It's not supposed to, you know, we've made it into this celebration of ourselves. But I think we can't forget where it came from, where pride itself came from. And so I think if companies are aware of that and company, you know, if we, I'm trying to get my words right, but you know, there are companies that will not say anything on pride the whole year or they explicitly won't hire queer employees or they have bad queer rights or whatever. That's when it's, it's wrong. But a company that you know is working to make sure they're hiring queer employees and they have rights for their trans employees, healthcare rights and stuff like that.

If they're actually a part of the community the rest of the year, I think we can get, we can stand by it. And especially if they're donating proceeds to organizations that are helping queer homeless kids or trans kids or whoever, you know, I think it all comes from the rest of the year because one month is not enough. It's gotta be... And I understand that you can't have rainbow stuff all year round. You know, [inaudible 00:23:10] talks about like business, but in the background and in the foreground they can do a lot more. And I think if they do it the rest of the year, that's where I can stand by a company.

IS: Totally. Oh, I love that. That was a perfect answer. Wow. Thank you so much. Because I completely agree and I just appreciate hearing that from you. So I guess I just have a couple more questions for you to wrap up here.

MR: For sure.

IS: So awesome. So where do you, when you are, we kind of talked about this a little bit already, but when you are creating a song, when you were thinking about writing a song, what inspires it? Like you said, you mentioned your girlfriend, is there specific times where it's like, oh, there's one movement that you're writing about or what inspires your music?

MR: Yeah, like I, yeah, I mean you've touched on it. My girlfriend. I mean I live with her and I'm madly in love with her. I'm going to spend the rest of my days with her. And you know, the ups and the downs, the cute moments, the upsetting moments, whatever. It all comes from that. But then also, I don't like to write music, I mean, it's funny, I don't like to write music if I don't have my own personal experience with it. I mean I will if I have to, of course. But I personally, I have to pull from my own experiences for me to write a proper song. And so, you know, my girlfriend's one, my family dynamics, you know, family dynamic is changing right now. So that, that has inspired a lot of songs that I've been just writing to get out of my head, you know?

And then stuff that comes up in the queer community. Just about things in general. I just, my whole goal when I write music is that I want someone to be able to listen to it and understand me better, understand where I'm coming from. And then also see what I'm trying to do for not only the community, just for people in general, you know. And I just really want to help people, you know, for people who don't have the voice or don't have a platform, I want to help elevate that and I want to help get their voices out and I want to do that through my music. And so I'm working around, I'm right now, I'm actually working on my new EP and that's been a big thing that we've been thinking about is what songs do I want on that EP? What do I want to say to these people?

What do I want to say to people who've never heard my music before? What do they need to know about me and what I'm trying to change in this world? And so that's kind of where it all comes from.

IS: Oh, that's so exciting. That's awesome. And do you have a release date for your EP or are you just kind of working on it right now?

MR: Yeah, we don't have a release date yet, it's still a little early, but that's all I've been doing this month and the last month is just writing sessions, recording sessions, just basically coming up with the, you know, the actual songs for the EP. But we're hoping that by the end of this year, we'll be able to get it out. And then, you know, I'm, like I said, I had my, like US Women's National team days and I had kind of my, I previously had like my singer songwriter acoustic chill days.

And I've been growing since that too. And I don't want people to just think I'm just another girl with a guitar, you know, I want to be bigger than that. So I've been working on writing new stuff and I've been working on my own production skills and just, I'm really excited for this new era and this new wave of music to just really become a full force in the music industry for myself and for my entire queer community. And it's really exciting. So I, you know, I wish it was faster, but, you know, it's gotta be the right songs, right?

IS: Yeah. That's awesome. Oh my goodness. Well I cannot wait for that to come out and I'm going to be excited. I'm listening in on that for sure.

MR: Perfect.

IS: And then last question, I know that we've kind of been following your journey and are you graduated from college now or are you, what's the next thing for you in your life?

MR: Yes, I graduate, hopefully. I mean I'm taking four online classes this summer and then I've got I think like four left for this next semester. So hopefully after this upcoming semester I can graduate and then fully focus on my music and my music career. Yeah. And, like I said, working on the EP right now while still trying to do homework and I want to get it done. I want to get my degree out of the way I mean I'm first born American in my family to go to school in the US. I mean, of course, they all went to school in Finland. So that's another feat in itself. But you know it's like I've got this far in school and I'm still young and I'm able to still work on my music so I want to just get it out of the way for myself and for my family. And then I'm, you know, I'm going to be able to get this EP out while I'm still finishing up school so it's going to be great.

So, right now, yeah, it's just basically trying to graduate as soon as possible. But also get this EP out as soon as possible and just start this music industry, journey, whatever.

IS: Oh my gosh. I'm so excited for you. And I didn't know that you were from Finland, your family's from Finland. That's so cool.

MR: Yeah. Yeah.

IS: I figured you were from over that way because your last name seems like it would be from that region. So that's really cool. And so your, both of your parents are Finnish?

MR: Yes. So they, my entire extended family lives in Finland except my parents and my brother and then my cousin and her husband and kid live in New York. But everybody else lives in Finland and they're all from there, they're all born there. So I'm a hundred percent. So I'm trying to make Finland proud as well. I know there's, there's a couple of Finnish artists out there. I know there's one bigger one, Alma. She's awesome. And so I'd love to just get up on that stage just where she is. Conquering the US.

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all I ever need

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IS: Yeah. Oh my gosh. That's so, so cool. Well I am so thrilled that we got to talk to you today, Miki. And thank you for inspiring people and for your music and through the way that you live. I'm inspired. So I just appreciate you being you. And I know there's thousands of other people that think the same thing. But anyways, I just appreciate your time today on the podcast and I am, is there anything else you want to say to anyone hearing this podcast today?

MR: First off, I just want to say thank you. This was incredible. Any, any chance to share more of my feelings and myself as an artist. This is a wonderful opportunity and I appreciate what you guys are doing with the new app and I'm, I stand 100% behind it, so that's awesome. I guess just anybody else... First off, yeah, I got an EP coming out the end of this year, so stay tuned. It'll be, hopefully this new huge wave and I'll be coming for you all. Oh, but other than that, yeah, just live as you 100% are. You're going to find the people that value that and you just gotta be patient because it feels amazing once you find it. I promise.

IS: Oh, I love that. And you heard it here on Unfiltered podcast within Instasize. We're so grateful for Miki today for joining us. Everyone go follow her, listen to her amazing music. She's so talented and has been just such a voice for good in this world. So everyone go check her out. And thank you so much for joining us today, Miki.

MR: Thank you. Thank you again.

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