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Andra Liemandt and The Mrs.

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Empowering women young and old by proving it is never too late to be what you might have been.

Story by Shelley Seale, Photos by Annie Ray, Styled by George Ocean, Hair by Jasmine Stelly, Makeup by Donna Bruns

When she was 10 years old, Andra Liemandt would sit in her bedroom for hours listening to her record player, singing and dancing along to the music. Usually spinning on it was Boy George, Madonna or George Michael. For Liemandt, these were magical hours in which her bedroom transformed into a stage where anything was possible. There, in the small town of Victoria, Texas, a young girl’s dreams of becoming a musician and performing onstage were born and began to blossom.

Flash forward 25 years and Liemandt was a married mother of two with a life filled with most of the daily things a family’s life is filled with. But those music dreams that had found their way into her heart never died and were whispering quietly in the back of her mind. Despite never having picked up an instrument, Liemandt fell in love with the drums and decided to take them up and form a band with her best friend, Jenny Mason. This was not your typical 35-year-old-mom decision.

The two women—Liemandt, a burgeoning drummer, and Mason, a bass player— set out to find other women who not only shared their passion for music, but also wanted to share in their mission of empowering women.

“We weren’t hearing music on the radio that reflected our own lives,” Liemandt says. “Our goal was to create a new genre of music that is relevant to and liberating for women in their 30s and 40s. We are those women, and we understand the struggles that others face in  lives that are  busy and complex.  We are not alone, and we want to celebrate the amazing strength of women all over the world.”

The first obstacle to this ambitious goal, of course, involved Liemandt’s determination to become a drummer at the age of 35.

“No one believed me that I wanted to try, and, to be totally honest, I’m not sure I even believed I could do it,” she admits.  “But I absolutely fell in love with it. Playing the drums gave me a sense of who I am, a piece of me that I hadn’t felt in a really long time and a way to express myself. It awakened a part of myself that yearned to create and be seen and to stand for something.”

But where had those childhood dreams been hidden all those years? Back in her childhood in Victoria, Liemandt simply hadn’t felt those sorts of dreams were possible for a girl from a small town.

“I never thought people like me had a shot at being Madonna. Those kinds of dreams just weren’t available,” she says.  Instead, she indulged the dance side of music, immersing herself in ballet. “Dance was my avenue. That was acceptable in a small town.”

Now, finally, Liemandt is allowing those music fantasies to resurface, but with an even bigger dream, that of making music to encourage and empower young girls and women everywhere, to instill self-confidence and self-acceptance, the belief that they are good enough just as they are.

“Music is something we all experience in some way every day: on the radio, in advertising, at the gym. The music around us becomes something of a soundtrack to our lives,” Liemandt says, noting she wanted to add something positive to that soundtrack for women. “I want women to see that they aren’t alone and that we are all connected through our experiences and what is important to us.”

She and Mason found other female musicians who shared their vision—Mandy Prater, Jennifer Zavaleta and Larissa Ness—and named their band The Mrs. The three women share something else in common with Liemandt; they all come from small towns: Prater from  Kendallville, Ind., Zavaleta from Jesup, Ga., and Ness from Sargent, Texas. Liemandt calls her bandmates “really talented and amazing women,” and says one of the most beautiful things to come out of her all-female band is the friendship she’s developed with each of them.

Once The Mrs. was formed, they began reaching out to music-industry giants from Los Angeles to New York.

“They all told us we would never get radio airplay because we were simply too old,” Liemandt says. “I am not kidding.”

Hearing from the pros they would never make it was a huge disappointment and threatened to destroy Liemandt’s lifelong musical dreams. But true to her tenacious spirit, she and her fellow band members decided not to give up.

“We couldn’t prove them right,” she says. “Instead, we inspired each other to work hard and see how far our dreams could take us.”

As it turns out, they took The Mrs. further than they or those music-industry insiders ever imagined. Their breakout song, Enough, was written after Liemandt had a really bad day.

“It started off as one of those days you would like to forget, where just about everything that could go wrong did, and I felt like I was letting everybody down, especially my kids,” she says. “After a long day of feeling like I was barely getting by, I was tucking my eldest daughter into bed and she looked up at me and said, ‘Mom, you’re the best mom in the world!’ ”

At that moment, Liemandt crumbled. Her daughter’s words were the kindest ones she had heard all day.

“You see, I had spent the day beating myself up with the millions of ways I perceived that I could be a better mom, friend, wife and band mate,” she says. “It was in that special moment that I realized I was treating myself badly, speaking to myself in a way I would never speak to a friend or one of my daughters.”

The next day, Liemandt shared this story with her band. It turned out, like most women, they each had similar stories of days when they had been incredibly hard on themselves. That feeling was used as inspiration to write the song Enough,with lyrics that include:

“Sometimes I dream that there are two of me
One is real, and one, a fantasy
She’s a perfect ballerina dancing on a cloud
I still have to struggle, stumbling on the ground”

The song was also inspired by Liemandt’s childhood experiences in ballet and her visions of what a perfect ballerina was.

“Those lyrics came from feeling like there needs to be two of you in order to be perfect,” she says. “But that perfection doesn’t exist, not even for ballerinas. At the end of the day, the person I want to be is the one who’s stumbling around on  the ground. And that’s OK.”

When Enough was released in July 2014, it had immediate impact. The words and message seemed to resonate with women everywhere and the song took the Internet by storm.

“We conducted a survey and found that almost 95 percent of women feel inadequate at least some of the time,” Liemandt says. “That’s really not OK, and The Mrs. are on a mission to change that.”  The band took the message a step further, starting a campaign with the hashtag #imenough that utilized a “magic mirror” they created that asked women how they rated themselves. The mirror then talked back to them in a personal way to reflect their true beauty, encourage them and remind them of all the ways in which they are indeed enough. The movement is changing the way women see themselves in the mirror, which has traveled throughout the country, giving thousands of women and girls the chance to stand in front of it.

“We’ve seen people from every walk of life stand in front of the mirror, and it has been amazing to realize how the struggles of women are so similar,” Liemandt says. “We really are all connected and ultimately want to know we’re enough. Once we can actually see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us, we realize we are, in fact, enough.”

Liemandt says she and the other band members had no idea the impact would be so huge. The YouTube video for Enough climbed to 5 million views and counting, and The Mrs. was featured on Good Morning America, The Queen Latifah Show and news stations throughout the country. They were also profiled in Billboard, People and Parents magazines and interviewed on radio shows, including by Jenny McCarthy, who featured the band and Enough in her Mother’s Day Sweepstakes.

From her humble beginnings of daydreaming about being a music performer onstage, to being told by industry execs she couldn’t do it, Liemandt says success is now so much sweeter.

“We were so excited watching the YouTube numbers as the Enough video went viral,” she says. “I cried tears of joy and pride when we became the No. 1 artist in the Mediabase Independent AC artist rankings.”

And for that little girl from Victoria, Texas, who sang and danced to her favorite superstars, perhaps the ultimate validation came when the band’s second single, You Told Me, released April 21, 2015, made the Billboard Top 30 alongside Kelly Clarkson, Rob Thomas, Meghan  Trainor and none other than Liemandt’s childhood idol, Madonna.

“The 10-year-old girl in me is so excited that The Mrs. was on the Billboard chart at the same time as Madonna,” Liemandt admits. “At each rehearsal, I still get goose bumps of gratitude that we get to continue to create music we love.”

Now, at the age of 42 and the mother of two daughters of her own, she is also proud and determined to pass this message along to her girls.

“Being a mom is the most important thing I do,” Liemandt says. “My relationship with my daughters is very much about teaching them through the way I live my life: through my music, in my marriage, in the way I take care of my body, through my friendships, even the way we pray at night. I try to do my best to give them all the tools they need to be happy and to show them they can be successful in whatever they choose to do.”

Liemandt hopes the music she and The Mrs. are creating sends a message to her daughters and all the girls out there that they can become successful at anything they choose—and that they are enough just as they are.

“I do believe my message is positive, and I believe all children should be hearing the message that they are enough every single day,” she says.  “Once they internalize this message, they can do better in school, be kinder to others and realize they can be successful and ultimately lead fuller lives. They can be so much more if they just believe in themselves.  We, as the adults in their lives, have to give them these tools. It takes everyone in the community coming together to spread that message to the children.”

As a parent, this might mean standing in front of the mirror each morning and telling yourself you’re enough. It might mean playing the song and dancing along while you get dressed. It might mean singing a lyric like “Don’t tear apart this work of art” to your son or daughter.

“Whatever it takes,” Liemandt says, “we need to feel this message ourselves and spread it to our children daily.”

Andra Liemandt’s Favorite Things to Do in Austin

Andra Liemandt and her family live downtown and love the lifestyle. Here are a few of Liemandt’s favorite spots and activities.

Date night: “We love to pop over to the Violet Crown to catch a movie and stop for a drink at The Townsend.”

Fun with the kids: “We head to Wahoo Taco one night a week, and you’ll just as often  catch us searching for the perfect book  at BookPeople or grabbing a yummy ice cream at Amy’s Ice Cream (with sprinkles, of course).”

Live music: “It’s always fun to catch a live show at Moody Theater or Lamberts. I love that we  live in a town that has so much talent!”

Happy hour with girlfriends: “We love to sit  on the lawn at Josephine House, catch up  and sip on a cocktail.”

Dinner on the town: “My favorite food on the planet is a burger with egg on it, and  my favorite burger in Austin is at Trace. Seriously, try it. I’ve done my research!”

#ImEnough and The Mrs. Magic Mirror Campaign 

“It starts with the belief that each of us is enough,” Andra Liemandt says. “We believe this message is the foundation from which we explore what we write our songs about. We write about topics that we feel are important and meaningful to women like us. For instance, what we see when we look in the mirror, lifelong friendships, the life lessons we’ve learned from our mothers and letting go of the things in our life that don’t matter while focusing on the people that do.”

The Mrs. want women to know they are enough—all the time—and encourage them to accept themselves just as they are. The Mrs. Magic Mirror app allows women to end encouraging notes to each other called “Enoughies” every day.

One hundred percent of the women the band surveyed said they want to be there for their friends, but many women keep these feelings to themselves when they need help.

“We’re trying to send a message that you need to reach out to your friends when you need support,” Liemandt says.  Get the app at themrs.com/app.

What’s Next for The Mrs. 

The band has a lot of exciting things on t he way, all inspired by the mission of empowering women and encouraging children to stand up for themselves.

Upcoming EP releases include Light It Up and Between the Sheets.

The band will participate in an anti-bullying  campaign in Dallas.

The Mrs. will be involved with multiple upcoming charity events.

They’ll release their first Christmas song later this year.

Check out the music at themrs.com and follow the band on Twitter @themrsband.   

 

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