Shahar Eberzon, on culture, collaboration and (of course) hair

By Rachel Adler

The Mac Weekly interviewed Sociology major Shahar Eberzon ’12, musician, scholar and hair goddess. TMW: What was it like coming to Macalester after growing up in Israel and attending United World College in Italy? Shahar: Coming to Macalester and to Minnesota, more specifically was quite challenging for me. I assumed that after being in Italy with UWC, coming to the United States wouldn’t be as hard because I had lived independently for two years. But when I came here, I found that I had to re-adjust everything about who I am and my identity; what I know, and what I think about certain aspects of my life that I hadn’t given a thought to before. It was challenging because culturally Minnesota is very different. In Israel we’re pretty up front about who we are and how we communicate with other people, whereas here there are huge cultural codes that you have to understand and adjust to. It will be interesting to go back home and hold a door for someone, and they will probably give me a weird look and say, “What is wrong with you? Why are you holding the door for me?” Also, conceptions of friendships are different in the US, and sometimes what I say to friends may come out too aggressively so I have to have people look over my emails, for example, and have them sugarcoat it. Things like these have been good for me though because they have made me challenge my identity. Coming here has also been good because there are so many opportunities in the US, especially music-wise. I’ve been meeting and collaborating with new people. Things that I’ve been doing here, I never dreamed of doing in Israel. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s really become a second home to me. You are this year’s reigning Mac Idol. What was that experience like for you? It was so crazy because during my first few years when I saw Mac Idol, I said, “Man, I will never be able to do this.” I have a huge stage fright – I start sweating and I’m shaking, my stomach hurts, and my heart starts beating super fast. That’s why sometimes when I’m on stage I’ll babble and just talk and talk. So my first year, I was like no way, and second year the same. But my third year most of my friends were abroad and it was really sad for me, and I needed something to empower me. I had not been engaged with the music culture at Macalester, and I just needed to do this for myself. It was really scary to perform, but it was so good to get all this love and support from the community. People were just so flattering and nice. And I have to tell you, after I won Mac Idol, it was a boost to my productivity when it comes to music. I’ve done a lot afterwards because I was so empowered by the community. It felt really good. What sort of vocal performance have you been doing outside of Macalester? I’m working really closely with Face Forward: Humanity Through Art, which is an organization that aims to bring art to underprivileged communities and populations, and also works to create charity events for different causes and humanitarian efforts. That’s, I guess, where my music career started in Minneapolis. I was asked to perform at First Ave, and that was just crazy for me. Charlie Rudoy ’12 and Fiona Korman ’12 performed with me. We rehearsed 24 hours beforehand starting in Wallace, but were kicked out because we were too loud, so we went and stood in the grassy median on Summit. It was like 11PM, and we were outside singing and playing really loud. And 24 hours later, I was on the stage at First Ave. After I performed, I got off stage and just ran block after block. I just had so much adrenaline. And when I got back, people came up and congratulated me and it was just great. Ever since then I’ve been working with Face Forward, trying to bring forward the organization and maybe a little bit of myself as well. I’ve also performed at the Mall of America, at Fine Line, and My Living Room Café. I’ve been recording music in Israel and here. It’s been great to be working and collaborating with people here because I don’t have as strong a support system back home. What is your favorite song to perform live? I would say “Redemption Song” [by Bob Marley] is my favorite song. It means so much to me, that I can’t even start to explain how this song gives me hope and just lifts me up when I need it. I think there’s so much in that song, and it can really relate to anybody. I really love it, and it’s very powerful for me to sing it on stage and see people’s reactions. It really empowers me. Can you talk a little bit about the work you’re doing with the Shalaam Coalition for Israel-Palestine week? Definitely. So I’m a senior this year and for the past three years I’ve been trying to bring the conversation about Israel and Palestine to Macalester. I wanted it to be more constructive and less one-sided. This year, Tarik Hindi ’13 and I decided to make this happen. We asked student organizations to join us because we realized that we have to do this as a collaborative work because it’s not just an issue that relates to Tarik and me. We have six organizations on board – J Street, MJO, MSA, MCF, Amnesty International, and Mac SUPER. These organizations agreed to work with us, which has been really great. In order for us to raise different viewpoints about the topic, we had to start working amongst ourselves because it was important for us to reflect beforehand on our mission statement and how we were going to promote the diversity of the group, while still having a coherent front to present to the Macalester community. This was not easy at first because it took time to create trust amongst the members of the group. We are coming from very different positions, but it’s amazing to see how this group has developed, and I am so privileged and thankful that these individuals are giving their time and commitment. It’s not about me and Tarik anymore; it’s about Shalaam. We have worked so hard, and I think it’s time to take the next step and encourage the community to engage with this dialogue. I am here as an Israeli because I want to engage with the people around me. I want people to come up and ask me questions, and to challenge my viewpoints. I think some people are afraid to come up to me because they’re afraid to offend me or say something that is ignorant, but there’s no such thing as being ignorant about the conflict. There are so many things that I don’t know about other things, that I hope when I go and ask someone else, they won’t think that I’m ignorant. So I’m calling out to the Macalester community to get involved with this week because it’s going to be amazing. You’re often recognized for your hair. How do you feel about the nickname “Shahair?” I like it. I’m a big hair person; I’m not going to lie. It’s true that that’s the first thing people recognize, and I’ve got to tell you that it got me into a lot of trouble growing up because they all know the girl with the hair [laughs]. But I’m happy with that nickname. I’m attached to my hair, I suppose. It’s kind of a big part of my personality – out of control with its own character and life. It’s always fun to have a conversation that starts about my hair. People often come up to me and say, “I really like your hair.” And I say, “Thanks, what’s your name?” Do you have any tips for people interested in imitating the “Shahairdo?” I do. You have to follow them closely, okay. Step 1: You get inside the shower; you wet your hair and put in shampoo. Then you wash the shampoo out. Step 2: Put conditioner on. Be generous with the conditioner. And then brush your hair in the shower. This stimulates the blood flow to your skull and increases the growing of the hair. If you have curly hair, it’s easier to brush your hair in the shower. Plus, if you brush it outside of the shower, it flattens your hair out. After you brush your hair you need to turn your head over and pass your fingers through your hair in order to separate the hair from your skull, otherwise it sticks to your skull. Then wash your hair while your head is upside down. Keep passing your fingers through your hair. And then, when you get out of the shower, the first
thing you do is take a towel and cover yourself because you don’t want to get cold. Then you turn your head upside down again, passing your fingers through your hair and shaking your hair up and down, right and left. That’s it. Don’t touch your hair. Remember, you heard it here first. This is the secret that I’m laying out for everyone out there. Everybody can have big hair.