It turns out the two women who were seated in Zsela’s place were her cousin and grandmother; she gave them a shout out before performing “Drinking,” a tune that led Zsela’s younger family member to shed tears while she watched her sing. “How’s the food? ” Zsela asked the crowd quietly, laughing to herself. “I’ll have a plate sometime, somewhere.
The New York City native isn’t on track to release tons of music at once—in fact, she’s been teasing the release of her EP since last year—and she isn’t necessarily interested in pursuing a heavy social media presence or a big-name label.
The singer and songwriter, draped in a torn, white peasant skirt, white bikini top, harness, and blonde wig, trooped onstage with harpist Marilu Donovan and Zsela’s frequent collaborator Daniel Aged, who both wore white bodysuits and lace masks that covered their entire heads.
When she was a kid, Zsela could recite lyrics from songs after only hearing them once or twice; her father, Marc Anthony Thompson (the musician known as Chocolate Genius), and her half-sister, actress Tessa Thompson, told her she had a good voice.
But it wasn’t until she started working with Aged a couple years ago that she began truly hearing herself in a way that she wanted to share with audiences. “It was exciting to work with someone who really listened—especially a man,” she said, standing in a dimly lit hallway in the Whitney where she stopped walking for a spell. “He was ready to be like, ‘What do you need?