How a 2020 Grammy-nomination reunited two elementary school friends

A new Fiona Apple album is always a treat, and 2020's Fetch The Boltcutters did not disappoint. The title track may have even incidentally felt more resonant, thanks to the *gestures at everything keeping us all trapped inside for the last 9 fucking months*.

The album received a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 63rd Grammy Awards, and the single, "Shameika," received its own nods as Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance.

It's a great song, "Shameika." But it turns out: the Shameika of the title is, indeed a real person. And she did in fact go to school with a young Fiona Apple. And yep, one time she told Fiona Apple "You have potential," and that sage wisdom really did have an impact.

Which is why Pitchfork tracked down the eponymous Shameika—who, it turns out, is a musician in her own right.

Fiona and Shameika weren't friends, per se. But their lives crossed. Now, they've crossed paths again — to the point that they collaborated on a remix of Fiona Apple's song.

The way it all came about makes for a truly touching story:

It was late April, deep in quarantine, when Shameika first found out about Fiona's song, but not by hearing it. (She was always only vaguely aware of her former schoolmate's music career.) The news came, instead, via an out-of-the-blue handwritten card sent in the mail by her and Fiona's adored third grade teacher, Linda Kunhardt.

Shameika remembers venturing to her mailbox one day for a bit of fresh air and finding the curious note. Her disbelief is still palpable as she recalls the contents of the card: "Shameika, I hope this letter is finding you safe during quarantine, I had to write you because I don't know if you remember this girl Fiona McAfee. You told her not to listen to bullies, and that she had potential. I just wanted to say thank you. And I wanted to let you know that your prophetic words have been turned into a beloved song titled your name…"

"At that point my mouth is, like, unhinged," Shameika continues, gleefully animated by the memory. "I'm literally sitting there in shock, like: Are you telling me that Fiona wrote a song about… like, is that what you're saying!?" She typed Fiona's name into Apple Music, followed by her own. "And I see the song: 'Shameika'! I was screaming!"—she demonstrates her shriek—"It's such a humbling thing. You can't believe that someone would honor you like that. And it's not just 'Someone wrote a song about you.' It's 'Shameika said I had potential.'"

Check out Pitchfork for the whole touching story. And keep it in mind the next you might have a chance to say something supportive to someone. Who knows; maybe it'll lead to a Grammy nomination 30 years later.

Meet Shameika Stepney, Inspiration to Fiona Apple on Fetch the Bolt Cutters [Jenn Pelly / Pitchfork]

Image: Sachyn Mital / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)