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Up Next: Meet Kaina, The Venezuelan-Guatemalan Velvety Songstress Making R&B In Chicago

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

“Everything I am is Chicago,” Kaina Castillo, a budding soul singer-songwriter in the Windy City, tells FIERCE, her assertion indisputable as we begin talking about her journey to music.

The child of Venezuelan and Guatemalan immigrant parents, Castillo grew up in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chi-City. She spent her childhood and adolescent years involved in several after-school arts programs, singing and dancing for her community and representing Chicago across the country through music. In her late teenage years, she accompanied her onstage recreations with behind-the-scenes gigs, interning for local musicians and organizations that showed her the business side of things.

At 23, Castillo has taken the talent that public school educators first recognized in her and then volunteered to help her hone with the know-how of Chi-Town’s music industry to create space for her own talents and vulnerable lyrics to shine, even opening up for retro R&B singer Kali Uchis during her Chicago show last year. For her, music is also a way to create community for first-generation young people who, like her, often feel like they don’t have a space where they belong and can discuss the multifaceted experiences they have growing up in the midwest.

We chatted with the rising act about Chicago’s influence on her life and music, what her immigrant parents think about her career in the arts, being vulnerable during songwriting, what’s in store for her in 2019 and more.

FIERCE: You entered the arts through dancing, working with a dance group from when you were 9 years old till you were 17. When did your interest shift to singing and songwriting?

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Kaina: I started with this group in Chicago called The Happiness Club. I love that name because it was started in the ‘80s and you can tell, but it’s a nonprofit group that brings kids together from Chicago to create their own show. They’re creating their own choreography and creating their own songs. It includes rappers, poets, breakdancers. Really, it’s based on the four elements of hip-hop.

At the time, it was a way more intense process. Now, you can just bring a friend. But when I started, there was an audition process. I auditioned as a singer originally, but I was so shy, super shy, and I didn’t get in for my vocals, but I did get in for my potential to dance. I was never a dancer. The artistic director took me under her wing, and I became one of the best dancers. I was there for a long time. During that time, personnel changed, and someone on the music team wrote a song for me to sing, and I just kept going. I became a singer and a dancer. Then I started aging out of the group — it’s for youth between the ages of four to 20 — so around 18 or 19, I started writing songs more than anything because I couldn’t be in the group as often. It was a crazy journey.

The group is amazing. I got to perform at the White House under the Obama administration and at Lollapalooza. It’s an amazing group for Chicago kids.

That’s where I got a lot of my cultural influence. I had friends from every neighborhood. I was performing at public schools. It was a lot of exposure and getting me ready as a performer. Now that I reflect, I’m first-generation and don’t have family in the U.S., just my mom, dad and brother, so this group played an essential role in making sure I wasn’t whitewashed.

FIERCE: For a while, you worked behind the music scenes, interning for Noname, The O’My’s and Jamila Woods. How do you think this has helped you build yourself as an artist today?

Kaina: Again, now that I’m older, I look at all these experiences like training for this moment. I was interning for people in Chicago that I love, for organizations and musicians, and it helped me organize myself as a human being. I fell under amazing people who ran their business well and kind, so now that I’m older and manage myself mostly — a couple months ago I added Eddie. It took me a long time to trust someone with my stuff — all the people who mentored me are good people and taught me to be a good person and run a business with integrity and respect.

FIERCE: Early last year, you caught the attention of Kali Uchis, opening up for the Colombian singer during her tour stop in Chicago. How did that come about and what was this like for you?

Kaina: It was crazy. I had played this festival called Mamby on the Beach that was put on by this production that was also booking for the Kali Uchis’ show, and I was like, “hey, no one is opening up for her. I’m Venezuelan. She’s Colombian. We’re neighbors.” I asked them to put in a word, and they said they were still figuring it out. I was like, oh well. I shot my shot. Then I went to Twitter, and I was like, “Hey, Kali doesn’t have someone opening for her. Retweet if you could see me doing this for her.” My Chicago community retweeted it. It went viral in the Chicago scene. Noname retweeted it, and it kept going. The next day, I got a tweet from Kali, like, “Welcome to the show.” At the time, I was picking up my friend Cristela, who was helping me do that booking because she knew the promoters, from the airport, and she had got an email confirming it. My Chicago community did all the work. Kids I went to high school with retweeted it. It was amazing. This is what the Internet and the community can do. It worked out because in Chicago, we are trying to make sure venues and promoters are booking local talent for big acts. We have to create industry here and incorporate the community in the work coming through the city.

FIERCE: That’s an amazing story! As you said, you, like Kali, have South American roots. Your mother is Venezuelan, while your pops is from Guatemala. Have South and Central American music and culture influenced your style at all today?

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Kaina: Most definitely! Growing up, I listened to all their music. At the time, I would hide from it, like “wtf, why are you blasting this?” I hated the music then, maybe because they played it so much. Now I’m like, “omg, salsa is amazing.” I grew up on Oscar D’León, he’s Venezuelan and my mom played him so much. My parents went to all the concerts, Celia Cruz and Oscar D’León, so I grew up listening to a bunch of salsa, and my dad played a bunch of Motown. I see the influence now that I’m older. It’s salsa and Motown, but also it’s Chicago. It has its own little sound that’s so specific.

FIERCE: During your Red Bull showcase in November, you shouted out your parents, who were in the crowd. Oftentimes, immigrant families have some objections when their children express interests in pursuing the arts instead of careers that are more monetarily steady and lucrative. As a first-generation Latina, has this been the case with them? What do they think of your musical pursuits?

Kaina: Luckily, my parents are just absolutely the best. Since I was little, I was such an independent, self-sufficient person. Even if I made a decision that they didn’t think was best for me, they know they can’t control me. But they have grown to know I’m making the best decisions for myself. At times it may be be scary for them, but if I’m making a leap, I’m going to do it and commit to it and it’ll be worth it. An example of this was dropping out of college. My mom was sad about it, but I was still in the same position I would’ve been in because of my experience and mentoring. I have a full-time job in a position I would have had if I completed my degree. And once my mom came to the Kali Uchis show, she understood that.

FIERCE: How did they feel watching you perform live in front of an audience?

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Kaina: VIP at that show was really nice and put her in the VIP group, so she got a little bougie and started invited girls into the group. It was really funny. My dad came to another show that was sold-out and got to see me open up for a friend. All the teens were going crazy, and he was like, “what is this?” After the Red Bull show, which was like an all-Latinx festival, which they attended and got to see all these Latinx artists and then me, they walked away with a sense of understanding that this is the community she belongs to and gets to touch. They saw the young kids who talked to me afterwards, and they realized what I was doing as a first-generation kid for other first-generation kids, that I was creating a lineage for us and a sense of community and belonging for our family. We don’t get that in a ton of spaces, so me being a performer in these spaces is beautiful for them, like, wow, she is forming a space for us.

FIERCE: Wow! That’s really beautiful. That must bring them so much joy.

Kaina: Yeah, they’re great. I love them!

FIERCE: Last August, you dropped your three-song EP 4U, a short but hella emotional project that really centered on the raw sentiments of love. I feel like we are in a time where more and more women are choosing to harden themselves, often as a result of heartbreak and, for hetero women in particular, male fuckery. This project rejects that. Your vulnerability is palpable. Your heart is wide open. Why?

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Kaina: My art lies in being vulnerable, and I can’t help it. I’m a person who takes a really long time to tell someone my feelings. Whether it’s romantic love or not, I have a hard time talking about my feelings because I take a long time to simmer in them, so I don’t say something until I know what I want to say and how I want to say it. I write the songs quick, about 5 minutes to two hours, and then I don’t touch them. It’s almost like word vomit, like my diary. I try to journal, but it’s hard to be consistent, so it ends up being word vomit and I just spit out a song. Then I reflect and I’m like, “yes, I feel that way.” And I don’t edit it much because I sit with these feelings and know this is what I want to say. Vulnerability is so beautiful and brings so much growth, whether on stage or through recording. The way I connect with people the most is through vulnerability. It’s what makes us human.

One common thread is that we are all so emotional and vulnerable and have a lot of feelings. Some are better at sharing them than others, but we all have the same spectrum of emotions. When you crack that open with a community, on a stage or with a song, that’s when you’re like, I belong in this world. I don’t feel so alone. A lot of the songs are channeling feelings, and I share that space with people and they feel not alone and I don’t, either.

FIERCE: What do you think we as women, or as people more broadly, lose when we choose to numb ourselves instead of opening our hearts and facing the rollercoaster of emotions that come with that?

Kaina: It’s hurtful. That’s what I’ve been going through these last couple of months. With the EP 4U, it was easy to share emotions and be vulnerable, but sometimes you forget that the growth, the progress you want to see in life comes from being vulnerable. You’re scared of getting hurt, so you harden up. I feel like I’ve been doing that even to myself, so recently I remembered who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing: facing my emotions. It’s important to be firm, make sure no one steps all over you and set your boundaries, but in spaces where you feel comfortable, face yourself and your emotions. Don’t close off. You’re missing out in the thing you’re seeking. I learn that time after time. I think, why am I so scared right now, and it’s usually because I haven’t’ sat with myself and been honest and vulnerable. Sometimes, those feelings don’t look like love and happiness. I don’t think we make enough space to think about what makes us feel bad, but it’s just as important as thinking about what makes us feel good. We have to sit down and face it all so we can move forward.

FIERCE: I want to talk about another kind of love: the deep adoration you have for your city. You grew up in Wicker Park, and you have a ton of Chicago pride. It literally seeps into everything that you do. How do you feel you embody the essence of Chi-Town, whether in your music, your aesthetic or simply your way of being?

Kaina: Everything I am is Chicago. I don’t have a big family here, so the city raised me. I went to public schools. I did a bunch of after-school programs, all the big ones in Chicago. I went to shows and poetry events. Chicago is my biggest influence, the natural history of Chicago, the music that was made here, the people who migrated here, the combination of everything growing in this city. The hustle of the city is embedded into the music we create because there’s no industry here. Everyone making music is a reflection of the city and making music because they love to. I think that’s what distinguishes us from other major cities: there’s competition, yes, but for the most part, everyone’s main concern is the music. It’s how we keep track of our history.

FIERCE: It’s January 2019, the start of a new year, which brings with it tons of opportunities. What can we expect from you in the coming months?

Kaina: So I am currently finishing up an album, and I’m hoping to release it in the spring/summer. That’s the biggest thing for me. I have my mind focused on that. I mentioned earlier how sometimes we don’t give space and vulnerability to emotions that are negative, and I feel that’s what this project has been doing, making me pay attention to feelings I haven’t given the time of day to. There are also songs on immigration, on being a first-generation kid that feels like you have everything and nothing at the same time, and it’s paying attention to another side of my vulnerability. It’s the first time I pay attention to myself on such a big level, and it’s uncomfortable for me, but the results have been liberating, so that’s hopefully nice.

FIERCE: Your 23 years old, at the start of your career. In five to ten years, what do you want people to say about Kaina?

Kaina: I hope that people can catch that I’m always trying to do everything with care and intention. I hope in 5 to 10 years that my music, and the actions I take, build community and reflect truth, vulnerability and just intention. I hope people can catch that. Everything I’ve done is a labor of love. I want to be a vehicle where people can share their feelings and be vulnerable and find space for themselves. In the last year, I met a lot of kids who feel similarly to me, with so many privileges in one way and not in other ways. I want Latinxs to feel like they’re enough as they are, even in the in-between. So in a couple years, I hope we find each other and create space and we fit in and have conversations on how we are enough. But, for now, I’m just trying to figure out how to work through that space because identity is forever changing.

Read: Meet Ginette Claudette, The Honey-Sweet Dominican Singer-Songwriter Helping Resurge R&B

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Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

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Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

Katalina is used to the spotlight. For years, the colombiana has cultivated an audience of millions on Instagram with her hilarious short videos about relationships and womanhood. But now, the social media influencer-turned-singer is using her mic to explore these themes.

Debuting her first song, “Sacude,” a carefree pop-urban dance jam, last November, the Miami-living entertainer followed up this month with the heartbreaking ballad “Adios” featuring Cuban-American singer JenCarlos Canela, showing her musical versatility.

“With me, there will definitely be both. This is something I think I have been very clear about,” Katalina, 27, told FIERCE. “I feel that music is more free now and you do not have to limit yourself to only one genre. I like challenges and I dislike routine, so you can always expect a mix.”

We chatted with the rising star about her lifelong love of singing, transitioning from social media influencer to music artist, saying goodbye to loved ones and what to expect from the beauty in the months that follow.

FIERCE: Most people who are familiar with Katalina know you as a social media influencer with hilarious videos, but last year you took the leap into music. Why?

Katalina: I have always liked to sing. I come from a very musical and talented family, but we always practiced it as a hobby. A year ago, I gave myself the opportunity to develop it professionally with my manager, Kito Sunshine, and I am totally grateful and in love with this. Music is what I love the most — it frees me.

FIERCE: Was this shift from social media influencer to singer strategic? Did you know you always wanted to sing and saw social media as an avenue to build your popularity and get you there or was this an unexpected but welcomed outcome?

Katalina: Since I was a little girl, I have known that I liked to sing and play the piano. From 9 to 11 years old, I sang in the choir of a church when I lived in Colombia, and for me it was something magical, so I’ve always known it. As far as social media, I entered by accident, but from the first day, I enjoyed the opportunity to reach so many people and show them my musical side as well. It was not a strategy. I did not upload many videos singing, but people motivated me more and more to try to develop music professionally, so I gave myself the opportunity, and, well, here we are.

FIERCE: But you’re not just a pretty girl with a following who is trying to use her fame to dabble in something she has no business doing. You are talented! Still, several social media influencers have attempted to break into music, some like Cardi B and Jenn Morel finding success, but others not so much, oftentimes not because they lack talent but rather because they’re not taken as seriously. What has this transition been like for you?

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Katalina: It is a bit difficult for people to see social influencers in another facet that they are not used to, but, in my case, I always showed them that musical side, so it was not totally a surprise. The same people asked me and the reception was very special. I hope to reach many people with my music.

FIERCE: As you stated, you have been passionate about singing and playing the piano since you were a child. What sort of music did you grow up listening to and how do you think it’s influenced your Latin pop sound today?

Katalina: I grew up listening to a lot of pop and ballads. My mom always listened to this music, so she did influence me a lot. I remember locking myself in my room and practicing these songs all the time. I still do this.

FIERCE: Colombian music is having a major global moment right now. What do you think you bring to the game that’s different and helps you stand out among the rest?

Katalina: Together with my work team we are creating our own seal. Our sounds are different and the vocal arrangements are unique to what we want to project. We are focused on the urban wave but keeping my romantic side.

FIERCE: I can see that for sure! You recently released “Adios,” a ballad featuring Cuban-American artist Jencarlos Canela about saying goodbye to an ex-love with the hope of returning to each other again in the end. This is very relatable because a lot of times during breakups there’s this hope that time away will bring you two back together. Sometimes it’s because the couple really is good for each other, but other times it’s just a matter of costumbre. How do you, Katalina, decipher between the two?

Katalina: Saying goodbye is always going to be difficult, either out of love or habit. I think that if you are with someone just out of habit and not because you love him, it is better to say goodbye definitely. “Adios,” to me, has another meaning. Beyond the circumstances for which you have had to say goodbye to your ex-partner, it is the goodbye that makes your heart hurt. It’s the memories of the shared moments that make you miss a person and want to have them again, that’s “Adios.”.

FIERCE: In the music video, the song took on new meaning. It wasn’t just about an ex but about losing someone you love to death and never being able to be with them again. Why did you all want to dedicate this song and video to those who lost their partners?

Katalina: These are very common situations in all of our lives. The message also has to do with those who have lost a loved one, not just their partner. In my case, I recently lost my grandmother suddenly, who was a mother to me, and, for this reason, I, and many others, can identify with this video.

FIERCE: I’m so sorry to hear that! And I think you’re right. The video really extends to loss outside of romantic relationships. We are in an era of collaborations, especially for Latin music, and in this song, your and Jencarlos’ voices blend very beautifully. Tell me, who are some of your other dream collaborations?

Katalina: I’ve always believed you find strength in unity, so working in a team, to me, is a very wise decision. I have a long list, but I’d want to start with artists like Natti Natasha, Karol G, Becky G, Ivy Queen, Cardi B — these are strong women and great examples of what it means to be an empowering woman. Also, J Balvin, Daddy Yankee and others. They are artists with careers worthy of admiration.

FIERCE: I know you’ve been working on a lot of music for this year. What can you tell us is in store for Katalina in 2019?

Katalina: There are incredible songs written by international composers. I will also have my debut as a songwriter in a song that I think people will really identify with.

FIERCE: Can we expect more ballads like “Adios” or more dance songs like “Sacude” or a mix of genres?

Katalina: With me, there will definitely be both. This is something I think I have been very clear about. I feel that music is more free now and you do not have to limit yourself to only one genre. I like challenges and I dislike routine, so you can always expect a mix.

FIERCE: You are so young, at the start of your career, what do you hope people can say about Katalina in 10 to 15 years?

Katalina: My dream is to become an icon in music worldwide. I would love for people to say that I inspired them to fulfill their dreams, that I helped empower other women, that my life has been a great example of triumph. In 10 to 15 years, with the help of God, I will leave my mark throughout the planet.

Watch Katalina’s latest single, “Adios,” below:

Read: Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

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Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

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Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

You know what Paquita la del Barrio is to your grandmother or perhaps what Jenni Rivera was to your tía? Well, that’s what Victoria La Mala is for our generation: a singer whose inner power is the only thing more forceful than the strong vocal pipes she uses to remind you that you are that bitch.

Born Victoria Ortiz in Mexico City, the singer-songwriter jumped into the music scene in 2015, bringing a refreshing sound and style to regional Mexican music with all the same girl power of her barrier-breaking female predecessors. Describing herself as the musical offspring of Tupac and Selena, the now Los Angeles-based singer places her soulful vox over traditional banda and ranchera rhythms to deliver treats for your ears and soul. Her songs, like last year’s chart-making “Merezco Mucho Más,” call out male fuckery and empower girls to know their strength, worth and beauty and leave toxic romances behind.

On the block, Victoria, who’s also the first Mexican artist to be signed to Roc Nation Latin, continues to be inspirational. On Monday, the 30-year-old launched her fifth annual #TeamMalaPromGiveaway, a campaign providing low-income teenage girls in Los Angeles with dresses, accessories and makeup and hair tutorials. This year, she will help 50 girls, who must submit their applications before March 29, become the prom princesses she knows they already are.

We chatted with Victoria all about the giveaway, making banda bops for millennials, her anticipated new, and sonically different, music, as well as why she wants to empower women and girls in everything she does, among so much more.

FIERCE: You were born and raised in Mexico but also spent much of your time growing up taking extended trips with relatives in Los Angeles. What genres of music were you listening to here and there, and how do you think this has influenced your pop-urbano-banda style today?

Victoria La Mala: I used to listen to a lot of regional Mexican music in Mexico because of my parents. They love banda and mariachi. I spent a lot of summers in LA, and I had some aunts who listened to hip-hop, ‘90s R&B, and I loved soul. I think all of those styles of music influenced me, and I think you can hear them in me.

FIERCE: Absolutely. While you sing mostly regional Mexican genres, you have a very soulful voice. Talking about your voice, it’s very strong and powerful. No one can deny your vocal talent. When did you realize you could sing and that music was something you wanted to pursue?

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Victoria La Mala: I literally cannot remember a time in my life without singing. When I look back on my childhood, I was that one little girl always singing. I loved music. I sang in class and school. But when I was 15, I started getting a little more confidence in myself. I’d be out at parties and people would say, “sing for us.” That’s when I realized this is something I love and have a big passion for. I started singing in a couple bands. I sang at family functions and school functions. So I think when I was around 15 is the time I was like, I love this and I think this is what I want to do.

FIERCE: Why banda? This isn’t exactly a genre that’s expected from young millennial women?

Victoria La Mala: For me, it was always important to represent my culture and tell my story as a woman. Some of the first memories I had listening to live music was banda. My first album in 2013 was full banda. It was just important for me to represent. My dad had passed away a few years before then, and he loved banda. When I moved to the States from Mexico, I wanted to represent from the beginning, and from there I started evolving as an artist as well. I tried different regional sounds and more fusions, because it’s all a part of my story and who I am. I was exposed to more types of music. Being a girl raised in Mexico City, I listened to everything in the streets, Spanish rock, cumbia, so I think it’s important to represent my culture and my story.

FIERCE: I love that and definitely see that. While artists like Paquita la del Barrio and Jenni Rivera made waves for women in traditional Mexican music, these genres continue to be male-dominated. Honestly, most Latin genres do. How has your experience been trying to navigate this industry as a woman, and as one who is very vocal about her opinions on men and proud of her identity.

Victoria La Mala: You know, they always say, “Victoria hates men.” But I don’t, just a couple that have been bad, but some are great. But it’s definitely difficult being a woman, not just in music, in a world that has been male-dominated. The roles of women have slowly been changing: women started working, started going to school and now they’re doing basically anything that we want. But because it hasn’t been many years to do these things, it’s still a struggle. And in music, it’s reflected. Music, I think, reflects what’s happening in society. Now girls are starting to take power in music. Girls want to listen to other girls. They want to feel identified and want our stories told. It’s definitely still difficult. It’s definitely still a struggle, especially on the industry side. There’s this idea that girls dont like girls, girls don’t like to listen to girls. This is also an idea that has been changing, though. I grew up listening to women I love, playing my CDs and singing along to them. I think women nowadays are the same: we want to hear our stories.

FIERCE: I think you’re right. Not only are many of the rising acts in Latin music women, but they are sharing their stories through their music.

Victoria La Mala: Right, exactly. Thank you.

FIERCE: Making a space for yourself where others might be uncomfortable, though, isn’t something you seem to ever shy away from. Another example: you’re the first Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation. How has this been for you?


Victoria La Mala: It has been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to learn so much from people in the industry who have been doing this for years. I’ve met legends, people I looked up to as a little girl, people I still look up to.

FIERCE: Like who?

Victoria La Mala: Like Beyoncé and Rihanna. I got to sing with Paquita la del Barrio. Olga Tañón invited me to sing with her at Premio Lo Nuestro. It’s been an incredible couple of years, learning and growing so much. It’s been really amazing for me. This is part of what I always wanted to do: represent my culture and what I come from as Latinos and Mexicans in a more general-market kind of way. People never really listen to Mexican music, so for them to say, “let me see this Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation,” that’s an amazing experience. As you mentioned before, part of me always feels like I have to fight for what I want. I grew up seeing that. I grew up around strong women that will make a way.

FIERCE: And that’s clear in your music. As I stated earlier, your songs are very bold and empowering. They often validate women’s experiences in relationships and remind them of their own strength, beauty and power. Why?

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Victoria La Mala: It’s so important for me because I think music literally is the soundtrack to our lives. We have songs we play when we are feeling so sad and want to cry. We have songs we want to play that cause us to feel strong, like you could do whatever you want to do.  I grew up listening to strong women that made me feel powerful, and it’s important for me to give that back to other girls. Sometimes, I play my own songs when I’m going through it, like, “yes, girl!”

FIERCE: Haha! I love that. I can honestly say that “Si Va A Doler Que Duela” was one of the songs that helped get me through my last breakup, so I completely get it.

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Victoria La Mala: Thank you. I really appreciate that.

FIERCE: You’re also inspiring outside of your music, though. I know you have a prom dress giveaway each year, where you provide dresses, makeup and accessories to underserved teens so they can attend prom and feel like a princess for an evening. Talk to me about this. Why do this?


Victoria La Mala: To me, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love being able to connect with young girls. When I was in high school, my dad wasn’t there anymore, and my mom, by herself, had to make sacrifices for my siblings and myself. For my high school graduation, I had to figure out dresses, which was so expensive, and I thought, maybe I should come up with a giveaway for girls doing their prom and can’t afford it. There are so many circumstances as to why they might need help. I started this five years ago. I had people, whoever I knew, give me dresses. I said, “anyone who wants to donate, I will give you a CD.” That’s all I had. People donated dresses, and I think we dressed 10 girls that year. I did it all on my own. I had no clue what I was doing, but it was an amazing experience to see girls have the dress they wanted. I knew I needed to do it again. Here we are now in our fifth year. Last year, we  dressed more than 60 girls. This year, I’m hoping that doubles. Now we also have sponsors.

FIERCE: What do you think is your overall goal with this giveaway?

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Victoria La Mala: My goal is for girls to enjoy their prom. I want them to feel like all their efforts were worth this moment, that all their hard work does pay off. I just want them to be happy that day. I’m also really hoping every year we can double the amount of dresses we give. I also hope that we can take it out of LA. This is my home and community, so this is where I’ve been doing it, but I hope to take it to other cities and one day everywhere.

FIERCE: Love that! I want to get back into music. You haven’t released a new song in a little while, and there’s a lot of anticipation around Victoria La Mala and demand for new music. What do you have in store for this year that you can tell us about?

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Baby it’s cold outside ❄️❄️❄️

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Victoria La Mala: Well, last year, I put out only two songs. One did amazing and was on the charts, “Merezco Mucho Más,” and the other I put out during the end of the summer, “Corazón valiente,” which was for immigrants. But after that, I had a couple changes within my team. I took time for me to get in the studio, work on music, write my stuff, get involved in everything, from production and sound to writing new songs. We are almost there. It’s just been a process. I’ve just been waiting and writing and making sure everything sounds and is how I creatively see it. Again, we’re almost there. I think it’s going to be something new and different from what I put out in the past and reflects who I am, a mix of Mexican culture and me living in New York, LA, Mexico City, more of the urban side. So it’ll be something new and something I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, so I’m excited.

FIERCE: You’re 30 years old, at the earlier stages of your career, what do you hope people can say about Victoria La Mala in 10 to 15 years?

I hope people can say that I’ve helped them feel empowered, that my music has been a big part of their life. I dont think a lot about this. I think about things I want to accomplish more than things people say about me. I hope my music can empower them and be a part of their life and touch them the way other artists have inspired me.

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