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Up Next: La Mera Candelaria’s Lead Signed Her Emails With A Man’s Name Just To Get A Chance To Perform At Clubs. Now She Dominates LA’s Cumbia Scene

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

When it comes to cumbia, Latina artists, from Selena to Li Saumet of Bomba Estéreo, have typically blended the genre’s traditional drum rhythm and percussive heartbeat with contemporary electronic sounds to bring the folkloric music to new, young audiences. But Stephani Candelaria has taken a different direction. The singer-songwriter fuses cumbia with other traditional rhythms, particularly the relaxed vibes of son cubano, creating a refreshing new musical mix she lades with sassy feminist lyrics.

The style, called “cumbia-son” or “kitchen cumbia,” is becoming popular throughout Southern California’s underground Latin music scene, where the rising act, who fronts the Los Angeles-based band La Mera Candelaria, has landed a summer residency, is booking shows and performing at crowded cumbia parties.

While the seductive rhythms of the tropics induce people to the dancefloor, Candelaria, 28, hopes her lyrics, which tackle queer relationships and gender roles, inspire cultural change in her community.

“I sing about real things, about real women and real experiences of sexism, all backed up by irresistibly dance-y grooves,” she tells FIERCE. “I see people dancing and singing along to my songs that are, at their core, hella feminist. It’s a small step, sure, but planting those seeds is so important when you talk about disrupting gender norms and systems of inequality.”

We chatted with Candelaria, who this week dropped the EP “No Te Enojes,” about “cumbia-son,” sexism in the music industry, using art to challenge the status quo and her latest and upcoming projects.

1. When I first heard you, I was at a cumbia party during a trip in LA and was instantly intrigued by the Caribbean vibe. How would you describe your style of cumbia?

There’s been a few different terms thrown around now, from “kitchen cumbia” to “cumbia-son” or, more basically, “cumbia/salsa.” At our core, the rhythms are a blend of cumbia and Caribbean salsa/son. The cumbia piece is much more organic than most cumbia groups, with all live instrumentation rather than programmed beats or electronic percussion. The son aspect comes out through our use of a Puerto Rican cuatro, and sometimes a Cuban tres, rather than a guitar, as the lead instrument. It’s an instrument not typically used within the cumbia genre, but since we started playing a year ago, it’s a natural fit that tends to really intrigue our listeners. Beyond the instrumentation, our live set dips pretty fluidly in and out of cumbia and son rhythms, from song to song, and even within single songs. A good example from our live set would be our cover of the popular song, “La Negra Tomasa,” which titrates between the well-known Caifanes cumbia version, and the song’s original genre of son Cubano, more specifically Bilongo.

2. What sort of music did you grow up listening to and how did your upbringing influence your style today?

My early years looked like this: it was the early ‘90s, and I was being raised by a very young, single mom who was super into Latino pop, so it was all about Mana, Shakira, Ricky Martin, NEK and Selena. As she got older, and her taste for music expanded, that’s when folks like Mercedes Sosa, Soledad Bravo, Buena Vista Social Club and Celia Cruz started popping up in our CD player. Around 2003, back when I was 13, she started singing for a local salsa band, and I would go to all of her rehearsals, studio sessions and gigs. Being a kid in the salsa scene was definitely an experience I wouldn’t trade, and it planted that little seed in me, the dream of being a performer. How many kids get to see their mama be a badass salsera onstage every weekend? Anyway, it was really thanks to my mom’s eclectic taste of Latino music that influenced what I’m doing now, because we listened to everything from pop, to rock en español, to cumbia to son Cubano. Having all of these unique genres in my daily life for so long made me feel pretty comfortable crossing lines, mixing genres, breaking some rules and inventing new ones. My choice to blend cumbia with that Caribbean aesthetic really came from a deep love and respect of both genres, and a hunch that they might just work well together.

3. Did you always want to sing cumbia or is that something that happened over time?

I actually never imagined myself singing cumbia. My first experience as a live performer was as a solo act, playing guitar and singing rancheras and boleros as a busker in San Francisco. I was 18 at the time, and I was so in love with the ranchera/bolero style that I didn’t even think of doing anything else. But a friend of mine happened to catch me playing at 24th/Mission BART station in San Francisco and insisted that I audition for a new cumbia project he knew about. It kind of all spiraled from there, and I fell in love with the genre. As a solo ranchera/bolero singer, I never knew what it was like to engage an audience beyond just listening and watching, but with cumbia, the experience of seeing an audience dancing, singing along, smiling and laughing left me hooked.

4. While artists like Selena and Li Saumet made strides for women in cumbia, the genre remains male-dominated. What’s that like for you?

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This is why we love the Bay… nothing but LOVE all weekend! Gracias a todos who came out to support La Mera and to all the dope spaces who hosted us @legionnaire510 @galeriadelaraza @artilleryag Also a huge shoutout to @chingona_chicana and @lagentesf for booking us, and to special guest musicians @discosresaca @john_villalobos_ and Rafael Herrera for sitting in with us! We love you, Bay Area boos! We'll be back July 28th at the Rickshaw stop with @bangdata ???????????? * * #laMERAcandelaria #LaMera #cande #BaeArea #YayArea #Oakland #510 #TheLegionnaireSaloon #SanFrancisco #415 #Cumbiatón #GaleríaDeLaRaza #ArtilleryAG #TourLife #TakingBackTheBay #WeTookItBack #PaQueSepan #NoMames #NoTeMetasConLaMera

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It’s definitely a huge factor in my experience as a woman in the Latin music industry, and the struggle is very real. I thank my stars for women like Chavela Vargas, Celia Cruz and Selena, and for the work they did in their time, because I would definitely have a harder time doing what I do if it weren’t for them. But it’s such important work, and it’s really an honor to be continuing in their path. I remember that when I start to feel discouraged. I know I’m not the first woman to not be taken seriously in this industry, and that’s part of what drives me, I think. I’m a fierce feminist, and the more men tell me “no,” or mansplain my own music to me, the more tenacious I become — and the more sassy songs I write.

5. What are some of the sexist experiences you’ve had, if any, in this industry and how did you deal with them?

The thing with machismo is that it’s not always this big, in-your-face kind of thing — it’s the subtlety that makes it so powerful. Sure, there’s the blatant crap that, unfortunately, all women have experienced, but there’s also those moments, those “icky” feelings, those remarks that you can’t shake. During my time as a female frontwoman, and especially now as a band leader and manager, I’ve definitely seen my share of sexism. The look of shock when I introduce myself to venue owners and promoters, the “Wait, YOU’RE the manager?!” comments and the weird vibe at rehearsal when new musicians (no longer in the group, of course) realize I’m the band leader, as examples. When I first got started, I had to invent a fake male manager to sign my emails with, because promoters and venues wouldn’t respond to messages signed by me. I’ve had other bands (all male) dismiss collaborations and events. I’ve had a musician show up to rehearsal unprepared because he thought I just wanted his number to go out with him. Then there’s those real scary moments, those guy-grabbing-at-me, creep-following-me-to-my-car kind of moments that, unfortunately, almost all women entertainers, and women in general, experience. Thankfully, those are rare, but those little moments of subtle sexism are constant. How do I deal with it? I keep a cool head and act like the boss lady that I am. I remember that I’ve got strong ancestors, both familial and musical, watching over me. I got Selena and my tata-abuela covering my back — what would they say if I gave up just because some man acted dumb? And then I write songs about it and I sing those songs at packed, lit AF shows — and I get paid to do it. The best revenge is success!

6. Your lyrics often have a fun and gender role-defying vibe to it, particularly with you pursuing men. Why break away from these norms?

The Latin music genre as a whole has been stuck in some very strict gender norms for a long time. When it comes to cumbia and salsa specifically, women are portrayed either as objects of desire or as love-struck romantics. Where’s the room for the rest of us, for the rest of our experiences? I love to tell stories that disrupt the status quo with my lyrics, especially from within the genre that has kept women in a box for so long. My songs are meant to question norms and to start conversations about topics that make the patriarchy uncomfortable, things like gender-fluidity, queerness and unflinching confidence in women. It’s a very intentional process, from the content of the song to the style of music I choose to present the topics. One example would be the song “Presentame a Tu Hermana,” which is on our new EP. The song is about a woman who is sexually fluid, who leaves the guy she’s dating for his sister. I mean, it makes people chuckle at first, because the concept seems so wild, but there’s definitely some grit in there. It forces people to confront their discomfort with these topics. Lesbianism within the Latino community has long been frowned upon by the more “traditional,” to put it lightly. The term “lesbiana” was used as a pejorative to keep women in check during the Chicano Rights Movement of the ‘70s, women who were talking about feminism and beginning to question machismo and gendered power dynamics. So I wanted the song to make this topic accessible through sassy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and I chose to present it as a salsa, which in my own experience has been one of the most strictly sexist of the Latin sub-genres. The process of breaking down gender roles and norms in our communities starts with our art. It’s a long journey, but it’s an essential one, and this is my small way of chipping away at the foundations.

7. Do you think music can be a tool to disrupt gender roles and inequality in culture?

Of course! As I just expressed, art plays a huge role in the process of change, any change. Look at the protest music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Just one example would be music’s role in the UFW boycott, as a tool of education and as a way to spread news. But beyond the surface impact of lyrics, which I certainly use to my advantage with La Mera Candelaria, music is so impactful because it is something that we experience with more than one of our senses. We hear music, but we also see the performance, we dance to it with our bodies. A very unique psychological phenomenon occurs when a person is listening to music, especially during a live performance. Our bodies experience an almost involuntary response, because when we watch someone dance, our brain starts to act as though it was also dancing, releasing “happy hormones” even if we aren’t moving at all. These moments are the perfect time to drop knowledge. People are more receptive to new ideas when they are smiling, dancing and singing along. I sing about real things, about real women and real experiences of sexism, all backed up by irresistibly dance-y grooves. I see people dancing and singing along to my songs that are, at their core, hella feminist. It’s a small step, sure, but planting those seeds is so important when you talk about disrupting gender norms and systems of inequality.

8. How do you hope people, especially Latina women, feel while listening to your music?

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The purpose of life is joy. We were born to live joyfully and to make the world around us a more beautiful place. I choose to do my part in that bigger mission by making music that makes people feel joyful. More specifically, I hope that people feel love when they hear my music, because I come at this with nothing but love, and I try to emanate that in every recording and performance. With joy and love as the basis of my work, I also hope that people, especially Latinas, feel empowered by my songs. I hope that, by telling the kind of stories that I tell in my music, I can help make space for other women to share, to feel valued and heard. I hope that they can connect with my songs, relate to them, even laugh. I hope this for men, too, because they are part of our community and we are here to call them out but out of love. My songs call out machismo, the male ego, all that stuff, and I know it sometimes makes fellas feel a bit uncomfortable, but y’all are welcome to share my space. Laugh off the discomfort and join the party; it’s better on this side.

9. You just dropped your new EP, “No Te Enojes,” this month. What can you tell us about that?

It’s a short one, only two songs, but it’s definitely loaded with sabór. For our fans who have already heard the first EP, be ready for a big difference. It’s much closer to our live performance style, meaning there’s a lot more salsa mixed in with the cumbia, a lot more sass and a bigger sound than when we first started. The title track, “No Te Enojes,” is a rollercoaster of genres, jumping from a bolero-style introduction, to a cumbia/salsa body and a dancehall-esque rap section toward the end, featuring Tony Sauza of Tone Irie. The second track, “Presentame a Tu Hermana,” is straight-up salsa, but with a cool little twist and featuring Ivan Flores of Discos Resaca on accordion.

10. What else do you have coming up that you’d like our readers to know about?

For any readers in the Los Angeles area, we’ve been doing a summer residency at Eastside Luv in Boyle Heights every second Wednesday since June and through September. There are lots of fun guests appearing at each show, so it’s definitely something to check out. We’ve also got a show in San Jose for the Sonido Clash festival on September 2. So for all the California raza, we hope to see you at a show, because we’ll be all over the place!

Read: Up Next: Why Argentine Up-And-Coming Singer-Songwriter Dat García Wants Latinas To Reclaim Being Maleducada

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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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