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Up Next: Meet Mariah, The Miami Boricua Trapera Inspiring Women To Be Bosses

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

As trap en español’s leading fellas rap about buying their sexual pursuits Gucci and Fendi bags, the Latin Urban music scene’s next leading lady Mariah is reminding them that it takes much more than dough and designer fabrics to attract a female boss. Here Mariah Angeliq bio

“Y siempre pago mi cuenta (siempre). Yo sola pago mi renta, solita. No necesito a nadie que me ponga al día. Y mucho menos quiero de tu compañía,” Mariah, 19, sings in her honey-sweet alto on her summer banger “Blah,” a musical wake-up call to men who think new age women are impressed by played-out game.

“Blah,” she tells me, is for women bosses, the independent money-makers who aren’t dazzled by gold because their jewelry boxes are already overflowing with self-bought gems, the self-assured ladies who make jokes of men with shallow one-liners, the autonomous mamis who have control over their bodies and their destiny — women much like Mariah.

At 16 years old, the Miami-raised, San Juan-residing singer-rapper put everything on the line to chase her dreams. Trading in her parents’ plans of a secure, professional career in medicine for the only future she envisioned for herself, music, Mariah at times found herself homeless, sleeping on recording studio couches. But her drive, and talent, came through. Introduced to Nely “El Arma Secreta,” the heavy-weight reggaeton producer behind the explosive Mas Flow 2, which featured veterans like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, Zion y Lennox and more, the Boricua-Cubana started making music that attracted the attention of Universal Music Latin Entertainment, which signed the young artist at the start of the year.

We chatted with Mariah about her inspiring hustle and determination, her lifelong love for the icon she was named after, Queen Mimi, her empowering message for young women, the weakest game she’s heard from men and upcoming music and collaborations.

You were born and raised in Miami — I’m an Orlando gal myself, ayy! — what music did you grow up listening to and how do you think it’s influenced your style today?

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I always grew up listening to R&B, old-school hip-hop and Spanish music, from reggaeton to Marc Anthony. At first, I started doing trap music. I was 15, in the studio, making trap. But when I figured out I could sing, I would sing all the R&B songs. Once I met Nely, and his brother Misael De La Cruz, he opened my interest to another language, Spanish. I never sang in Spanish, but we decided to take that route. I have Spanish roots, Puerto Rican roots, so we wanted to take over both markets at the same time.

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

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It would have to be Mariah Carey, and not because my name is Mariah. My mom named me Mariah because she was one of her favorite singers, so I grew up listening to Mariah Carey and Marc Anthony, and Wisin y Yandel and Don Omar. But Mariah Carey was one of my biggest inspirations. It’s so ironic, because my mom didn’t know I was going to be able to sing. I think she planned it all out magically, somehow.

When did you realize singing was more than a hobby and decide you wanted to take it seriously?

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Once I was like nine or 10, that’s when I started to sing and noticed my voice was a little good. I was like, “that’s it!” I woke up every morning before school and watched Justin Bieber and Chris Brown, they are also big inspirations for me, and I wanted to be just like them. Once I started singing and noticed I could somewhat sing, I made up my mind. I wasn’t going to be a doctor or lawyer but a singer. I knew since I was nine. My family would laugh at me, but at 13, people noticed my voice was good and said, “Wait a minute. We need to do something.” They wanted me to get on American Idol, but I was too shy, so when I was 15, that’s when I started going to the studio and making music.

You were signed to Universal Music Latin Entertainment earlier this year. What was that like for you and how has your life changed since then?

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I feel honored and blessed to be part of the UMLE/GTS family. My dream was to get signed and bring a new sound to the industry. Together, with Universal/GTS, we will make a big impact on the industry. Since meeting Nely, he is like one of the best producers of all time, my goal has been to branch out to more than what I was used to. We wanted to find something different. We have really good chemistry. We both know what we want, and he’s having me work with some of the best people in the industry: Luny Tunes, Jhay Cortez, Myke Towers, Casper Magico, Ñengo Flow. He taught me a lot. He taught me how to do beats; I’m making beats myself. I feel like I’m at the level that I deserve to be being next to him. I feel like I’m in the position I should’ve always been in.

You dropped your first single, “Blah,” which I’ve had on repeat all summer, in late June. It’s a dope song about independent women who are tired of men with wack game who can’t do anything for us that we aren’t already doing for ourselves. That’s pretty empowering for girls and, hopefully, an eye-opener for the fellas. How do you hope women feel when they hear this track?

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I want them to feel like they don’t need a man to make it in life, and that they shouldn’t get led on by what guys tell them or the dreams they sell them with purses or material things. Not everything is material. What’s on the inside is what matters. I want them to know that we are bosses. Women are bosses. We don’t need men to be happy.

The song is so relatable because just about all of us have heard our fair share of bullshit from guys, right? What are some of the wildest and most unimpressive lines you’ve heard from men who were talking a lot of blah, blah, blah?

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Oh my God, so many. I hear, “I can change your life,” “let me maintain you,” “I can maintain you.” They try to impress you with a rental car, but I’m like, “oh yeah, nothing new.” That stuff doesn’t impress me. I can get that on my own. Show me something more and deeper than that, something real.

From “Blah” to your social media posts, you stress the importance of money over boyfriends. Why do you think it’s necessary for women to have that financial independence, to be able to pay their bills and take care of their own?

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Most women will settle for a man so they can have that stuff, who can take care of them, but I want them to get out of that comfort and work for themselves, so when a guy finds you, they’re intimidated, you already have what he has or more than him.

With the success of “Blah,” we are all excited to hear what you have coming up. Can you tell us what you’re working on — I know there are some exciting collabs — and when we can expect to hear it?

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Right now, we just recorded a new video with Myke Towers, so we are in the process of dropping that song, “Desaparecemos,” by next month. We’re also working on the remix of “Blah,” with Brytiago, and there might be others on the remix. We are ready to drop music continuously, but it’s a process. Everything is a process. I’m also working on the next single, called “Malo.”

“Malo” — what can you tell us about that one?

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It’s about a guy, a bad guy, and she loves him, even though she knows he’s a bad guy who’s going to break her heart. But he makes her laugh. So it’s about a girl who wants a bad guy.

Who hasn’t been there?

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Right.

You’re bilingual. Can we expect to hear some songs in English or maybe collabs with U.S. artists?

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Of course! “Malo” is in English and Spanish; it’s Spanglish. And I feel like that’s going to bring a new sound into the industry. I know there are songs that are Spanglish, but the way I do it is different, and I want to create my own sound for music in the market. As far as collabs, some of my dream collabs would be Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Drake and P. Diddy’s son, Christian Combs — he’s like another P. Diddy.

You’ve been called “the next Latin urban female artist of the upcoming generation.” What does it feel like to hear that about yourself, you, a Bori-cubanita from the 305?  

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Woooooh! It’s amazing. I feel amazing and honored to be a part of this, to be labeled as that. This is everything I worked for. This is why I ran away at 16 from my house and went against my mom’s will, because I had a dream and didn’t let anyone stop me. I want people to look up to me, not just as an artist, but as a person, someone who didn’t stop following her dream for anything.

You ran away to pursue music?

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My mom always knew I wanted to be a singer, but she wanted me to study to be a doctor and have a plan B, but my plan B is to make plan A happen; there’s no other option in my mind. My mom was very overprotective. She didn’t like me going to the studio. She supported me, but she thought I was going just to hang out. She didn’t understand how this worked. I had to make relationships, connect and network, and this was holding me back, so I got tired of it. I ran away one day and stayed with an owner of a studio in Little Havana who was helping me out, and through them, I met another dude who introduced me to Nely. I was sleeping on couches in studios and staying with people I barely knew because I knew one day I’d meet the right person, and I did. I met Nely, an angel. He was an angel who saved me from where I could have been and took me under his wings. He helped me become the artist I am.

And what does your mother think about your career now?

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She was always supportive, but she was just mad that I ran away. She thought she lost her baby, but once she found out I was working with Nely, she knew I was good. She saw how famous he was, and she saw that Mariah had a purpose behind all the mess she made. We have a great relationship. She never turned her back on me. She and my dad always pushed me.

You’re 19 years old, at the start of your career. In a few years, what do you hope the people can say about Mariah?

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I hope people can say that I inspired young women to follow their dreams and that I made an impact, a huge impact, in the music industry, and that I’m a legend and that I’m the best. I just want to be the best — at everything.

Check out “Blah”, the boss anthem, below:


Read: Up Next: Meet Tatiana Hazel, The Chicago Indie Pop Singer-Songwriter Helping You Get Over Toxic Relationships

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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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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.

Read: Up Next: Rombai Is Ushering In The Return Of Latin Pop Bands

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