Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
The name Cierra Ramirez is likely already familiar to you. With fan-favorite roles on The Fosters and “Girl in Progress” to voicing the revolutionary superheroine America Chavez in the upcoming feature film “Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors” and starring in and executive producing Good Trouble, the ascending actress is illuminating screens with her dynamic portrayals of complex Latina characters. But before she was reading scripts, Ramirez was singing classic lyrics, and, with her anticipated debut LP coming soon, she’s ready to make her name known in music as well.
“What I want people to know is that I got into acting through singing first, and I was lucky to have this platform to get myself out there,” Ramirez, 23, told FIERCE from Los Angeles, where we chatted on the phone.
The Houston-born, Sugar Land, Texas-raised talent first captivated audiences when she was just 10 years old. Appearing on Showtime at the Apollo, where she performed a powerful rendition of Dreamgirl’s “I Am Changing,” then-host Sinbad predicted that she would release an album in the years to come. In September, Ramirez dropped her first single for the prophesied record, “Bad Boys,” a playful pop-R&B earworm about falling for someone you know isn’t any good for you.
“I probably should find a nice guy. White picket fence, play it safe. You know I gave it a good try. They just don’t touch me the same,” she sings seductively over a candied tropical beat.
In the forthcoming untitled album, the Colombian-Mexican beauty, who is signed to the New York indie label Tribeca Music Group, promises to delve deeper than her 2016 EP “Discreet,” getting more personal, especially when it comes to relationships.
Raw honesty is expected from the artist. Off the TV screen and on the cellphone screen, Ramirez is celebrated for keeping it real. On social media, it’s not unusual to catch her getting into hilarious shenanigans or rapping along to hip-hop chart-toppers, all efforts, she says, to encourage her followers to embrace their truest and wackiest selves. Whether singing or acting, her hope is to empower younger generations to love themselves, trust themselves and believe in themselves so that they, like her, can make their wildest dreams a reality.
We spoke with Ramirez about her exciting new music, falling for bad boys, creating stereotype-busting media portrayals of Latinas and her passion to inspire girls to be bold, dream big and work hard.
Q: While most people know you for your role as Mariana on The Fosters, you’re not just an actress, you’re also a talented singer who is starting to push out more original songs. When did you realize you were able to sing and thought this was something you wanted to really pursue?
My dad was the one who realized it. When I was 6 or 7, he told my mom, “I think Cierra can sing,” and she was like, “all kids can sing,” and he was like, “no, I think she can really sing.” I was super passionate. They helped me find a vocal coach. I always remember putting on performances for guests. I just loved it!
Q: Aww! That’s a really sweet story. You grew up in a Colombian-Mexican home in Sugar Land, Texas. What sort of music were you listening to at home with your family or out with your friends and how do you think this has influenced your R&B-pop style today?
I mean, growing up in a Mexican-Colombian household, there was a lot of Spanish music, a lot of Marc Anthony, Luis Miguel, all the greats. But my dad was actually the start of my love for music. His album collection is insane. He drove me to school, playing everything you can think of: Norah Jones, the Beastie Boys, everything. I loved it all, especially Etta James and Patsy Cline. Growing up in Texas, I loved country music, Brenda Lee. Even big Broadway shows. I just loved everyone, especially if they had a big, soulful voice.
Q: Several actresses have attempted to break into music, some like Jennifer Lopez and Demi Lovato, finding lots of success, and 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, especially while you’re still doing so much and excelling in your acting career?
It’s definitely a hard transition because of that. What I want people to know is that I got into acting through singing first, and I was lucky to have this platform to get myself out there. The music industry is hard to get into regardless, so I’m just happy to have my platform and fan base, and hopefully my love and passion shines through with the music I put out. This is my first love.
Q: Your latest single, “Bad Boys,” is a song I feel most hetero women can relate to: falling for a guy who you know isn’t good for you, who’s likely going to break your heart, but you just can’t help it. Why did you want to talk about this?
I mean, it’s just like, what is it about them that makes them so magnetic? It’s relatable. You know the person you should go for, the one who will treat you right, but there’s something more exciting about the bad boy, all the fun and games. Personally, I love the bad boys, but I also want someone who is very good to me. For this song, I just thought it was a fun idea.
Q: Gah! Sadly, I know all too well what you mean. When you do find yourself feelin’ someone you know isn’t going be good for you, what do you do: cautiously pursue it or try to resist the temptation?
I definitely am cautious. I think I get really excited about the chase, so I think that goes hand and hand with the bad boy, because they’re harder to get and it’s more exciting. But I am more cautious with my heart — you have to be.
Q: Definitely! I know you’ve been in the studio, working on your forthcoming album. What can you tell us about this project: title, topics touched, genres explored, release date?
We don’t have a title for it yet. We are in the process of deciding what makes it. I worked on a lot. They are all so good, and I love them all in there own way. It’s something I think people haven’t heard from me. My first EP was more urban than this is. This is urban pop, but more on the pop side, and I’m excited for people to hear it. I worked with amazing producers and writers. I’m just really excited for the world to hear it.
Q: What sort of themes are you exploring?
Relationships, for sure. There’s a lot of fun songs as well. This is more personal, I think, than my first EP.
Q: You’re a major hip-hop head, often rapping in your Instagram videos and even hat-tipping to Mase’s “Feel So Good” in “Bad Boys.” Can we expect to hear any collabs with rappers?
I sure am! Hopefully, yes. That’s definitely a plan. I’m a big hip-hop head.
Q: Who would be some of your dream collaborations?
Obviously, I would love me some Cardi B. She is definitely one of my faves. I love me some Champagne Papi. I’m such a fan. But I’m a fan of everyone. I really love the music scene right now. But it’s all about girl power, so I’m in the Cardi camp. To work with a fellow Latina would be awesome.
Q: Do you have a release date?
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My lipgloss is poppin???? no but forreal shoutout to my lil bb sister @savannahramirez (@_makeupsavvy_ is her makeup IG) who killed it on my makeup for this shoot. I loved being your canvas???? and @rileytaylor you just continue to amaze me as I scroll thru these pics????
Not yet, but sometime in the near future.
Q: You have a ton on your plate right now, from starring in and executive producing Good Trouble, to voicing the first queer Latina superheroine America Chavez to this album. First, congratulations because you’re killing it and also offering representation our community has long needed. But also, this is a lot, and yet you still manage to always look on point and have a blast with your friends and family. How do you find balance?
Thank you, first off. I think what keeps me going and driven is that I love what I do. Not a lot of people are as lucky to say that, but I’m blessed to say that I wake up and do what I love every morning, and, because of that, it doesn’t feel like work.
Q: But, I’m sure, it’s still a lot. Do you have self-care practices you can share with our readers, who, like you, are also hustlin’ and bustlin’ Latina badasses?
I’m super close to my family, and that keeps me going. When things get tough or I feel crazy, I call my mom and talk to her about everything and she wakes me up and brings me back to life. Having a good base, whoever that is for you, someone you can talk to and vent to is a plus. But also remembering self-love. Something I’m super into right now is skincare. I love taking that time for myself and getting back to who I am. It helps when you have a busy or crazy schedule. Having “me time” will keep you sane.
Q: Definitely! My morning and evening skincare routines are moments of intentional self-adoration, so I get that. One of the projects keeping you busy right now is “Marvel Rising.” What can you tell us about your anticipated role as America Chavez?
First, it’s an amazing role and I’m so excited to be a part of this series. In general, but also for Marvel Rising, it’s a new generation of superheroes, and they come from all walks of life. What really excites me about this series is, growing up, I didn’t have the superhero I related to or that looked like me. So this is beautiful, being able to reach a demographic of young girls, and being someone they can relate to onscreen, having them see themselves in all shapes, colors and sizes. American Chavez, she’s a sassy Latina and one of the first LGBTQ superheros as well. She has superhuman strength, flies, she can do it all. She’s a loner at the beginning. She’s very hard-headed and stubborn and knows who she is, but she grows with the help of her friends. It’s all about the team work.
Q: From America Chavez to Mariana Adams Foster, you take on multifaceted, multicultural and empowering characters. Why?
It’s who I am. I’m so proud of where I come from, and because of that, I’m careful about what I portray on the screen. At the end of the day, what I love to do is be a part of something that gets people talking and spreads awareness. But what I’ve always come across growing up acting is I would audition for roles as the maid’s daughter or the gardener’s daughter. I never wanted to go through with those because we are so much more than just those stories. We have more stories to tell. These are the characters I want to be, and I’m really excited about it and passionate about who I am and my culture. That’s a big decision in all of my acting roles and social media.
Q: Talking about social media, what would you say is your overall message to girls, particularly for girls of color, who, as you know, are often bombarded with discouraging, rather than encouraging, messages and depictions?
Thank you, that’s a compliment. Social media is a weird thing. People can really get discouraged seeing the highlights of other people’s lives. They need to remember that most people are only putting out what they want you to see. I try to break that. In my instastories, I’m unapologetically myself. If people think I’m weird, that’s cool, ‘cause I am. Don’t be afraid to be unapologetically yourself. Don’t be afraid to hear no. You will hear a lot of nos, but each one will bring you closer to your yes. If you believe in a dream and are passionate, you can do it big. The only person holding you back is yourself.
Q: Love it! You’re just 23 years old, blossoming in your music and acting careers. In a few years, what do you hope people can say about Cierra Ramirez?
Great question! I hope I can inspire young girls to live out their passions and dreams. I hope people love my music. I hope I have a few movies under my belt. I want my music to be out there, so I’m really excited about this.