One minute, you're posting covers of your favorite artists on YouTube. The next moment, you're sharing the stage with them at the American Airlines Arena.
Instances like this are a rarity, but such was the case for Becky G.
At only age 18, the Mexican-American pop star from Southern California — known as the voice behind "Problem (the Monster Remix)," the theme song featured in the 2012 Sony Pictures Animation flick Hotel Transylvania, and most recently as Valentina Galindo on the Fox TV series Empire — is quickly becoming la estrella mas caliente del momento.
Fame may be the norm for Becky G (whose full name is Rebbeca Marie Gomez) nowadays, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, when the singer was 9, she and her family lost their home in Riverside County, California, and moved into her grandparents' converted garage in Inglewood. From that moment, she was determined to do what she had to do to provide for her family.
When she was of age, she began working part-time jobs, some of which included recording commercials and voice-overs for the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Eventually, though, Becky turned to music. And like any aspiring artist, she shared her talent on YouTube. "I think YouTube is a great platform," she says. "Everyone should take advantage of it and use it in a positive way."
But it was her cover of Kanye West and Jay Z's "Otis" that caught the attention of veteran producer Dr. Luke in 2011 and got her signed to his Sony Music Entertainment imprint, Kemosabe Records. "Meeting Dr. Luke and deciding to sign with him was something that I felt was supposed to happen. I've learned so much along the way," she says.
The rest is history.
As the freshest face of Cover Girl, Becky G has recorded with mega-artists such as Kesha and Pitbull, has toured the country in a coheadlining tour with J Balvin, is working on a debut album, and has even taken on acting roles, much like her aforementioned stint on Empire.
But unlike pop stars who seem to get a case of amnesia the moment the bright lights and cameras turn on, Becky has stuck to her roots. In a 2013 anthem to her hood (and J.Lo cover, who just so happens to be her idol), "Becky From the Block," the chica raps about her hometown love and respect for the fam. And in response to the GOP's anti-immigrant rhetoric and Donald Trump's comments regarding Mexicans earlier this year, the 18-year-old took her pride even further and wrote the song "We Are Mexico."
On November 7, Becky G will be reppin’ Mexico and the Golden State at the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina concert at the American Airlines Arena, where she will be performing alongside Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, and a list of other super estrellas. Just in time for her AAA debut, New Times caught up with Becky via e-mail. Here’s what she had to say about Latinos, growing up, and her hopes on becoming the next J. Lo.
New Times: Thanks for taking the time to chat! Where are you now?
Becky G: I'm back home in LA with my familia, catching up with them and enjoying home cooked meals.
You've been touring with J Balvin. How has that been?
Touring with J was a blast and an experience I will never forget. There were so many highlights on this tour for me. I definitely learned a lot.
Back in 2011, you started recording videos of yourself singing rap covers and posting them on YouTube. Eventually, your work caught the attention of Dr. Luke and now, you're Becky G. If you could retrace your steps, how did that happen?
I believe in destiny and everything happens for a reason. Meeting Dr. Luke and deciding to sign with him was something that I felt was supposed to happen. I've learned so much along the way. I’ve grown as a person and as an artist. It was life changing. I'm forever grateful for my experiences.
Pretty much, you owe your big break to your natural talent, of course, and YouTube. It seems that a lot of younger pop stars, like Justin Bieber, are getting their big break via the internet. Do you think that's becoming the new way record labels are discovering talent?
I think YouTube is a great platform. We are very lucky to have everything we need at our finger tips. Everyone should take advantage of it and use it in a positive way.
While you've become a famous pop star, you haven't lost sight of your roots. In response to anti-immigrant rhetoric and Donald Trump's comments regarding Mexicans earlier this year, you wrote "We Are Mexico." What message did you want to convey?
My song “We Are Mexico” is dedicated to not only Mexican immigrants, but to all immigrants who come to America wanting to have their version of the American dream. I wanted to highlight our hard work and dedication to our families and country. I had a wonderful upbringing full of culture, good values, hard work, passion, and dedication. I felt like many can relate to me in the song. It’s all positive. I don't fight fire with fire, I fight fire with water.
In Miami, the immigrant success story is the story of almost everyone you meet. But that's not the case for the rest of the state, even more so, the rest of the country. As a Latina singer, do you feel it's your duty to not only entertain, but to show how hard working and successful Latinos are?
I have a voice and if I can use my voice not only to sing but in a way to help people connect with me and also grow confidence, courage, or find their own voice, then I'm all for it. Helping others is always the aim. I admire my grandparents and my parents for their hard work. It inspires me. I would love to do the same for others.
Earlier this month, you played the role of Valentina Galindo on Empire. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, you revealed it was a challenge mainly because you two shared few commonalities. How was your role on the TV show different from your other acting roles?
Having the honor of being on a show like Empire was such a blessing. I had an amazing time with everyone involved and learned a lot. I've always loved acting and I got to have my opportunity playing Valentina who is very different from me in real life. But I love challenges and it was fun playing someone who is very different to me. That's the whole part about acting that I love.
Empire also exposed you to an even larger audience, mainly among the 18 and over crowd. You also recently released "Break a Sweat" which takes on the subject of sex. Would you say your role on Empire and "Break a Sweat" are a reflection of the next step in your career?
I think "Break a Sweat" is a great song. I think my fans love me and know I'm 18 now. Everyone has basically seen me grow not only from a physical aspect, but sonically too. I'm being true to myself and everyone around me by letting things happen organically. I'm just enjoying myself and becoming a young woman at the same time.
You'll be in Miami for the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina. What is the one thing you're the most excited about?
I'm so excited to be at iHeart Fiesta Latina this year. Getting to catch up with great friends and sharing the stage with them will be amazing. It's like a big familia. Everyone will have great energy and I'm ready for a good time!
You've said that you dream of becoming the next J. Lo. You even recorded your own version of "Jenny From the Block" ("Becky From the Block") which again, is an anthem to your roots. J. Lo will also be performing at the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina next week. Will this be your first time meeting her?
Doesn't every Latina want to be the next J. Lo? J. Lo has always been my idol. I could only hope to be blessed like she has been in her career. I've been lucky enough to have met her and she is a wonderful person. She's given me great advice and she's has been nothing but sweet to me. I truly admire her. I'm looking forward to seeing her again and having a blast with her and everyone while I’m there.
How was your first encounter?
When I met her, I was nervous before she walked in. When she stepped foot in the door, she was everything you would expect — she glows and is breathtaking. But she is just as beautiful on the inside. We talked and laughed and she gave me words of advice I will carry with me forever. She is just as human as you and I. She has a wonderful spirit. My highlight was hearing her laugh. Her laugh is so unique and memorable.
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What do you admire the most about her?
I admire her in many ways. She is a very powerful woman who has worked her ass off. She has proven herself in so many ways. A singer, actress, business woman, mother, cultural leader to many. She is Jenny from the block but also Jenny that don't stop! She is about her business and is successful at it. She is a strong woman.
What are you working on next?
Right now I'm working hard to finish my album. I'm touring and have a few surprises cooking in the kitchen. Stay tuned!
iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina With Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Don Omar, Prince Royce, Becky G, and others. Presented by Sprint. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, November 7, at the American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; aaarena.com. Tickets cost $25 to $159 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.