When 21-year-old R&B artist Teenear Renee was a kid, she used to grab her little blue microphone and laptop and hide in her closet to sing and record cover songs of her favorite tunes. But it was when Justin Bieber hosted a contest for fans to write lyrics to the instrumental version of his song, "One Less Lonely Girl," that she discovered she also enjoyed putting her own words to music. "It was in that moment that I realized that this was something that I loved to do," she recalls.
The Miami Lakes native, who goes simply by Teenear, realized she wanted to get her voice out there, so she joined the Praise Team choir at church. In 2013, she became the first woman R&B singer signed to the famed Miami label Slip-n-Slide Records, which launched the careers of Trina, Rick Ross, and Trick Daddy. At the time she joined the label, she was studying musical theater at American Heritage School in Plantation and obsessing over her favorite musical, Grease. She even calls her fans "Teebirds," in honor of the T-Birds gang of greasers in the film.
Teenear was thrilled to link up with Slip-n-Slide, which is evolving and growing. "You really don't know what to expect," she says of the new generation of artists signed to the label. "It's definitely a family and we all stick together and people should be excited about what we create." For her part, Teenear kicked off her career with the single "Friday Night," featuring Sage the Gemini, which she co-wrote with Atlanta producer Anthony Franks. Six years later, she has 64,000 followers on Instagram and more than half a million hits on each of her songs on YouTube. But Teenear is dreaming big. "I aspire to be more than an R&B singer," she says. She's long admired pop divas like Brandi, Aaliyah, Britney Spears, and Mariah Carey. However, her greatest inspirations are Michael Jackson and Beyonce. "They grew up at a young age in this career and they created something so much bigger than music for themselves. They created a brand and at the end of the day, that's my ultimate goal, to create a brand that's much bigger than my life itself, so that when I'm gone, people still remember me for what I did here."
The next step in building her empire will likely include acting jobs and getting more involved in the production process. At a recent writing camp, working with producers from Atlanta, Teenear was inspired to lay down her own tracks. "I haven't been able to touch that part of my creativity yet, but I plan on it," she says.
As a kid, the singer says she was chubby and lost 20-plus pounds at a fitness camp where she learned how to cook, exercise, and stay active in a fun way. "That was a changing moment for me because that's a lot of weight for a child. It built my confidence up," she says. "I want to be able to do that for other people." That's why she's deeply involved in efforts around National Childhood Obesity Month each September. "I just want to be somebody that people look at as a healthy young girl who's not only active, but also following her dreams and being herself," she says.
To stay fit for her touring schedule, she wakes up every morning at 6 and works out with her mother, who is her constant companion. While these workouts have become one of Teenear's hobbies, she's also an active baker; you may find her whipping up a chocolate ganache cake or decorating cookies on a Saturday night. "I'm obsessed with chocolate," she admits.
As part of her road gigs, Teenear is headed to Atlanta to perform at the A3C Festival, October 8 through 13, where she'll premiere her single, "Dolla $igns." The artist says the song is about female empowerment. "It's not your typical storyline," she says. "It's pretty much about me — I'm on my grind, I'm out there working. Of course, my work always comes first, [but] at the end of the day, I'm thinking of you, I'm going to come to you soon. But I'm going to do what I have to do to get my life right and my money right."
Though she's headed out on the road, her life and work are based in the city that fuels her creativity. "Miami itself influences me," she says. "Everyone's just very creative here. You go down to Wynwood, you see people's art. That in itself is inspiring. Seeing other people put themselves out there, really putting their all in what they love, it's what helps me have the confidence to do the same."
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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.