AB Soto Creates Music Celebrating His Mexican Heritage And Sexuality After Not Seeing Representation In Hollywood
AB Soto took the music scene by storm when he released the wildly successful “Cha Cha Bitch” in 2015. The pink debazzled quebradita outfit instantly made AB Soto a fashion icon and a musical phenomenon. His goal was always to blend his Latino culture with his gay identity and turn it all into art. Disappointed with the lack of representation of his community in Hollywood, he made it happen himself and the results speak for themselves. Here’s what AB Soto had to say about his career so far.
Mitú (M): How did you get started in music? When did you break into the scene?
AB Soto (AB): Many people may not know but I studied Fashion Design first and after graduating I worked as a designer for many years. I remember also having a passion for dance, so I started taking professional dance classes in the evenings and weekends. A few months later I signed to a dance agency and booked my first job dancing in a Coca Cola commercial. My agency would send me out for any auditions that were dance related from film to live tours. I remember audition for every major recording artist you could think of, but I never really fit in. I never saw myself represented in Hollywood or in the media. After being frustrated and bored with the industry, I wrote my first song during the Christmas break of 2008. I had so much to say, and I couldn’t wait around for Hollywood to understand my story. I had to tell my own story myself and bring my ideas to life. I immediately went into the studio and recorded my first song, and then filmed my first viral music video shortly after. I started performing in nightclubs that year and started independently touring in 2010. I was able to combine everything I learned as a designer, dancer, choreographer, and performer to tell my own story. I still write, style, direct and produce all my work.
M: You are very active and fun on Instagram. What is it about that social media platform that appealed to you when it comes to sharing your music and sharing things with fans?
AB: Instagram is a fun platform to interact with my audience. It’s a quick way to post and share your work with fans. Although I really wish Instagram would stop censoring artists. With Instagram culture being so “fake” at times, my page is more raw and honest.
M: Who did you look up to and who influenced you when you first started to create your music?
AB: I’ve always been inspired by ’90s music and gay history. Dance music is definitely my favorite genre, especially House music. When I was a kid, my mind would visualize huge dance productions and elaborate costumes/set designs. I grew up listening to Gangsta Rap and Banda music around the house and in my neighborhood. All of these sounds have had a major influence on my upbringing and music style. I’ve always wanted to see more openly gay and Latino artists in all of these genres.
M: What was the hardest social medial lesson you have learned and what did it teach you?
AB: Social media can be fun but I’ve learned not to take things personally. Negative comments say more about the ignorant people posting them than anything else. I like to inspire dialogue with my work but my art is not up for negotiation. I also like to turn the comments section off sometimes, because I’m not really interested in what narrow minds have to say. I create because this is my passion, not for the praise. I also believe that artists and influencers should be a lot more honest as possible. You never know who your truth may inspire.
M: What purpose do you think social media plays in the LGBTQ+ community in terms of building online communities? What do you want your music to do for the listeners and the Latinx LGBTQ+ community?
AB: Visibility is important online but it’s also important to protect our queerness and our community. Being authentic and visible online can inspire others to live their truth. Censorship can make it hard to preserve positive spaces for queerness and those wanting to explore. It’s up to us to maintain and create communities that inspire us to thrive and promote diversity. I hope my music and presence can inspire others to create their own path, to break all the rules, and to follow the road less traveled. Create something new.
M: What is something you wish you could have told your younger self about being gay and coming out?
AB: Be patient. Everything will happen when it’s supposed to happen. Embrace your uniqueness and what makes you different. Remember that we are all looking for acceptance and to be heard. Be kind to yourself, allow yourself time and space to grow.
M: Where do you get inspiration for your music?
AB: I get inspiration from art, personal life experiences, and pop culture. I’ve noticed that I still approach everything like I’m designing a clothing collection. It all just depends on the mood and the overall story. Often times it starts with a lyric and a melody inspired by what is going on around me. Sometimes an item of clothing can inspire a song, or a scene in a movie can also inspire a mood. I’m a visual artist so sometimes the music is just created as a soundtrack for the music video treatment. Each album is a concept and is inspired by a specific mood. I love to dance so the beats are extremely important.
M: How have you grown as a person since coming out and starting your musical career?
AB: I’ve always been an openly gay artist from day one. It was important for me to be unapologetically me since I never saw myself represented in the music industry. As an independent artist, I have learned a lot about the industry and have also developed a thick skin. Being signed to a major record label is not always the best decision for every artist. The music industry only puts us in a box, or a spreadsheet template designed to make dollars. I won’t compromise my vision for the sake of someone else’s profit. How many artists are even happy with their contracts these days? Not many.
M: What has been the most rewarding moment in your musical career?
AB: Touring overseas as an independent artist and meeting so many fans has been the most rewarding. Accomplishing 4 albums and over 27 music videos without the support of a label is something to be proud of. Now can you imagine what I could do with proper funding though? Lol
M: What is something you want your fans to know about how their support has impacted you and your career?
AB: Supporting queer artists is important for our stories to be heard. The appropriation of queerness by record labels sends the wrong message to our queer youth. Supporting authentic queerness creates more opportunities for visibility for our community and future generations. What we choose to support today can leave a huge impact on queer culture.
M: Some people might think that you are being too much or doing the most in celebrating your sexuality through your music. What do you say to people who just don’t understand or approve your unapologetic persona?
AB: My only responsibility as an artist is to be 1000 percent honest. How people view my work is not my problem, I’m only presenting my experiences as raw as possible. Some will be entertained, some will relate, and some will feel uncomfortable, but isn’t that what art is supposed to do?
M: Is there anything you wanted to add about social media or your music that we haven’t discussed?
AB: Each album is a new window into my evolution as a person and artist. I want to invite others to evolve and grow with me, individually and as a community. Let go, expand your mind, feel something new, and just get up and dance sis!