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Up Next: Meet Angelica Vila, The New York Dominicana Behind The Ladies’ Jam Of The Spring

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

Sixteen years ago, Lumidee dropped the spring 2003 banger “Never Leave You,” rousing girls in blocks around the country to sing “uh, uh, uh-oh.” In 2019, as the sounds of ‘00s-inspired R&B make a resurgence, another New York Latina singer is behind this spring’s chant: Angelica Vila, who’s got us crooning we want “more and more and more.”

With over one million views on YouTube in less than one month, Vila’s “More in the Morning,” an infectious song that brags about her man’s sexual prowess, is already proving to be a hit. The Cool & Dre-produced track, which samples Shyne’s 2001 song “Bonnie & Shyne,” that itself a sample of Grace Jones’ 1977 cover of “La Vie en Rose,” can be heard across radios in the Northeast as it makes its way throughout the nation.

“Just be who you are. You shouldn’t be afraid to be comfortable in your own skin,” Vila, 20, says of the autonomy she displays in the sensually-choreographed video for “More in the Morning.”

The song is the Bronx dominicana’s first major release since signing a deal with Roc Nation, after being discovered by Fat Joe, in 2018 and is the introduction to an EP she hopes to release later this year.

We chatted with Vila about being a part of R&B’s comeback, how the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana both inspired and resembled her own childhood, lessons from her mentor Fat Joe and what to expect from the emerging Latina singer.

FIERCE: You started singing at a very young age and wrote your first song “Out the Rooftops” when you were as little as 7 years old. What was it about music that brought you in and convinced you, even as a child, that this is what you needed to be doing?

Angelica Vila: I don’t know. I was just singing since I was a very young girl. I usually just say 7 because that’s what I remember. My mom says I’ve been singing since I was a baby. It’s something I picked up, stood with me and grew a passion for. When I was 10, I started doing YouTube videos with my uncle. My uncle is my manager. He started managing me when I was doing the videos. Nothing was established then, but that’s how I sort of got into the business.

FIERCE: You grew up in a Dominican home in the Bronx. What sort of music were you listening to, which artists were you obsessed with, and how do you think these genres and vocalists influenced your own style today?

Angelica Vila: Growing up, my mother used to play a lot of Alicia Keys, a lot of Selena and Whitney Houston. My sister is 25, and I was also always listening to her playlists and loved her songs by artists who were more popular at the time. I also had my own favorites, like Hannah Montana. I was inspired by all of it.

FIERCE: Haha! I’m older than you and also loved Hannah Montana. But let’s talk about that because growing up, I know you resonated with this character because, as you were trying to maintain a normal childhood, you, like her, were also trying to realize your own musical dreams. This is really interesting to me (and would have probably made a dope show, too haha). What was it like being the Bronx’s own Latina Hannah Montana?

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It’s all in the eyes 😉

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Angelica Vila: It was easy for me. I didn’t really think about that stuff. I was just doing what came natural to me, organically, that was my goal. My first performance was at a St. Jude charity event. When I was singing, I felt connected with the crowd. They were singing along with me. The first song I sang was “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. Kids at the event were touched by it. It was beautiful.

FIERCE: A few years later, your covers of artists like Adele, Jay Z, Justin Bieber and DJ Khaled caught the attention of Fat Joe, who signs you to his label in partnership with Roc Nation three months later. Tell me, what was this like for you?

Angelica Vila: I was just about to take a Skechers job when Pretty Lou posted my freestyle of “Wild Thoughts” on Instagram. Fat Joe sees it and tells Lou he wants to meet me. When we met, I played him three songs. His first advice to me was, you can never make the first impression twice. I was like, whoa, I feel the pressure now. A couple months later, I signed with him. I then flew out to Miami, started recording in the studio for two months and a half. I’m really grateful for all of it.

FIERCE: That’s amazing! I feel like Joe is someone who is filled with gems. What’s the most important lesson you think he’s taught you?

Angelica Vila: That one from the first day I met him, you can never make a first impression twice. Now I go into every situation trying to do my best. I don’t think anything is perfect, there’s always room for improvement and learning, but you can and should still give your best.

FIERCE: I want to switch gears to your current music. You recently released the song and video for “More In The Morning.” Congratulations! The lyrics, the vibe, the video, it’s all very sexy. I feel like there’s a musical movement, much like a larger cultural one, of female artists owning their sexuality, refusing to be the object in some man’s song and, instead, taking autonomy over their own bodies and desires. I love it! How do you think this could be empowering for other women in their own sexual lives?  

Angelica Vila: Just be who you are. You shouldn’t be afraid to be comfortable in your own skin. A lot of women are coming into the industry and we are starting to get that equality now. I think before there was a lot of men, but more women are speaking up, doing what they believe in and having a voice.

FIERCE: R&B is experiencing a sort of resurgence right now with artists like Kehlani and Ella Mai killing it in the charts in ways we haven’t seen for a minute. How do you think you stand out as the genre regains popularity?

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Boss B*tch got game huh? 🕶 glam @dvglam

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Angelica Vila: I think in a way that’s not so much in terms of the music. My personality is very bubbly, and maybe that shines through. But, musically, I’m really inspired by Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, so I think you might hear some of that.

FIERCE: I know you are currently working on your first project under Roc Nation. What can you tell us about this?

Angelica Vila: The project is done, but I don’t want to say too much about it. The concept I created for it is really creative. People will really connect with it when it’s out. There are six songs on the project. There’s no date yet, but we are working on it. I have a music video and another single dropping.

FIERCE: You are 20, at the start of your career. What do you want the people to say about Angelica Vila in 10 to 15 years from now?

Angelica Vila: She’s my role model. I want to be somebody’s role model and inspiration. The way I fangirl about Beyoncé is how I want people to fangirl over me.

Read: Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

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FAFSA Put A Latina On Notice After She Posted Her Lavish Prom Video That People Read Too Much Into

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FAFSA Put A Latina On Notice After She Posted Her Lavish Prom Video That People Read Too Much Into

In late March, 17-year-old high school student Lizbeth Rivas opted to have a video taken of her prom experience, instead of traditional photos. In the prom video, Rivas appears to be living the high life. She dances to the song “Clout” by Offset and Cardi B, models her expensive-looking white prom dress, and flashes a luxury Mercedes-Benz with her crew of friends. To any of her followers, it looked like Rivas was living a life of privilege.

Rivas’s video went viral, prompting comments that mentioned the disparity between her lifestyle and those who can’t afford the same prom experience.

One Tweet in particular took off: Twitter user @_Ferrrg responded to the video with a meme that alluded to FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid organization) watching the video and keeping note of Rivas’s extravagant lifestyle.

Although the official FAFSA account was never tagged, FAFSA itself responded through Twitter with a meme of a little boy side-eyeing and sipping a cup of tea. Translated to internet speak?: “We’re watching you“.

Most found the interaction hilarious and it wasn’t long before the response from FASFA went viral.

FASFA’s tweet received over 13K retweets and 48K likes. Though many users found the interaction funny, some expressed concern Rivas would have trouble with financial aid.

According to Rivas she is just an average student struggling to make ends meet like anyone else.

Rivas revealed that the videographer of the high-quality video wasn’t an expensive professional they hired, but a talented friend-of-a-friend. “We wanted to do something different and memorable to us,” Rivas explained to mitú. “I honestly did not think it was going to blow up like how it did on Twitter nor was I looking for attention.”

Rivas went on to state that she paid for her luxurious-looking prom from money she earned at her job at the mall. “People started speculating that my parents paid all this money,” Rivas said. “When in reality, I have a whole job that I was saving up checks since December”.

According to Rivas, people on Twitter have made wrong assumptions about her financial situation.

FAFSA’s response prompted Rivas’s initial Tweet to go even more viral, putting Rivas in fear of receiving the financial aid she sorely needs.

“How [FAFSA] responded made me upset because that just fueled more people and their misconstrued opinions,” Rivas said. According to Rivas, her parents are neither in the financial situation to give her an expensive prom experience nor in the situation to pay out-of-pocket for her college tuition.

Rivas worries now that the viral video and its response could damage her access to financial aid for college, as well as her dreams of going to art school.

Rivas revealed that due to her financial situation, she’s looking at public universities for a college education. “I wanted to go to art school but it’s really expensive so I’m just looking at public universities,” Rivas says.

This ordeal brings up a larger conversation about privilege, the performance of wealth that many participate in (regardless of their financial status) and the crisis younger Americans are currently facing when it comes to paying for higher education.

Hopefully this will be a lesson for everyone not to assume what’s in someone’s bank account based on what they see on that person’s social media–especially when most of what we see on social media rarely represents reality anyway.