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Up Next: Meet Kim Viera, The Nuyorican Powerhouse Singer Soaring Over Tropical Beats

Courtesy of Kim Viera

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

Kim Viera is a star — but don’t take it from us. That’s what Daddy Yankee told the rising Nuyorican vocalist when he worked with Viera on her debut single, “Como.”

The hit, a tropical treat about a paradisal romance that features the Big Boss, dropped last July, garnering more than 25 million views on YouTube. Since then, fans of the Bronx-born artist have been hungry for more. Lucky for them, Viera is holding on to enough musical goodies to feed their appetite all year long.

Most recently, the singer, who is signed to Republic Records, released “Here For Ya,” a playful jam that flips Ghost Town DJs’ classic “My Boo” beat into an anthem for every girl who was ever feelin’ someone who was already in a relationship.

“It’s not about pursuing anything. It’s not about taking another woman’s man. It’s more like how you are feeling in your head, what you’d want to do with that person if the situation was different,” Viera says of the banger.

We chatted with the rising act about her musical upbringing, her varied sound, her long journey to the spotlight, working with Daddy Yankee, new music and more.

FIERCE: You’ve described your sound as American Latina. What does that mean to you?

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rehearsal flow.

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Kim Viera: I was born in New York, in the Bronx, and I always had my heritage. It was strongly a part of my life. But I also grew up with American culture. That also influenced who I am as an artist. For me, basically, I always felt like I was somewhere in the middle of my culture and American culture. It’s American Latina. The first culture I knew aside from my own is American. I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. I learned that as I got older. American Latina is a new generation of Latinas who experience culture different. It’s the third-generation types. I was born in the states, and my parents were also born in the states.

FIERCE: Who were your biggest musical influences, English and Spanish, and how do you think they’ve influenced this “American Latina” vibe you embrace?

Kim Viera: I definitely listened to everything. I love Selena, Marc Anthony, La India, J Lo as well as the large voices of Christina Aguilera and Mariah. They all had an influence on me as an artist. Growing up and seeing people who look and sound like you or have similar stories as you was encouraging for me as a little girl. That influenced me to feel like I was OK. They don’t speak the language either, but they love their culture like I do. I wanted to learn more. If they could do it, then I could, too. So it influenced me to push myself to do the same thing I saw artists I love do. I took some of the things they went through in their journey and applied it to my own and how I approach struggles. For instance, Marc Anthony didn’t speak Spanish, and he learned and became one of the best salseros of all time. Selena and J Lo didn’t either, and they’re Latin icons. Seeing them break through these cultural barriers was very helpful for me.

FIERCE: You grew up in a musical home. Your dad launched, owned and operated a live production company, and your mom sang backup for major Latin acts like Willie Colón and Rubén Blades. That’s really dope! When did you realize that you wanted to follow in your parents’ footsteps and pursue music professionally as well?

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I just wanna ride witchu 🏎❣️

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Kim Viera: I’ve always wanted to do music since I was little. I was always naturally an entertainer since a little girl. I decided I wanted to do it professionally or as a career when I was a teenager. At times, it seems like you have the talent but dreams still seem so far away because it takes so much to get to that place. Opportunities started popping up, and I was like, if I don’t take them now, I may not get them again. So I went for it. There were people who took me under their wing as an artist and songwriter, who helped teach me and help me grow. I started getting in the room with the right people. It’s been a whirlwind, but I realized early that I wanted to do music. I just didn’t know if it was attainable or not.

FIERCE: This is a difficult, brutal and in many ways insecure industry, which I’m sure your parents were aware of. Knowing this firsthand, were they concerned about your musical pursuits, hoping you’d do something more “stable” instead, as many Latinx parents do when their children profess interest in the arts, or did they fully embrace and support this decision?

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On the rocks, no chaser. #miami #ipromiseimworking

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Kim Viera: It was a split decision with my family, or my parents. They’ve done this before. They were always supportive of me and what I wanted, but they wanted the best for me and were scared for me, because there’s a lot of rejection, a lot of nos before yeses, a lot of hard work with no payoff. You really have to love what you do. They were always concerned about me finding a way to make a living and how I would be perceived. My dad was like “go for it,” and my mom, who was a singer, was more hesitant because she had a deeper understanding of what you’re up against as an artist and also saw how I reacted to rejection as a child. She saw me go through auditions as a kid and not understand why I was getting rejected. But I had to show her that’s how I reacted as a kid because I was a kid, and I’m older and smarter now.  

FIERCE: You started off songwriting, including for major acts like Lil Wayne, before landing your own deal with Republic Records three years ago. A lot of young aspiring artists think big breaks and fame come overnight, which is actually very rarely the case. Talk to me about hustle, about your grind in this industry that’s taking you from working in the background to becoming the star of your own show?

Kim Viera: It’s taken me so many years to get where I’m at: sleepless nights and a lot of sacrifices with friends and family. When you are young, you want to hang with friends but you can’t do that when you are trying to strive for a dream. I sacrificed a lot of my own money to invest in myself. I spent years writing very crappy songs to get to good ones. There were so many nos, so many doors closed. It was about eight years of that, constantly going and going, nights you don’t sleep because you’re editing videos you need to put out the following day for content. You are sleeping and breathing what you’re working toward till you get there. Then you get there and think you can relax more, but you actually have to work hard to keep it. It’s definitely not an overnight situation. People don’t know who you are or your story or situation. They just think this person came out of nowhere. Some people do pop off in a year. Every journey is different. But it’s very hard and you have to try to not get discouraged and just keep pushing through. If you don’t enjoy the journey, then you won’t enjoy the destination.

FIERCE: Last year, you get on everyone’s radar with your hit “Como” featuring Daddy Yankee. What was it like working with the boss, one of the originators of urbano music, so early in your own career?

Kim Viera: It’s really cool. Freaking amazing is what it was. We had the song. I wrote it like a year before, and he had heard it through a close friend of mine, who was one of his stylists. He was playing it for him at a shoot, and Yankee heard it and kept singing it over and over. He said he thought it was catchy. His stylist told him, “that’s my girl Kim.” The conversation started there. At that time, I didn’t have a record deal. He ended up hearing it again and asked my friend if I was signed yet. At that time I was. He was just like, “I want to jump on it.” This all happened organically, just because my friend was showing love. Next thing you know, I’m in Puerto Rico shooting a music video with Daddy Yankee.

FIERCE: Wow. That’s an amazing story! You have to love community. What was it like working with Daddy Yankee?

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Agradecida. 🙏🏼 #Como #kimviera #daddyyankee

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Kim Viera: Exactly. It was crazy. I can’t explain it. It was wow. The word to describe it would be surreal. I remember listening to his music growing up. Then I’m on set with him and he’s like, “Kim, you look like a star. You look beautiful.” My heart sank. Like, wow, my first record being signed with Republic and I’m in Puerto Rico shooting my first major video with a legend, Daddy Yankee, whose music I would dance to in my car as a kid with my friends. Now I’m standing next to him shooting a video. It goes to show your dreams really can happen and sometimes God has better plans for you than you have for yourself. It was one of the best days of my life, and I’m so grateful and humbled.

FIERCE: Most recently you dropped “Here For Ya.” Like “Como,” this is a fun, upbeat song about a lighthearted romance or affair. How do you want people, particularly women, who listen to these songs to feel?

Kim Viera: I mean, this song is about someone you are interested in that’s taken already. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a lighthearted thing. I think a lot of girls can relate to being attracted to someone and then being like, damn, they have a girl. That’s what it is, a feel-good, summer, retalateble record.

FIERCE: That is hella relatable. And it’s not like you’re going to pursue anything with this person, just highlighting that feeling of, “damn, why you ain’t single, dawg?”

Kim Viera: Right. It’s real shit. It’s not about pursuing anything. It’s not about taking another woman’s man. It’s more like how you are feeling in your head, what you’d want to do with that person if the situation was different.

FIERCE: Before “Here for Ya,” you released “Never Listen,” which had a much different sound. This wasn’t a playful, dance, pop song. Rather, this was a slowed-down, raw ballad about the pain, rather than joy, of romance. Artists today, in many ways, don’t have genre or thematic constraints that existed just a couple decades ago. How do you think this allows you to be a more authentic and better artist?

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D&G 🌶 #vmas2018

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Kim Viera: I never really put constraints on myself in terms of what I should sound like to people. I try to be truthful in my music and aesthetic. In my writing, sometimes it shows up differently in the way it sounds, thematically or genre wise. I think, for me, before I listened to so many different types of music growing up and that diversity made me different because I don’t put constraints on my creativity. I like to take people on different journeys musically. I don’t think every song has to sound the same. I don’t need to be in a box. I can be Kim. People can be multifaceted, and that’s how I am with my music. I love those things that make me different. People should embrace difference.

FIERCE: You have dropped back-to-back songs that bang, undeniably, over the course of a year. What can we expect next from Kim Viera? What are you working on that you’re excited about and can tell us about?

Kim Viera: I’m dropping another record in the next month or so with a huge a feature.  I can’t say who just yet, but it’s a major feature. And I have my EP coming out at the top of the summer. You’ll have that by the beginning of summer. I’m working on projects and doing a lot more shows, possibly a tour. But I’m working on some dates to make people more familiar with me. I have a body of work people can live with for the summer.

FIERCE: That sounds so exciting. You are at the start of your career and it’s already looking very bright. In 10 to 15 years, what do you hope people can say about Kim Viera?

Kim Viera: I just hope that people would say a few things, see that I was a person who broke barriers for young girls in this music industry, culturally but not just for my own culture. I want to show that you don’t have to fit a mold. You’re enough as you are. That I am a person who tried and cares about people and really touches people. That’s what I care about.

Listen to Kim Viera’s latest song “Here for Ya” below.

Read: Up Next: The Emerging Orlando Puerto Rican Singer-Rapper Ballin’ With Bad Bunny, Anuel AA And Becky G

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Pepe Aguilar Is Spreading Norteña Culture Across The US In Sold Out Venues And We Stan Hard

Entertainment

Pepe Aguilar Is Spreading Norteña Culture Across The US In Sold Out Venues And We Stan Hard

Pop music is far more complex and deeper than Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift (no offence, ladies). In a multicultural society like the United States, we have to rethink what we consider as mainstream. This term is generally used for artists whose work is consumed by Anglo audiences. Think about it, an African-American rapper “breaks into the mainstream” when white folk start paying attention, right? Otherwise, the artist is just “niche”. That is why we gotta reconsider what “mainstream” means when it comes to Latino artists and shows. 

Which brings us to Pepe Aguilar, perhaps one of the most popular singers in the planet and who is taking Mexico and the United States by storm with his Mexican rodeo extravaganza “Jaripeo Sin Fronteras”. The show brings together charreria, songs and a good doses of good old Mexican pride. 

So who is Pepe Aguilar? (as if you didn’t know, right?) 

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

His full name is José Antonio Aguilar Jiménez and he is Mexican-American as it comes. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, while his parents were on tour. He was raised in Zacatecas, where he first became a rock musician and had a band called Equs, which was influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd and The Who! Can you imagine that? Well, one thing led to another and he ended up going back to his Mexican roots and becoming one of the best-selling ranchera acts of all time. 

He is, of course, the son of the late great Tony Aguilar.

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

Pepe Aguilar has ranchera en la sangre. He is the son of Antonio Aguilar and Flor Silvestre, two legendary musicians in their own right. Tony Aguilar was also a strong presence in the Mexican film industry. Aguilar senior recorded over 150 albums, which sold over 25 million copies. Can you get more mainstream than that? Well, Pepe is making sure that the family legacy lives on. 

Introducing Jaripeo Sin Fronteras!

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

This amazing show has Pepe Aguilar as the lead, but includes acts by his kids Angela (what a voice on this lady!), Leonardo and Antonio Aguilar Jr. Marichis and rodeo acts are also included of course! The show is touring non-stop in 2019 in both sides of the border, bringing a message of unity. Just look at what they did in Mexico City.

Let’s not forget that for the Aguilar family showbiz is like second nature.

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

The show just flows like the musical blood that runs through those Aguilar veins. This is Pepe with his brother, perhaps the only Aguilar not deep into showbiz! In an interview for CE Noticias Financieras, Guadalupe Pineda, the famous Mexican singer and Pepe’s cousin, says of him: “Pepe is a great dad, he’s doing the best for every one of his kids. As an aunt, you simply know and feel that we can all be wrong and that the boy is very young and has every right in the world to get ahead”. 

So, of course, the show includes the next generation of Aguilar talent!

Credit: Instagram. @angelicaguilar_mxfan

Angela Aguilar followed the family tradition of being born while on tour. She came into the world in Los Angeles while her mother was accompanying Pepe Aguilar on tour. And you can tell that musical talent is there. Her version of “Shallow” is enough to make anyone cry! And she had Lady Gaga’s blessing, as Angela said in the Mexican TV show Ventaneando: “Suddenly I’m playing the piano trying to practice and concentrate. Lady Gaga said yes, practice, you’re going to sing it. Oh, my God, I’m going to die! I mean, Lady Gaga knows who I am is like. wow!”.

The show includes all sorts of equine acts, and the horses are quite unique.

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

Some of the amazing horses in the show are shaved by the amazing Rob Ferrell, a barber who is so dexterous with the blade he is able to imprint a Mexican aguila y serpiente on the equine’s skin. You can look at his work (on human and horse surfaces!) here: https://www.instagram.com/robtheoriginal/  

The show has been a sold-out in localities North and South of the Border.

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

Look at the Honda Center in Anaheim: un lleno total, carajo! Pepe Aguilar is a consummate businessman and he knows that every city is slightly different. He explained the concept to Billboard: “It’s basically a modular concept, where you can change the pieces. The fundamental parts are the horse shows and the Mexican traditions. In some cities we’ll have special guests, in others, only the family is going to perform”. There are still some dates available this year: 

September 20 — Atlanta, Georgia @ Infinite Energy Center

September 22 — Chicago, Illinois @ Allstate Arena

September 27 — Tacoma, Washington @Tacoma Dome

Even if you are not a fan of ranchera culture, you have to admit the show is quite spectacular: the whole Aguilar family makes an appearance, look at Leonardo riding that horse.

Credit: YouTube. @STO

Leonardo is the latest success story in “La Dinastía Aguilar”. He has been nominated for two Latin Grammys despite his tender age: only 20 and he is already a great act. He released his first record when he was only 12-years-old, Nueva Tradición, a collaboration with his sister Angela.

And of course Pepe Aguilar has been super amazing with fans, because that is just who he is.

Credit: YouTube / Los Angeles Times

You don’t get to be on top and stay on top without being an approachable and kind celebrity. Pepe Aguilar knows well who pays his wages: the millions of fans that love him and his multi talented family. 

And of course Mexican cities are embracing the show with sold out venues.

Credit: Instagram. @pepeaguilar_oficial

Jaripeo sin Fronteras has had a huge appeal in Mexico, which tells us that being “Mexican” goes beyond national borders. No one cares Pepe Aguilar was born in the United States: we share one identity and one heart. 

So can haters admit Mexican culture is mainstream now?

Credit: YouTube / Los Angeles Times

Jaripeo sin Fronteras has performed in the main arenas of almost every major city in the United States. See what we meant with rethinking what mainstream means?

And yeah, those are some of the most beautiful caballitos we have ever seen.

Credit: YouTube / Los Angeles Times

Just look at those ojitos pispiretos, beautiful beasts. And as Billboard reports, no animals are harmed, so worry not: “Pepe, who rides several of his Andalusian horses in his own equestrian performance, also specifies that no animals are hurt during this tour”. 

Say ‘Goodbye’ To Dishwashers And Bedrooms: A List Of Things You Shouldn’t Expect To See In A Small NYC Apartment

Entertainment

Say ‘Goodbye’ To Dishwashers And Bedrooms: A List Of Things You Shouldn’t Expect To See In A Small NYC Apartment

Television shows like Friends and Sex and the City lead you to believe that every NYC apartment is spacious and affordable, equipped with plenty of space on an affordable price tag. Unfortunately, the reality is a bit harsher. Between landlords’ strict rental qualifications, exorbitant broker fees, and sky-high rental prices, your apartment options are pretty narrow in the end. Usually, by the time you find an apartment that’s within your budget range, you’re left with a group of apartments that are affectionately called “cozy” (i.e. shoe-boxes). But not to despair! There are plenty of shoe-box apartments in New York City that are both highly livable and adorable. 

Still, if you’re one of the thousands of people that move to New York City each year from small towns, the reality of small-apartment life in the big city can nonetheless be jarring. The things you’ve taken for granted in your rural-America homes can now seem like downright luxuries. So, in order to soften the blow, we’ve compiled a list of all of the things you shouldn’t expect to see in a small New York City apartment. Take a look below for a friendly reality-check! It might make all the difference. 

1. A Dishwasher

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a small apartment anywhere in New York City in which the kitchen was equipped with a dishwasher. If you’re planning to live in the Big Apple on a budget, you better get used to cleaning those dirty dishes the old fashioned way: with a bit of elbow grease. 

2. A Closet

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Some newbies are shocked when they start apartment-hunting in the City That Never Sleeps and they discover that a chunk of smaller apartments don’t even have closets. On the bright side, if you do opt for a closet-less apartment, you can use it as an opportunity to use your clothes as decor. Just make sure your clothes are worthy of being displayed…

3. Counter Space

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If you’re a cooking enthusiast and you’re looking to rent a small apartment in New York City, be warned: it is a rarity to find a kitchen with plenty of counter space. A lot of small NYC kitchens have two tiny slabs of counter space on either side of the sink. It’s a pain in the butt, and many people avoid cooking and relying on feeding themselves through takeout and TV dinners. Welcome to the New York way of life!

4. Elevators

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There are a ton of smaller apartment buildings in New York City that don’t have elevators. At all. This is especially unfortunate for handicapped apartment-hunters who are forced to constrain their search to buildings with the proper accommodations. It’s unfair, to say the least.

5. Outdoor Space

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Yes, we’ve all dreamed of having our very own apartment with an adorable veranda where we can entertain friends and look at the stars, but the reality is a bit bleaker than that. If your budget is restricting you to a tiny NYC apartment, you’re likely not going to have a cute little balcony. You’ll be lucky if you can swing a window or two!

6. Bathtubs

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If you’re used to winding down at the end of the day by soaking in the tub, the apartment prospects in the Empire City might be a bit jarring for you. Many (if not most) small bathrooms in New York City offer shower-only options. 

7. Plenty of Outlets

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If you’re renting a super-small apartment in NYC, chances are, the building is old. And old buildings are notoriously short on outlets. You’ll likely be forced to buy extension chords and power strips.

9. A Bedroom 

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Yep, you read that correctly. There may be space to put a bed, but there probably won’t be a dedicated room for a bed. Studio apartments are much cheaper and cost-effective housing solution for bargain-hunters.

10. A Dining Area

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If you’re planning on renting a small apartment in New York City, say goodbye to the dream of hosting grown-up dinner parties for your cosmopolitan friends. Small apartments in the city have little-to-no room for dining. In fact, most tiny-apartment-dwellers probably eat on their couch (or, more realistically, their futon). 

11. A Washer and Dryer

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If you currently live in New York City, you know that having a washer and dryer in unit is pretty much a pipe dream. Heck, having a washer and dryer in the apartment building is even a luxury! Many people are forced to slog to the lavanderia to do their laundry with everyone else. What can we say? It’s a jungle out there.