Record Labels Told Her No Because She Was ‘Too Latina’ So She Said Screw It And Created Her Own
LaLa Romero does it all. No, for real, she does. With every endeavor, LaLa takes it upon herself to build something, from the ground up.
This Chicana is an independent artist, soon-to-be founder of her own label, co-founder of her lifestyle brand Bella Doña, and a radio host for Apple’s Beats 1. But it didn’t come easy. When record labels told her there wasn’t a demographic for her music, she created a label herself. Streetwear brands weren’t catering to Latinas, so she and her business partner, Natalia Durazo, started one. “We weren’t in the forefront of the brands that existed, so we created our own,” she says.
mitú met up with LaLa for lunch at Escuela Taqueria in Los Angeles to see what the life of a real life boss looks like.
6:45 a.m. Daily
I’m forced out of bed by my bulldog, Biggie. He scratches at the side of my bed until I open my eyes and tell him good morning.
I do a guided meditation first thing in the a.m. Being quiet and still is really hard for me, so meditating is a serious challenge. Usually, I start off good then move into daydreaming about what I want to eat and completely lose focus. I try to do this daily before I open my emails or social media because once I’m in work mode there’s really no turning back. This guided [routine] is one I do off YouTube; it has you run an inventory of all the things you’re grateful for. I think this is an important way to start your day. All of the most successful, extremely busy [people] I know meditate. I’m hoping I get the hang of it soon and zen my vibe.
I journal daily. I have this Inner Guide planner my mentor gave me as a gift that has changed my life. She is the busiest woman in the music biz, anything she advises me to do, I’m on it. I update this journal every morning; it helps me sort my heart and work for the day.
I walk Biggie to Starbucks and check all my emails. I’m basically juggling three different sectors of my career and brand, so I have to stay really organized or else all hell breaks loose and shit starts falling through the cracks. I spend around 20 minutes each morning in emails for each category: Music stuff with my manager, Beats 1 business with my producers, and Bella Doña with my business partner Natalia – which always turns into gossip sessions, since we are best friends, basically sisters.
The gym is like my therapy. If I skip it, I’m grumpy all day. It sounds corny, but working out gives me a cool, natural high and keeps my anxiety issues at bay. I listen to my Beats 1 show talk breaks from the day before, then listen to Zane Lowe because his show is a roadmap for many things I’ll touch on during [the] request [segment]. I learn so much by listening to him broadcast.
I grab more coffee and walk home. I walk instead of drive because it gives me time to listen to music and vibe in the sunshine. Nature, blooming roses, the fall leaves scattered on the ground all make me feel. I currently have Mac Miller’s new album “The Divine Feminine” in heavy rotation. I mostly get a lot of creative inspiration from heartbreak, so I’m always intrigued when people are in love and write about it’s upside.
I check in and call our Bella Doña assistants. I break down daily objectives and put out any fires. We discuss customer service stuff, etc.
I get ready for my day! I don’t do full hair and makeup daily, so I can then move pretty quick.
I work on Bella Doña early afternoons. I try to go into our office three times a week and take meetings outside the other two days. Designing, photo shoots, styling–all concepts, Natalia and I handle it all except shipping. On Fridays, which is the only day I’m not on air for Beats 1, we do photo shoots.
The brand mimics our life, taste and sense of humor. It’s really hard to pass the baton and hire people to do any of these jobs because no one gets us like us. One of our goals with the brand was to create opportunities for women from the neighborhood. Our office manager Karmen was the president of my MySpace street team back in the day. She did so much for me I vowed to hire her one day when I could afford to. It’s been dope to hire from within our community. Models, photographers, everyone we work with is from our community, and I’m really proud of this.
Our office is filled with music and tacos. It’s a super fun creative environment where everyone is fighting over the aux cord to put each other up on new music or some shit we think the other has never heard. Music is the catalyst of why I started the brand. Bella Doña, all of it, was inspired by my struggles as an indie artist and me trying to find other creative ways to push my music and message.
We have a taco stand on the corner up from our office. We reward ourselves with tacos when we finish our to-do list every day!
I head to Beats 1. If I’m busy with Bella Doña or my music stuff, I Uber so I can continue to work.
I get an oatmeal peanut soy smoothie every day [around this time] when I get to the studio! I’m a creature of habit. This smoothie is like a sweet reminder I’m halfway through my day!
I start my show prep, run through new music and my show with my producers. It’s like dress rehearsal because my show is live!
From 5–7 p.m., I’m strictly in BEATS 1 mode. I’m checking out new music, playing requests and talking to listeners. For those two hours, I force myself to not to even look at my texts or emails. I like to stay in the music and in the moment; the rest of my life gets put on hold for those two hours. I get so hype to crack the mic every day that if I think about it too much, I get nervous. I’m broadcasting to the entire world, and I’m among people like Ebro Darden and Elton John on any given Monday.
I’m extremely passionate about Beats 1 because of the platform it offers artists, especially indie artists. I’ve been indie my whole career. I know the struggles personally. I was tired of the music business telling me there wasn’t a market for my music. They weren’t understanding that this is viable. There’s no one speaking for this demographic of people, where are the people telling our stories. We exist. Our stories are important.
Once I wrap my show, I switch gears and start working on my music. Today, I was dealing with logos for my new record label. I have a bunch of deadlines to meet for my mixtape and for my next two music videos, which I’m finishing up now.
I order delivery for dinner so I can work on my mixtape release. Currently, I’m working on video treatments, and locking in locations and styling. As an indie artist, it’s like five times the amount of work when I shoot a video. But I’m a total control freak, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love planning and shooting videos. It’s so much fun bringing my songs to life!
I read a little bit before bed. I’m obsessed with memoirs and biographies. Right now I’m reading Kim Gordon’s “Girl In A Band” and Angie Martinez’s “My Voice.” These two books just happen to be about women who kicked down doors and lit the way for so many in the music business. It’s a pretty cool note to fall asleep on!
I walk Biggie and time for bed!
Photos courtesy of @lalaromero‘s Instagram
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