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Isabela Merced Is Making a Seamless Transition From Child Star to Pop Star with Her New Single “Papi”

Say goodbye to Dora the Explorer–at least for now. Isabela Merced, formerly known as Isabela Moner, has reinvented herself from child star to bonafide pop singer. On Wednesday, Merced debuted the music video for her new single “Papi”, a girl-power anthem that’s inspired by “salsa, reggaeton, cumbia, and bachata”. According to Merced, she hopes the song will get the message across to womanizing men that they should “treat ladies with the respect they deserve”.

The new music video is impressive not only because it shows a more grown-up version of Merced (who we’ve seen since her Nickelodeon days) but also because it celebrates her Peruvian culture. In the video, we see Merced dressed in both American and Peruvian-style clothes, dancing to choreography that is reminiscent of stand American hip-hop moves as well as the traditional Peruvian dance known as the Marinera. Merced, for her part, is proud of the aesthetic her newest music video embodies: “I want to introduce everyone to the rich culture of my family’s heritage,” she said in a recent interview with Teen Vogue.

Credit: @idolator/Twitter

The transformation from Nickelodeon actor to superstar in the making was arguably kickstarted with Isabela’s decision to change her last name from “Moner” to “Merced”.

After all, 2019 has been a very big year for Merced. Not only did she star in the blockbuster film “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”, but she also revealed that her mother has been  privately battling breast cancer. According to Merced, the decision to change her last name came from the desire to honor family–especially her Peruvian heritage. The name Merced comes from her late grandmother, Yolanda Merced Salazar Pittman. “I believe some force, throughout all these years, has been giving my mom the strength and determination to guide me,” she told Refinery29. “I feel as though if that guardian angel would be anyone, it would be my grandma.”

So, while some child actors struggle to make the transition from child entertainer to serious adult actor, Merced makes the entire process look easy. While the music video for “Papi” has its sultry moments, it doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to prove anything. Yes, there’s a love interest who makes an appearance in the video–but the entire song isn’t just devoted to a man. “’Papi’ is empowering to girls. [It] has sass and confidence,” she says. With lyrics like “Or did I forget to mention?/Don’t like frivolous affection/I don’t want it on the first date or third date…I’m never gonna call you papi/Even if it makes you happy,” the song celebrates to independent women of the world who refuse to change themselves to make a man happy. 

Credit: @playintoit/Twitter

According to Merced, the bilingual bop is just the beginning of her exploring the world of Spanish-language music. 

Merced, who was born to a Peruvian mother and a white American father, has previously been candid about growing up bilingual in a multicultural household. “I want my music to represent who I am…I grew up with a white dad and a Latinx mom, who was an immigrant. That is who I am. It’s okay to be a mix…Us mixed kids have a place in this society, and Spanglish songs do as well,” she told Refinery29.

It’s refreshing to see such representation for multicultural Latinos who grew up in a multi-racial family. The reality is, many Latinos feel equally comfortable speaking two languages, especially if one parent is non-Latino. According to the Pew Center for research, almost 7% of Americans identify as mixed-race, and that number will continue to grow. In other words: Isabela Merced is definitely onto something.

Credit: @Z100NewYork/Twitter

Of course, Merced’s fans have been going crazy on Twitter over her Latina-and-proud music video.

Like Christina Aguilera before her, this child star is embracing all aspects of her identity and people are pumped.

Peruvians are 100% here for Merced showing some love for their country:

It’s always exciting to see your culture recognized in the media.

This Peruvian sees the music video as a beautiful “tribute”:

You can definitely feel the love that went into the making of this music video purely from its attention to detail. 

Many people are praising “Papi” for supporting bilingual and multiracial representation:

A lot of people don’t recognize that there’s no one “right” way to be Latinx. For many Latinos in America, Spanglish is a way of life. 

Of course, there are also the stans who are just in awe of Isabela Merced’s raw talent:

Seriously, is there anything this girl can’t do? We’ll wait.

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