Women in Music 2016

Billboard Latin Music Conference: The Divas Panel Explores Gender, Geography & Social Media

Michael Seto
Ivy Queen, Recording Artist, Rosana, Recording Artist, Sofia Reyes, Recording Artist  at the Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards, Miami, FL, on 28 April 2015.

The Divas panel has become one of the highlights of the annual Billboard Latin Music Conference and this year's conversation did not disappoint.

While the artists -- Ivy Queen, Rosana Arbelo, Kany García, Ha*Ash and Sofia Reyes -- represented different generations and genres, they seemed like one big family, laughing a lot and teasing each other. It almost seemed like a pachanga at your tia's house.

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But first moderator Ana Maria Canseco, former Despierta America co-host, started the discussion on a more serious note. She asked the women why their music does not move up the charts the way male artists do, "Is this still a man's game or is it, little by little, changing?"

"My lyrics have been about empowerment," said Ivy Queen. "It's not about showing skin and cleavage.

"Don't get me wrong, I like to show some skin, but there's a difference between flaunting what you got and work hard for and depending entirely on sex to make it in this business," she said.

"My humble opinion is that people have a lot in common, whether they are men or women, and when someone pours his heart or her heart out into a song, you are not thinking, you are feeling," said Latin Grammy winner Arbelo.

García says it's also not about geography.

"Coming from Puerto Rico, where we like to say that even the pebbles sing, people have a lot of expectations," García said. "But at the end of the day, it is not where we are from that matters. It is about what we say."

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Canseco shared that she had listened to the women's songs and connected with them. "I can't tell you how many times I've sat in the car and sang with you and cried."

But that is because they write about life, including all the sadness, the divas said.

Ashley, one of the sisters in the sibling duo Ha*Ash, said she can't write when she is happy. "It is just better when I am fresh off a break up and my heart is broken," she said.

García agreed: "The best thing is writing when someone tears your heart into shreds."

As it did throughout many of the conference's other panels, the role of social media became part of the conversation and how all the divas use it to some extent. Some prefer Twitter and Facebook, though García said she is always entertained by Arbelo's posts to Instagram. 

Ivy Queen told a story about meeting a wheelchair bound fan at one of her concerts and how she didn't know it at the time but that they were friends on Facebook.

"I've gotten to know so many people who have gone from fans to friends," she said.

Hannah, the second half of Ha*Ash, said they like to get artistic direction from their fans on social media.

"It's incredible how much you can learn about an international audience through social media. With fans that live in other countries, we always ask them, what songs do you want us to play when we go there? Or what do you want as the next single? That's the kind of stuff your label can't tell you."

"It's my most powerful marketing tool," said the 19-year-old bilingual Reyes.