The divas have spoken!
The annual panel of Latina superstars sharing their experiences and advice at the 25th Annual Latin Billboard Conference and Awards starred veteran Gloria Trevi and a newer generation of muchachas musicales – Kat Dahlia, Leslie Grace and La Marisoul, lead singer of Santa Cecilia.
They all agreed that artists should stay true to their identities and their origins and take advantage of social media to communicate with their fans.
“Where we came from is still the most important thing to me — what is in my heart," Trevi said.
She said she pours that heart out in every performance, every appearance, because it is what her heart tells her to do.
“If I could look everyone in the eye, I would. To me, it’s a little like finding love,” Trevi said. “I am very generous on the stage. I want to give the best sound, the best production.”
Latin Billboard editor Justino Aguila, who moderated the panel, asked the women how they balance the art or creativity in their work with the business side.
“There are others in charge of the numbers,” Trevi told him. “Let me create the video I want, the way I want. Then tell me what we need to make it so. Don’t tell me there’s no money in the budget.”
She said she wants to be able to work “like Michael Jackson...without limits.”
In the same vein, she writes songs without regard to her own range. “Then when I perform, I get to certain points that are out of my range. But I reach it through pure will.”
The youngest of the group at 19, Leslie Grace – who has already been nominated for a Grammy -- said she also relies on her team. “Without them I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
“All of us on this sofa know it is difficult for the industry to understand women are a little different,” Grace said, feeling honored in the first year of her career to be among the others. “I am more of a perfectionist. Maybe a little less practical and more creative.”
They all said they had strong Hispanic women as role models in their families.
“I come from a matriarchal society where it is the grandmothers who lead,” Trevi said, adding that her mother and grandmother gave her a sense of confidence that allowed her to stay true to herself. Industry executives and insiders would want her to change the tempo of her songs, or the genre – make it cumbia instead of pop on Doctor Siquiatra, for example – and she refused because she had been raised strong.
In one instance, a Mexican TV producer told her the show’s host had a message: She could not go on that show anymore unless she changed her hairdo and stopped showing her underwear, which she said was not intentional. Her answer to him: “Tell that gentleman that, if he likes, I will take off my underwear. But I am not changing my hairstyle.”
Of course, it also helped that she had songs in the #1 #2 and #3 slots at the time. “So they invited me back to the program,” she said with a smile. “They did only close-ups. But it was worth it, to be honest.”
Then she laughed her outrageous laugh.
Trevi, who recently released a new song in Spanglish – her first with some English lyrics, called Habla blah blah – said she may do more in a panel discussion that she, super diva that she is, dominated. It could have been called the Gloria Trevi hour.
Even the other panelists were hanging on her every word.
Rebellion has been a part of each of the women’s lives.
La Marisoul -- born Marisol Hernandez – said rebelling against her stepfather is what really started her career. He didn’t want to let her go sing at a party and told her not to come home if she left. “All I want to do is sing,” she told him. “I’m not going to do anything bad.” She went anyway.
When she returned, her mother had built a bonfire in the yard and was burning curtains and everything she had bought for the home. “We lived in a small town so you could burn everything there, garbage, whatever,” she said.
“My mother asked me, ‘Do you want to sing? Well, we’re getting the f--- out of here.’ That decision is what made my career,” Hernandez recalled, getting emotional and choking up. “And that fire she made that night, I feel that is the fire that ignited in me and still burns.
Since then, I have been ‘F--- it. We are going to be who we are.’”
Hernandez said he performing is what allows her to be herself.
“The stage is like a magic bubble. It is where I can be free,” La Marisoul said. “In the band is where I can e who I want to be – wear a tutu and paint my shoes. That’s how I feel. I can express myself more on stage than in ordinary life.”
She says the band gives her wings and encourages her individuality – even the wild costumes.
“It’s nice to be around people who say ‘You be you.’”
And it isn’t always easy to do that, they agreed.
“It’s a constant battle, fighting between the things people want for you and the things you want for yourself and to express to others,” Dahlia said.
She quoted one of her favorite hip hop rappers. “Like Drake says, keeping my circle tight. F--- the haters,” she said, admitting that it was hard work. “Oh my God! I’m so bad at it.”
When Aguila asked Trevi to give a word of advice to little Gloria Trevis all over the world, she told them to be themselves.
“The people who imitate me best are the ones who are unique. The ones who look like me and sound like me aren’t really copying me,” she said. “There are lot of talented people who don’t work hard and a lot of people who work hard who don’t have talent."
“There are famous people who are not artists and artists who are not famous,” Trevi said. “Don’t give up.”