Bold Mujeres of Latin Music Tell Their Stories At Nacional Panel

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Diego Miranda/Courtesy of Industria Works
Yvonne Drazan, Doris Muñoz, Ximena Sariñana and Tomasa del Real.

Tomasa del Real, Ximena Sariñana and more discuss their career paths to success.

Rapper Tomasa del Real, known for leading the musical movement NeoPerreo, has no regrets after ditching her tattoo business for a music career several years ago, even though the shop made her financially stable, had a steady stream of customers and she genuinely liked putting ink on people.

But that wasn't satisfying enough, the Chilean-born recording artist said.

“Music back then was a hobby," del Real tells Billboard. "Then somebody in the music business told me that I should charge more for music and performing. He valued my contributions and it made me see things differently. I began valuing my own work in music. Then I made the leap."

Del Real joined her Latin music colleagues for an intimate and vibrant conversation at Naconal Records' headquarters in L.A. on Friday in partnership with Tequila Herradura. Guests included singer/songwriter Ximena Sariñana, peermusic's VP of Latin Division Yvonne Drazan and Mija Mgmt founder Doris Muñoz, who manages rising Latinx recording artist Cuco.

Del Real, who lives in Southern California where the NeoPerreo scene is based, said that she now realizes that her earlier career choices — tattoo artistry and, before that, costume design — weren't the right fit. She was bored, she said, but turning her music hobby into a full-time career allowed her to enter a field she didn't realize could be financially viable and creatively satisfying.

"Its important for people not to close themselves off to new things, even if they already made a decision to have a specific career," del Real said. "It's your life, so take chances. Do new things and play a little. We all have the power to make changes within our lives even when it seems scary and guess what? That’s normal."

Drazan and Sariñana spoke about their career trajectories, from music publishing to making music. Careers wrapped around demanding around-the-clock deadlines, travel, meetings, making mistakes, being strategic, critical networking, taking care of family and staying focused is a tricky balancing act, said Muñoz, 25.  It was two years ago when she met Omar Banos, also known as Cuco, the 20-year-old from Hawthorne, Calif. who's become a music festival fixture with his brand of synth-pop melodies, most recently collaborating with superstar DJ/producer Dillion Francis.

As the story goes, Muñoz went to a backyard L.A. show where she saw Banos perform, but for the Mija Mgmt founder, it was also an outing to see if maybe she could work with the then-teenage singer/songwriter known for his dreamy pop ballads. Back then, at 23, she had already been a tour manager and interned at Columbia Records within the A&R division. She wanted to do something that spoke to her experiences, passions and generation. Banos and Muñoz decided to partner as manager/artist, essentially establishing their careers as Latinx/Chicano mavericks.

Muñoz, who proudly and boldly wore ruby red overalls at the Nacional event, concedes that her looks have often been at the center of initial meetings with other industry colleagues -- often men -- who bluntly ask her age when they meet face-to-face.

Muñoz’s takes it all in stride with humor, laughter and a bit of preparation.

"As a young woman you are sometimes towing the line between nice and getting business done," said Muñoz, followed by a an long chuckle. Sometimes it's about "checking people with love."

The Industria Works/Nacional Records' event took place at the Nacional Music Hall, where guests had a the chance to mingle and network. The storytelling about industry experiences from four different and successful Latino women in the music business is a forum executives of the Latin indie label want to continue nurturing as part of a bigger conversation to foster music, arts and empowerment for women and men.

Herradura, a longstanding Nacional Records partner, has also worked to empower and celebrate young executives and creatives, said Jennifer Sarkissian, GM at Industria Works, adding: "We decided it was a great jumping off point to highlight the contributions of women in the industry who are strong, have worked hard and excelled so they can share their stories about how they got to where they are now."

Ulises Lozano, a member of the Mexican rock band Kinky, has been working with del Real and others as part of the NeoPerreo movement, a subgenre of reggaeton with a core objective to be inclusive of all Latin urban fans, from women to the LGBTQ community -- all are welcome.

"It's about being authentic," said Lozano, who attended the talk and recently helped launch a NeoPerreo recording studio and office in L.A. "Tomasa del Real is performing at Coachella this year and that is a major achievement for a relatively new movement, an indicator that people like discovering new music such as NeoPerreo, which is being heard all over the world as we release new music regularly."