Paloma Mami Loves Going Undercover at Movie Theaters, Emulating Cardi B's Openness

Paloma Mami
Gizelle Hernandez

Paloma Mami photographed on Aug. 18, 2019 at Rose Studios in Los Angeles.

After her sensual, bilingual track “Not Steady” went viral in June 2018 -- the song has since garnered 10.6 million U.S. on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music -- Paloma Mami signed a recording contract with Sony Music Latin, making her the first Chilean artist of her generation to do so. Born Paloma Rocío Castillo Astorga in New York, Paloma Mami is still rising in the urbano scene, but she’s aiming high, citing Billie Eilish and Rosalía as dream collaborators (she has already worked with Diplo) and hoping to one day launch a clothing line. But her main goal is to have a features-free album go platinum. (“J. Cole, what’s good?” she jokes.) Until then, Paloma Mami, who says she’s still “a little kid” and is always with her mother, “can’t wait” to go on tour following her festival debut at Lollapalooza Chile in March.

Do you ever feel misunderstood due to your age?

I like to remind people that I'm a human being. Obviously I curse, I mess up, I look not that cute all the time. I'm a teenager, so I'm gonna do the same thing that all teenagers are gonna do. I feel like some people forget that just because of the fact that you're in the spotlight and they always expect the most proper appearance from celebrities.

For so long, and sometimes still, artists wanted to maintain some mystery about them, but that’s definitely changing.

This generation depends on social media. When I was growing up, Beyoncé was my reference, and she was always so mysterious. She still is, but that’s the look she has now. Now, we have people who are more out and open, which is good -- look at Cardi B.

Since moving to Chile when you were 16, what have been some of the challenges you’ve faced as you try to grow as an artist there?

It’s hard in Chile to be heard on the radio. There they don’t really play anything that’s urban. They’re just now starting to get into the scene. I feel like Chile is super behind when it comes to urban music.

Your recent single "Don't Talk About Me” sounds like it’s in reference to those who may have doubted you.

I wrote it right after "Not Steady.” I just got inspired by all the moments in my life where people basically talked shit about me. It’s the typical “haters gon' hate” song. Right before I signed to Sony Latin, everything felt like that in my life. So “Don’t Talk About Me” is me pouring out my emotions to all the people that said: “You ain't gonna ever make it.”

What has been the most surreal moment in your career so far?

Definitely the Lollapalooza Chile show. I was thinking about that the other day -- it took everybody by surprise. But mostly me though, 'cause I was literally baffled. I could not believe there was so much commotion. All those people were just seeing little old me and I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.”

When you do have some free time, how do you spend it?

My favorite thing to do is watch movies. In Chile, I have to go to the theater in disguise. I literally wear a huge ski mask where you only see my eyes. I cover my nails [too], because everyone recognizes me by my nails. Imagine if one person recognizes me; then the whole theater wouldn’t be able to watch the movie in peace. I can’t be crying in The Lion King if everyone’s watching me.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Sept. 14 issue of Billboard.


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