Billboard Women in Music 'Breakthrough Artist' Camila Cabello on Female Solidarity and Solo Success

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Miller Mobley
“The journey hasn’t been perfect, but I’ve always known who I am as an artist and what I’ve wanted,” says Cabello, photographed on Jan. 21, 2017 in Los Angeles.

"A lot of the time, people want you to stay in the box of what has already worked before,” says Camila Cabello. She knows how hard it can be to break out: During the past year, Cabello has fought to forge her own musical identity after leaving the pop cocoon of mega-girl group Fifth Harmony. But it’s “Havana,” the sultry single that by her own admission is “an unconventional pop song,” that ultimately established Cabello as a star in her own right.

Her most successful single so far -- it recently hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her sixth entry on that chart as a solo artist -- “Havana” is the truest representation of the 20-year-old’s aesthetic, rooted in both her Latina heritage (she was raised between Mexico and, yes, Havana, before moving to Miami at 7) and her love of hip-hop (“Havana” features Young Thug). Her debut album, The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving, will drop in 2018. “The best moments this past year were when I went into the booth, freestyled a melody and the melody turned into a song,” says Cabello. “The songs on my album are going to represent this time in my life. Making something out of nothing, and knowing it’s going to last forever, is really cool.”

MUSIC THAT MOVES HER

“‘Havana’ is a mixture of the music that was playing around my house when I was growing up and the music that I listen to now. In Cuba, we would have these holiday parties where we’d play everything from Celia Cruz to Alejandro Sanz with Miguel [Bosé] to Maná to Alejandro Fernández.”

ROLE MODELS RIRI, TAYLOR... AND ED

Rihanna is always new and fresh and 10 steps ahead of everybody else. And Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran made me want to start songwriting and learn guitar.”

FEMALE FORWARD

“Getting that respect [as a young woman] is something I’ve struggled with. We’re always going to have to work harder and be smarter to fight that prejudice, and not just in the music industry. But seeing women standing in solidarity with each other gives me hope.”

Camila Cabello: The Billboard Cover Interview

2017 Billboard Women in Music

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 9 issue of Billboard.


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