Rapper Yahira Garcia — aka Flakiss — was supposed to be the next big act in Latin hip-hop nearly a decade ago when she signed to Univision Records. In 2006, after asking to be released from her contract after only three albums, she almost abandoned music all together.
Unhappy with the music business, Garcia went her own way in 2008 to rethink her life, career and have a family. She co-hosted a radio show with personality Art Laboe and last year reluctantly applied for work at a job agency at the urging of her husband.
Then-like a movie-she got a call from Hollywood casting directors who said director David Ayer (“Training Day”) wanted to audition Garcia for a part in the film “End of Watch” about L.A. cops starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.
“I really thought it was a joke,” Garcia says, “but it was the real deal. David Ayer said he was a fan of my music. I auditioned and he gave me the part of La La on the spot.”
The fictional La La, who grew up in South Central among gangs like Garcia, is a smaller role, but puts her at the center of the film’s emotional climax. The indie project has been generating attention for Academy Award-worthy performances from its leading cast.
For Garcia, the experience of getting a shot in her first project that was the No. 1 film during its opening weekend last month has not only placed her on the fast track in the acting world, but her music is also getting attention again on sites like YouTube.
Garcia, 34, is now wiser about the business. While she’s working on new music and debating whether to sign with another label, she knows to be more cautious. “I was too naive before,” she says. “I trusted everyone around me and it backfired. It’s important to do research before signing contracts.”
When Garcia signed to Univision, the label’s roster included some of the biggest names in Latin music, like regional Mexican singers Pepe Aguilar and Graciela Beltran. When it came to Latin hip-hop, Univision helped launch Akwid, Jae-P and Garcia, one of few women in the genre.
Michael Greenwald, VP of talent at Don Buchwald & Associates/Fortitude, represents Garcia and says his client is already about to make more films, including another project with Ayer.
“She’s unique,” says Greenwald, who has worked with Ben Affleck and Adrien Brody. “Flakiss has an innate quality to her and a real street sense that she can grasp from her personal life experiences.”
Rapper Jae-P, who was key in helping Garcia find her way in music, agrees. “She speaks for women,” he says. “It’s hard to find female rappers that will fight and express that reality.”
Lisa “Khool-Aid” Rios, who recently produced the music for the upcoming film “Filly Brown” about a struggling Latina rapper, says Garcia’s return is symbolic on many levels. “I’m glad to see Hollywood reaching out to these Chicano artists,” Rios says. “They’re seeing their strength, their power, what they can financially pull in and what they bring in terms of talent.”
As Garcia takes more meetings and reads more scripts, she says she’s ready for the next phase of her career as she balances film and music. “I don’t know if I’ll get any award for my acting on this film, but I do know that the biggest award is everyone’s support,” she says. “I definitely feel the love.”