While Angelenos dread a rainy, cold night in Los Angeles, Thursday night’s downpour and crisp breeze set the perfect mood for Miguel‘s intimate showcase, where he was inducted as the first artist to the DeLéon 100 — a curated list of music industry trailblazers identified by Sean “Diddy” Combs in partnership with Billboard and DeLeón Tequila.
Before the Grammy-winning artist took the stage at The Sayers Club to accept this latest honor as an official DeLeón 100 artist, San Francisco singer/songwriter CLAY serenaded the crowd with a beautiful and powerful performance of her tracks including “Follow Me Down” and “Wild Thing.”
And just as Miguel was ready to go out and do his thing, Billboard caught up with the “Simple Things” singer, who gushed about receiving this honor and being handpicked by an artist like Diddy, whom he truly admires.
“Growing up, watching him be a trailblazer, being a leader and showing us that the sky is the limit has always inspired me to want to do that in my own way. He really is the blueprint for a lot of us that grew up in the ’80s. To be handpicked by him is a huge honor, and more than anything, he has shown us that if you are bold and you are courageous and you stay consistent and dedicated and diligent that you can do anything. I think that’s what this list and DeLeón is all about. I’m really honored to be here.”
For Miguel, being a trailblazer is someone who “challenges the status quo and introduces people to new sounds,” adding: “I’ve always pushed to be that kind of artist. For those in the industry who know my music, they would say that I’ve been one of those artists who have definitely done that and help shape newer sounds and the evolution of my genre, whatever that is. It’s a huge privilege that I get to do that and I want to continue doing that.”
While Diddy and other artists such as Prince, David Bowie and Michael Jackson have inspired Miguel, the singer and songwriter credits his father for showing him what it means to be a trailblazer. “First and foremost, it would be my father. He’s from Zamora, Michoacán [in Mexico] and came here when he was 3 years old. Against the odds, he graduated high school, went to college, and now he’s an educator and he’s been a teacher for 15 years now. I’ve always looked up to him and he would always tell me that I could do anything in life and he’s always believed in me and taught me to believe in myself.”
Before jumping onstage, the honoree told Billbaord, “It’s always awesome to be recognized by like-minded people, like-minded brands and like-minded establishments. It’s an honor and it’s also encouragement to continue doing exactly what I love and being who I am and never stopping, never giving up and hopefully inspiring other people to be bold in their own way.”
During his performance, Miguel took a couple of DeLeón tequila shots with the crowd to celebrate his induction into the elite list. “There is so much conformity. No one wants to feel like they’ll be judged. Everyone wants acceptance. It’s really tough. I remember being in high school and wanting to f—ing look different and to be different and to stand out, and it’s not that way so much now,” he shared. “I appreciate events like these that are about being who you are and being f—ing bold in a world full of gray. Cheers to being true to yourself, authentic. Don’t allow the world to turn you f—ing gray like the weather outside.”
Billboard will release the full roster of DeLeón 100 honorees (in print and online at Billboard.com) in February 2017 along with a short documentary featuring Miguel’s career journey and his plans for the future.