Rebecca Marie Gomez, 18, better known as Becky G, is a rising pop artist creating a lane of her own. She raps and sings in both English and Spanish. She's collaborated with artists as diverse as Kesha, Pitbull and Will.i.am. Born and raised in Inglewood, she’s determined to keep it real for her city and represent Latin culture every step of the way.
Already, consumer brands and the entertainment industry as a whole are taking notice of her like no other Latina pop star in years. Becky G is currently a CoverGirl cosmetics brand ambassador and just finished a Toyota-sponsored national tour with international reggaeton star J Balvin. “It’s tricky with brands, because it can come off like an artist in a commercial. But we’re genuine people," says Gomez, using the collective "we" to encompass her management team, "and never want to work with someone who doesn't keep it real.”
It’s undeniable how large and influential the Latino population is in the United States today, and more and more brands are trying to figure out how to appeal to millennial, bicultural Latinos. At a time when record-label budgets are shrinking, Becky G hasn't been shy about taking advantage of this. In her latest video, “Break a Sweat,” the lead single off her upcoming debut album due out later this year, you'll see product-placement shots from brands such as Beats by Dre headphones, CoverGirl makeup, Core Hydration bottled water and Zike scooter-bikes.
She's also branched out into acting. Becky G announced last Friday that she will be playing the Yellow Ranger in the upcoming Power Rangers film, and you may have seen her in a guest role in season two of the hit TV drama Empire.
Gomez got her start by releasing videos on YouTube of herself covering songs by the likes of Drake, Frank Ocean and Justin Bieber. It was her version of Kanye West and Jay Z's “Otis” that caught the attention of Grammy-winning producer Dr. Luke, who then signed Gomez to his Sony Music imprint Kemosabe Records, home to artists such as Kesha, Elliphant and Juicy J. In 2014, her single “Can’t Get Enough” featuring rapper Pitbull, off her debut EP Play It Again, reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Latin Airplay chart.
Despite achieving such success at a young age, she remains a down-to-earth artist who's proud of her roots. “People think if you’re a signed recording artist, you must be a gazillionaire and live in Beverly Hills. Nah, homie, I still live in Inglewood, where I was born and raised,” she says.
Her grandparents emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles and her parents struggled against racial stereotypes. Earlier this summer, she released a track called “We Are Mexico” in response to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican remarks.
“Hard work, double time, overtime, two jobs, working till our heads hurt, but we ain’t never late to pay the bills,” Becky sings in the song.
Los Angeles has one of the largest Latino populations in the country and is home to the American pop music industry. But rarely do those two worlds intersect and launch a local Latin artist to mainstream success.
Regional Mexican artist and Long Beach native Jenni Rivera, who tragically died a few years ago, reached superstar status in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, but she did not cross over into the general market. Becky G performed in a tribute to Jenni Rivera this past summer.
You have to go back to groups like Los Lobos or Ozomatli when thinking of artists from L.A. that made hits for both Latino and general audiences. Even in the late '90s when the “Latin Explosion” hit and America embraced artists like Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, Los Angeles did not have an artist of its own to ride the wave. Becky G may belatedly fill that void.
"I rarely do stuff in all Spanish. It's usually bilingual, because that's how I grew up," Gomez says.
Her recent tour with J Balvin included a stop at the Shrine Expo Hall, where she had to cancel all press interviews just hours before the concert began due to straining her vocal cords the night before. She says it’s rare for her to ever cancel any appearances, but she had no choice after an EMT stuck a camera down her nose and told her to rest.
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Determined not to leave her fans totally disappointed, the tireless Becky G still performed that night and attended a meet-and-greet at the show anyway.
“I made 'yes' and 'no' signs to communicate with my fans and I took pictures and signed autographs,” Gomez says.