"I’m always having conversations with people about who we are as black Latin American people, as Afro-Latinos," says the singer. "I’m trying to educate them and bridge the gap between the different cultures."

By Alma Sacasa
February 11, 2020

Welcome to the latest installment of our Rising Latinx series. Once a month, the CHICA team will spotlight an emerging star in music, entertainment, and beyond, focusing on how they built their dream career from the ground up. This month: DioMara, a gifted singer who refuses to back down from the things she believes in.

Alchemy really represents my process, my journey from then until now,” DioMara tells People CHICA. “Even in what ‘alchemy’ means … the actual definition scientifically is turning base metal into gold, and spiritually it’s the process of transformation. So [it’s] that process of transformation of me turning what I had back then into the gold that I have now.” The Panamanian American singer is talking about her debut EP, released last September but finished several years earlier. “It was important for me to release this independently because I wanted to be able to control my process,” she explains. “Without it being tainted or altered from any outside being.”

With its mix of R&B sounds and soulful lyrics, Alchemy is full of music that will lift your spirit with every listen. Every song is anchored by DioMara’s incredible voice, which is by turns powerful and vulnerable. The singer got her introduction to music at a young age, via her father, a DJ and singer. “That’s actually where I get my voice from,” she says. “The moment I realized that I could sing and it sounded good to the people outside of me, I started putting more time into that.” Born and raised in Brooklyn, she grew up idolizing artists like Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, and Marc Anthony. “I grew up on R&B, soul, but also on reggae music, merengue, salsa, bachata. I grew up on all these different genres of music,” she shares. “I want my artistry to mirror my upbringing and the kind of music that I grew up on.”

It wasn’t until she was 15 that things started to take off, when she appeared on Showtime at the Apollo. “New Yorkers, if you know them, they’re very into quality,” she declares. “They’ll let you know if they like it, they’ll let you know if they don’t. So I figured this will let me know if I’m built for this.” It turns out that she was. “It makes me feel really good when I’m able to get everything I wanted to say out on a record,” she says. “When I’m able to lock in and paint a picture through sounds and with my words.”

It’s also important to her that she incorporate elements of both her New York City and Panamanian backgrounds into her music. “My Panamanian background has definitely influenced my music,” she notes. “Because even in the way I perform now, at this point I don’t even do a performance without letting people know where I come from.”

As an Afro-Latina, DioMara takes it upon herself not only to be proud of her culture, but also to educate those who are willing to learn. “I’m always having conversations with people about who we are as black Latin American people, as Afro-Latinos,” she says. “I’m always having conversations trying to educate, and trying to bridge the gap between the different cultures. … It’s either you and I have the conversation and learn, let me know and I’ll tell you a little bit, point you in the right direction. If not, go over there — that’s that.”

DioMara also addresses this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, which both made history and generated controversy for its lack of representation of Afro-Latinos. “A lot of people turned it down … so if we turn it down, then I don’t expect to be represented, because we’re standing with [Colin Kaepernick],” she says. “I don’t know Jennifer Lopez or Shakira’s experiences, but I do know that they are non-black Latin American women, and their experiences are way different from an advantage point. … I don’t know if I would expect them to represent us, to provide visibility for us. It’s not necessarily their plight — it’s something that we need to continue to push forward, to continue to get this visibility, to continue to get these platforms, create the platforms as well. We’re fighting an uphill battle to try to break into systems that were not ready for us to begin with. So I think we need to continue to create platforms. While we can continue to fight to be at other tables, we gotta create our own tables as well.”

When she’s not working on her own music, DioMara keeps herself busy with an event series called WNDR WMN and a platform called Million Watts. “WNDR WMN is a women’s appreciation and charity event series,” she explains. “We are a gender-neutral tribe, and we curate experiences for women and our allies across New York City. I’ve done things in L.A. as well as in Texas. … [With] Million Watts, I’m an artist, so I also understand the importance of us having safe spaces as artists, of us having information and access as artists, especially as independent artists. We provide the information, the platform, the access, and the space for artists to express themselves and learn more about the field that they’re in.”

Music, however, will always remain her number-one passion. “It motivates me to keep going, especially dealing with some of the emotional things I deal with, depressive episodes and things of that nature,” she says. “Without it I don’t know what I would do. This is, like, my thing.” She’s planning on recording a full-length album in the future, as well as one in Spanish. But most importantly, she wants her music to inspire everyone to express themselves with no judgment. “Be yourself. Unapologetically say everything you want to say, when you want to say it, say it how you want to say it, in the time that you want to say it in,” she says. “I want to be able to effect change with everything that I put my head into, whether that be with music, business ventures, in front of the camera, off-camera. … From a local to national to global level I would love to see certain things change, of course. I’m going to have to use the tools that I have to make the change that I can in my lifetime.”

Alchemy is streaming now via Apple Music and Spotify.

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