By Jennifer Mota
September 06, 2019 12:12 PM
Estevan Oriol

YouTube is convenient, yes, but it's also created a ton of opportunities for musicians who might never have broken out otherwise - just ask Maxine Ashley, who discovered the power of the platform in her preteen years. "My friend recorded me singing a song, and then I was like, ‘I want to start a YouTube page,'" Ashley tells People CHICA. She did, and naturally, the video went viral. "It got me recognized all the way in London," she says, and at just 13 years old she was flown out to the U.K. to try her hand at songwriting for other artists. At 16, she released a single called "I'm in Love" at 16, but decided the David Guetta–esque electronic sound was not her style. "It's not my music," she explains. "I'm from the Bronx. I wanted to show people who I am. So I did another video on a new YouTube channel."

Once again, the platform worked in her favor, and her new video ended up in front of Pharrell. In 2014 she signed to his i am Other channel, looking at the producer as a breath of fresh air. "I was like, ‘He's going to understand me - we're going to make some dope music and hip-hop.'" She didn't really put anything out, though, and ultimately found herself stuck again. After that, she decided it was time to become "more than a musician, and more of a businesswoman."

Ashley rediscovered her passion once she started creating music along with her own videos, and turned to YouTube again to present her work. This time, she'd directed it herself. Her newest video "Girls" is an ode to women that she finds inspiring, "from skaters to mothers." She set up a studio and designed their sets so their personalities would shine through. She also presents three generations of her own family, featuring both her mother and grandmother. Her family played a big part in her musical upbringing, so it's only fitting that they appear in "Girls." The NYC native, of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, grew up in a home where she heard everything from Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe to India.Arie, thanks to her hip-hop fanatic mom and salsero father. "My father and uncles did a lot of Boyz II Men salsa covers," she says. "I thought they were famous."

They weren't, but she hopes to be, and wants to reach a massive audience and further her independent career. "That's always the ultimate goal - to make sure I'm sharing my message with everybody." She also hopes to become something of a mentor to younger artists starting out in the industry. "I'm trying to get myself up to a level where [I can] help people who were in my position," she says. Whether it's directing, writing or mentoring, it's clear she's in this for the long haul. "I want to be able to always do this," she says. "I don't want to do anything else. I can't do anything else, because I've never had a real job in my life. So this is my job - I'm stuck!"

Watch Maxine Ashley's video for "Girls" below:

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