The Emancipation of Becky G: Singing in Spanish, Crying Over JLo’s DMs and Teaming Up With Bad Bunny

Photographs by Greg Swales

Picture this: 25-year-old Becky G, the Latin music star who boasts 33 million followers on Instagram alone, arrives at a meeting with the owners of Los Angeles’ all-female soccer club, Angel City FC. She, too, is an equity partner, and one of the organization’s youngest investors.

“It’s an awesome experience because I recognize how incredible it is that a little brown girl from L.A. owns a part of this soccer club,” says Becky with a self-awareness clearly sharpened over a decade of pop professionalism. “And then this older gentleman with a beer in his hand bumps into me. It spills a little and he goes, ‘Do you work here?’”

It’s a question that pierces a Latin heart, but Becky maintains her poise as she replies, “‘I’m an owner too, just like you,’” she recalls. “The look on his face was priceless.”

Becky G Power of Young Hollywood Variety Cover

That confidence, forged in the Inglewood native’s long ascent from a 14-year-old pop star to an empowered artist and businesswoman, has served Becky G well over the years. She’s learned the hard way, starting from zero, dodging sharks and multiple prejudices as she navigated the treacherous waters of the music business.

“There’s so many layers, right?” she says. “You’re Latina, you’re a girl … and then you’re the youngest person in the room.”

She neglects to mention: You’re the entertainer performing in front of a crowd nearly 100,000 strong, as she did in April, landing the coveted sunset slot at Coachella. Joined onstage by Colombian superstar Karol G, the co-sign helped elevate Becky’s status from pop darling to Latina tour de force. The momentum carried through to the release of her second album, “Esquemas,” released a month later.

Empowerment meets emancipation on the album’s 14 tracks, which find the singer expanding her range to include reggaeton and dembow, and declaring a sort of freedom from the confines of pop — and the path that got her there. Namely, her launch as the teenage protégé of hit-maker Dr. Luke, whose reputation as a top producer has taken a back seat to accusations of sexual misconduct, as alleged by Kesha, which he has steadfastly denied in statements and in court. The two artists remain label mates on Kemosabe Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music.

Becky is reticent about discussing Luke, or even mentioning his name, but it’s implicit in her hard-won liberation that he’s cast a long shadow.

“No one has the power to put me in a box,” she says. “No one else should be the dictator of what I do with my body, how I use my voice or how I choose to express myself.

“I think back to when it would’ve been an artist’s downfall to experiment with so many sounds on the same album, because you’d get accused of not ‘knowing’ your sound or who you are as an artist.”

“Esquemas,” which translates to “schemes,” finds Becky fully embracing her Latin roots — complete with finger-plucked chord progressions and a Paquita la del Barrio reference — on “Mamiii,” her hit duet with Karol G. On “Fulanito,” she skillfully battles it out with the Dominican king of dembow, El Alfa, for a fusion of tropical beats and merengue. But she maintains her pop sensibility on the doo-wop-indebted “Flashback,” in which she hews to the radio-friendly sound that helped launch her career.

Her timing is impeccable. In 2022, Latin music crossed $1 billion in recorded music revenues, overtaking the country genre in market share so far this year. The biggest-selling album of 2022? Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti,” which has not budged from the No. 1 spot for seven weeks.

Like Bunny, Becky is rolling out a Spanish-language album while at a career crossroads. Previous waves of popularity for Latin artists — think early Ricky Martin, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez — brought enormous pressure to sing in English. That’s no longer so.

“I started to feel free when I started singing in Spanish — it’s always been one of my biggest fears,” Becky confesses.

“She didn’t want to just put out one song in Spanish,” says Ben Tischker, who manages Becky alongside co-manager Marc Jordan and has worked with her since she was 13. “She was like, ‘If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna go deep and make albums and make a real career here.’”

As a little girl, Becky was enthralled by singers like Christina Aguilera, Selena, Shakira, Britney Spears and Lopez, along with the Mexican music her grandparents played.

Becky G Power of Young Hollywood Variety

“It all started when my grandpa crossed over,” she raps about her family’s immigration story in her 2013 breakout single and J. Lo tribute track “Becky From the Block.” “Now one day I’ma be a crossover.”

Although she had much to learn about the music business, Becky found mentors in some of its biggest stars. Over drinks in West Hollywood, she laughingly admits she keeps a folder on her phone of DMs from Lopez congratulating her on milestones. “I start crying every single time,” she says. “She’s always been so lovely with me. The last time I saw her was at her residency in Vegas — she was like, ‘Holy shit, you grew up!’”

Becky’s grand entrance into the Latin music landscape came with an assist from Bad Bunny on 2017’s “Mayores,” which went to No. 1 in multiple countries as well as on two Billboard Latin charts. While she had been releasing or collaborating on Spanish-language songs for several years, the blockbuster hit took even her managers by surprise.

“I don’t know that you can foresee that kind of success,” says Tischker. “We knew that she was the type of person that, when she takes something on, none of us stop until it works. But that success with ‘Mayores’? I had no idea.”

Becky’s formidable list of collaborators over the years includes Latin powerhouses like Pitbull, Maluma, Myke Towers, Anitta, Thalía, Daddy Yankee and Banda MS. She’s also featured on songs with BTS’ J-Hope, Kane Brown, Kesha, Jessie J and Nigerian superstar Burna Boy. But long before she met any of them, she had the crucial support of her tight-knit inner circle, consisting of her co-managers, her parents and her three younger siblings.

Team Becky is out in full force during the Variety cover shoot: Her 19-year-old sister, Estefania, FaceTimes looks and camera angles to their mother, Alejandra; the speakers hum with old-school R&B, Drake’s latest album and Becky’s own music as publicists, photo and video crews and racks of Roberto Cavalli glide across the room. Estefania ends her call and says Becky always looks to her and her mother for a thumbs-up on outfits — and most other things.

“It all happened so fast,” she says. “One moment we were sharing toys, and the next thing I knew I was sharing my big sister with the world.”

The eldest of four children — her parents were high school sweethearts — Rebbeca Marie Gomez was 9 when her family’s financial challenges led them to move into her grandparents’ garage in Inglewood. Her mother remembers feeling at her lowest when she had to mark “homeless” on her daughter’s school lunch sheet. Naturally, Becky thought: “OK, well, what do we do when we have nothing? We make something.”

As a preteen, she became the family’s breadwinner by acting in commercials for McDonald’s and Kidz Bop — which later inspired her to land what she calls a “life-changing” role as Trini in “Power Rangers” and a two-episode stint on “Empire.”

Becky G Power of Young Hollywood Variety

Although she rarely calls attention to it, Becky didn’t finish high school but says an education in Los Angeles’ public school system “would’ve never worked. So in a way, I’m so thankful that I have young parents. Although there were a lot of not-so-good sides to that, they were open to hearing me out and just letting me try.”

Others were quick to see her potential — and take advantage of it. While she was fortunate in finding her core team relatively early, it was through trial and error. “I’ve had the same incredible people very close to me for years,” she says. “But the people that I had to go through before I met them, from 9 to 13, were shady as hell.” She shakes her head. “So shady.”

In 2011, when she was 14, Becky started uploading rap covers online, and it was her rendition of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Otis” that caught the attention of Lukasz Gottwald, aka Dr. Luke. The producer-songwriter has helmed several chart-toppers in the past 20 years, including performances from Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Pink and, more recently, Doja Cat.

That year, Gottwald signed Becky, then steered her to a multiplatinum single, “Shower,” at age 17. The song’s bubbly pop melodies brought lasting success — the kind that’s been revitalized via TikTok dance trends and reexaminations of the pool party-themed music video, in which a then-19-year-old Doja makes a cameo. (“It’s one of those like really crazy, unplanned, full-circle moments, which is kind of wild,” Becky says. “And [Doja] has always been just so fucking talented!”)

But looking back, Becky says she feels conflicted about “Shower.” She remembers hearing it playing in a New York coffee shop a year after its release, and smiling as she watched “a group of girls my age start to sing along. But as they’re singing it, I’m looking at them and they’re looking at me, and they’re not identifying or registering that it was my song.” In that moment, she realized “Shower” was “bigger than me,” not in the way artists typically mean when they say that — she’s more than thankful for its universal impact — but rather that there was a lack of personal connection to the tune’s conception.

“‘Shower’ was like [someone saying], ‘OK, here’s the demo — now sing it.’ And I was like, ‘Sure! Whatever I gotta do,’” she says. “But with the songs on ‘Esquemas,’ I’m singing from a place of empowerment because I’m fully involved in the creative process.” Indeed, she has a writing credit on every track on the album.

Music wasn’t the only area where she felt the need to break free. During the success of “Shower,” Gottwald enlisted Becky as a spokesperson for Core Hydration, the bottled-water company he co-founded and sold for $525 million to Keurig Dr. Pepper, which led to Becky filing a $105 million lawsuit against Core Nutrition LLC in 2018. In it, Becky claimed she’d received an inequitable share in her endorsement of the product and alleged that she had been coerced and misled about the true value of her stake in the brand. Though she declines to discuss the details of the suit, which she later dropped — “I don’t even like to give those things the time of day” — the singer insists that her decision to abandon it had nothing to do with fear.

“I recognize now that so many of my older tendencies were like, ‘I will do whatever it takes; just give me the shot,’” she says. “No one in my family had ever pursued entertainment professionally, so we had no point of reference, and that gets taken advantage of by people all the time. It becomes a thing where you’re like, ‘Well, if it means that I can provide for my family, then absolutely I’ll do it.’”

While that experience led her to take greater control over her leap into Latin music, she faced another obstacle: Singing in Spanish, which she does exclusively on “Esquemas,” was much more of a feat than it might seem to an outsider. Becky has spoken often of her “pocha power” — referencing a term used by native Mexicans, sometimes in a disparaging way, to describe U.S.-born Mexicans who don’t speak Spanish fluently. Although often used playfully, the word further perpetuates the polarization attached to being ni de aquí, ni de allá — “not from here, not from there,” a phrase frequently applied by bilingual and bicultural people to describe the dual identities of American and immigrant.

Despite having a magnifying glass held to her mix of accents and origins, Becky proudly carries her culture “everywhere I go — it’s Becky G plus Mexico on my guest list,” she jokes. “My tios, tias and all of my primos and all of their kids. I’ll never go without an audience because I can always count on my family.”

“B is probably the most family-oriented person I’ve ever met,” adds Sebastian Lletget, professional soccer player and Becky’s boyfriend of six years. “Her family is a huge part of why she works so hard, why she sacrifices time with them in order to support them, and why she does all that she does professionally.”

Up next? Becky’s own production company, where she looks to expand on her earlier acting roles and “go into the producing side because as an actress you get stuck sometimes, seeing a lot of the same roles or just feeling like there could be so much more out there for us in the Latinx community,” she explains. “So if you can’t find them, if they don’t come your way, you’ve got to make them.”

Styling: Danyul Brown/The Only Agency; Set Design: Lucy Holt; Makeup: Deanna Paley; Hair: Glen Oropeza/PRTNRS; Manicure: Johana Castillo; Look 1 (cover): Vegan bra and skirt: Marina Hoermanseder; Rings: Mara Paris and Saoti; Earrings: Mara Paris; Look 2 (plastic dress): Dress: Joanna Prazmo; Rings: Saoti; Look 3 (cream outfit seated): Top and pants: Ecke Faei