Create & Cultivate 100: Music: Kiana Ledé

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Kiana Ledé is the ultimate multi-hyphenate.

A singer, an actor, and a mental health advocate, Kiana rose to fame after posting covers of hits like Drake’s Hotline Bling on YouTube. But after hearing the Republic Records signee’s own music, you’ll forget all about the covers.

The songstress’ top hit, EX (with more than 6 million plays on Spotify), breaks the mold of typical breakup ballads—heartfelt, raw, and vulnerable, Kiana croons, “I don’t gotta be in love with you to love you; don’t treat me like your ex.”

That realness is innate to how Kiana communicates, inside and outside the recording studio. She’s open about her struggles with depression and anxiety and is an advocate for therapy and meditation, and she hopes her music offers solace to those struggling with mental health. This 21 year old is wise beyond her years, and we can’t wait to share what she has to say.

You’re both a singer and an actor. What do you like most about each career?

I like that each different artistic path informs the other. I like being able to write my own thoughts in a song and then be able to emote them musically but I also love being given the script and finding my own interpretation of the words. They are very different but each informs the other.

Watch Kiana in our interview with her behind-the-scenes at our Create & Cultivate 100 photoshoot

What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

Connecting with people who might have found some strength in my music or in the reflection of a character I am portraying and even finding myself in my own characters strengths and weaknesses. I get to be artistic and honest all the time!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Read any Rupi Kaur book. That is advice from experience transformed into poetry and it is my guide to being a young brown girl in this world.

What guidance would you give to women who are hungry to chase their dreams but just starting out in their careers?

Don’t let society or the pressure of history rush you. You aren’t here to fit into any historical box that women are supposed to be in. So don’t let anyone rush you into fitting into one. Take your time. Build your career at YOUR pace cuz you a boss!

You’ve archived a lot of the YouTube cover songs that helped you rise to fame. Why don’t you want them on your channel anymore?

I felt like it was time to put them to bed. The covers were a vehicle. I am so grateful for them and enjoyed singing them but I enjoy singing my own songs more ;)

If you had to choose another career, what would it be?

My real passion is helping people and more specifically, young women, so I would probably be a social worker or a therapist that specializes in helping young women.

You made a conscious effort to feature people of color in your music video for Fairplay. Can you speak to the importance of inclusion in Hollywood?

Of course it’s important to have representation in Hollywood, for people of every color and culture to see people that look like them. However, it’s much bigger than Hollywood. Let’s just look at the idea of inclusion on a global level. Hollywood isn’t even all that important in the grand scheme of things. Black girls should see black female lawyers. Hispanic girls should see Hispanic female doctors. That’s what is going to change the world. So what I’m doing is actually on very small scale but I choose to empower myself by empowering others. That’s the most inclusive mind-set one can have. By including others, I also include myself!

Black girls should see black female lawyers. Hispanic girls should see Hispanic female doctors. That’s what is going to change the world.

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When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?

That really is hard. Sometimes you have to reset and restart. In the end, even if I reach out to my team or my mother for some help...it all comes back to me. New roads must be discovered on a deeply personal level, so while I certainly use my incredible and resourceful family/team, it all lands back on me to pick up and start again. But that is the most powerful feeling when you get it right.

Whose career really inspires you? Why?

One of my role models is Rihanna because she started out as a girl from a small island and grew into one of the bossest women we’ve ever seen. She is more than just an artist. She helps women by setting an example of being unapologetically herself and it paying off. She does not conform. What an icon.

What are you most excited for in 2019?

I can’t wait to release my next project. That’s coming soon, too! New stories, new songs to share. Also, I’m hitting the road with Ella Mai on her US debut tour. It’s going to be amazing!

Photography by Annie McElwain Photography

Photoshoot skincare provided by Dermalogica

VIEW THE FULL CREATE & CULTIVATE 100 MUSIC LIST HERE.