Bronx-born beauty, Isa is the granddaughter of famed Cuban vocalist and actress, Isaura Mendoza, and with inspiration from the path, which has been laid before her, Isa is taking her own lane in full gear and not looking back. With a recent release of her second EP, Mirrors Vol. 1, Isa has experienced a lot during the process and recording and has laid it all out on the tracks for us to partake. With a very diverse sound and pulling from influences, like the late-greats Whitney Houston, Aaliyah, Selena, and also the “All I Want For Christmas,” legendary diva Mariah Carey. Isa is educated with a degree in Communications and has interned for record labels, like Capital Records; throughout the time Isa learned a lot and about the business and increased her knowledge so that she could be the force she is. Isa has also grown a lot spiritually and continues to re-connect herself to God, that’s what keeps her grounded. She can’t stop and won’t stop with a hustle mentality to keep striving and reaching, it never ends. Isa will have nothing short of success and I know it first hand after chatting with the NY native herself. With spent 40 minutes via phone chatting about everything in a candid way, from her upbringing, her career, how she spends her spare time, “Breaking the Glass,” and even her double life. Isa is not afraid to be herself and do what it takes to make it work. I learned a lot just in that time speaking with her from her mind and her spirit; I could see myself in ways. Isa is charismatic and we shared a lot of laughs and she’s downright cool to talk to. She’s a vessel full of inspiration and thank God for those, like Isa. Check out my conversation with the still aspiring songbird:
PYNK: Your upbringing? I read a lot about it. Do you feel like in ways it humbled you being raised by immigrant parents?
Isa: Oh definitely, definitely because especially my dad, my grandmother, she was an artist in the 50s and 60s. She was really popular for a long time in Cuba and she toured Latin America. She toured the United States as well and she did soap operas with Talia in the 90s, like she had a solid career, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that even though quote on quote you’re an artist it’s still a job, like she still has 5 children to raise. Sometimes she would have to pick up odd jobs, cause you know the height of your career is the height of your career, doesn’t mean it’s gonna be you know poppin’ all the time, but you have to be humble enough and be willing enough to maybe take on smaller roles or other roles to help sustain yourself and your family. So from a young age my dad told me straight like look, there are gonna be better singers than you, singers just as good, and singers that don’t sing as good as you, but at the end of the day if you’re humble and if you work hard you will win; and my first vocal coach told me the same thing. She was like you can be as talented as you want to be, but if you have an attitude and you’re not humble, no one is gonna wanna work with you and so that stuck with me forever. Just the fact that, you know when you’re raised by people that aren’t necessarily didn’t grow up here, they come with that hunger from that other country or whichever other country they’re coming from to come here and just work! They want it, that career, they wanted to have their family live well, like my dad he was actually born here, but he grew up in Cuba and then he came back by himself when he was 16, the late 50s by himself. He had to teach himself English and learn how to survive by himself. He ended up going to college and he had his career and my mom, the same thing. He father died when she was 18 years old and she had to come here from DR and go through the same motions so she could help her family out in DR to sustain themselves so yeah, definitely I would say that was a blessing in disguise and receiving that coaching from my dad and my vocal coach and just, I’ve never been the type of person that I get things super easily; no matter what I always have to work super hard, like it takes me a lot so I never expect anything to be handed to me. I’m like, ‘alright well, let’s get into this work.’ (Laughs)
PYNK: Absolutely! Speaking of your grandmother too, is there an expectation because your grandmother is who she is? Is there an expectation that you feel like you have to obtain or that is expected of you to be a certain way?
Isa: I don’t think there was ever, I’ve never had that pressure on me. I would say if anything, because she saw and my dad saw that I had a gift from when I was a young kid, like a child. They always felt like they should nurture, but there’s never been like that expectation, like you have to be this super super diva (laughs), or be just like your grandmother. If anything, like she’s been more of a coach or when I go through certain stages in my career I always call her, like what should I do in this situation and she’s like okay, do this, this, and this and you should be asking for this, this, and this at this point. So luckily there has never been like that pressure, if anything I always feel like learning from her journey, I feel like I have to be on top of stuff, like on my p’s and q’s 24/7, like know what’s going on. Not even just artistically, but on the business end, because from her experience like I’ve seen how shady can really be. (Laughs)
PYNK: Absolutely! So when did you actually start singing and what age were you and when did you know that you had a love for it?
Isa: My dad always has this story that when I was born I was like born screaming out loud crazy. Like he said I screamed in a tone that he knew I was gonna be a singer (laughs). So I guess since then, but realistically since 4 or 5 years old, like I remember being 5 years old and knowing like to this day, that I was gonna be a singer, that I was gonna get out there and do it, and I was gonna be “it.” I have a journal from when I was 8 years old and I have written that down, like when I’m grown-up I wish to be a singer and to do this, this, and this. It was like automatic, I just knew. So my dad would like always play a lot of music for me and buy me karaoke machines from when I was little, little, and recorders and record me and I would like put on little shows. So definitely 4 or 5 years old, but I really took it even more serious was when I started elementary school and I was in choir and I would put like little girl groups together so we could play shows in the classroom (Laughs). It was ridiculous! I would make them rehearse during recess and they were over it! I think I was like 9 years old, they were over me! I was like, ‘no we have to rehearse, we’re putting this show together for the class!’ Like the last day of school typically, I would ask my teacher if I could put this and this together so I was about it from a young age (Laughs).
PYNK: I know that it’s obvious with your social media that you’re a big Selena fan as well as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, even Aaliyah I’ve seen on your social media. Do you feel like they influenced your music and your sound like a lot of ways, because your music is very diverse; do you feel like they shaped that?
Isa: Oh yeah, definitely, 100% and in a lot of different ways. With Aaliyah for sure, the head-voice, the harmonies, that softness that I like to bring into a lot of songs, that’s definitely her. With Selena, that vibrato, the charisma; with Mariah I would say more so the songwriting and songwriting structure. With Whitney, well and not even songwriting structures, like certain tones in my head-voice and I would say like I also have like a lighter tone voice as well. Whitney Houston, the belting for sure. So I feel like they’ve all been apart of the picture as far as like my artistry definitely for sure in different ways. Even like as far as like, I would say like my image, certain things that I like to wear and the divaness, I love that! No one can tell me nothing about that! Like I love me a fur coat, I love a gown, (laughs), but I also love being able to be relatable. I feel like Selena was super super relatable. Aaliyah too and Mariah Carey and Whitney in their own ways, like their super funny, like their interviews (laughs), and their whole diva suit and I like love it, they’re so funny.
PYNK: I agree. I obsessed over Selena for a long time. I think it was when the movie came out and Jennifer Lopez embodied her so well.
Isa: She really killed that and I think with Selena, that was the thing, and probably about all of them. They appealed to everyone. Everyone! That’s what I love most about them. They don’t just appeal to one group. They were so charismatic and so talented, they appealed to everybody!
PYNK: Have you ever been compared to Jennifer Lopez; both from the Bronx and can sing? (Laughs)
Isa: (Laughs). Yeah, most definitely. I feel especially when I first started out, a lot of people and understandably so, we even have th same last name. Like I don’t use Lopez, but that’s why I don’t use it. We even have the same last name, same background, and I have the same birthday as Selena too. So I’ve definitely been compared and I don’t think that our sounds are obviously the same, no artist sounds exactly a copy of another, but I do appreciate her story. At the end of the day, whatever she may be doing now, like she stuck to her dreams, she worked hard for it, and she really got it in a big way! She does everything. She’s a business woman. That’s somebody that is about her business so yes!
PYNK: I also know you’re trained as a classical vocalist in the DR as well. How did that come about, could you explain that?
Isa: So I started opera out kinda randomly so my aunt, my mom’s sister, she’s a dentist. She has her own clinic and one of her patients actually, she’s a singer and I think my aunt she was just trying to find out about like vocal coaching or I don’t know if sh mentioned it at som point, but she recommended her vocal coach to my aunt for me. So my aunt really made that happen. I had to audition for her cause with my Manuela you can’t take classes with her unless you audition; so I auditioned and I was so nervous and then I started taking lessons with her and I would say honestly like I wouldn’t have had it any other way, like I feel like when you get classical training; it’s a solid foundation for life, like you can really sing anything. Because it gives you a real appreciation of the voice as an instrument and how to like really love and take care of your voice, cause I feel like people forget that the vocal chords are these little muscles and so they’re, like you have to know how they work. You have to know how your own voice works, like there’s different phases with the voice, like there is phase where you have to find your own voice. That took me awhile, like in high school I didn’t know what the hell! I sounded like I was probably mostly trying to imitate what I heard and then I would say I found my voice when I was maybe like my second or third year of college where I could say, ‘wow, this sound like me!’ And then from there learning what works for my voice, like oh when I don’t get a certain amount of sleep my voice doesn’t like doing this, this, and this or when, like it’s just so, it never ends. It never ends (laughs).
PYNK: (Laughs) well I thought that was pretty cool. So just a candid question, what is typical day in the life of Isa? How does it begin, how does it end?
Isa: Well my day is pretty double lifeish. During the day, I am a an ad-off specialist. So I do work in digital advertising, during the day wake-up, get ready, work, but then it’s like switch over to artist-mode. Usually after work I have a rehearsal or recording session or a show or all, cause that has happened to me before. So sometimes I may have to rehearse after work then have a show or studio or writing session, because I also do write and make demos for other artists and for myself. So it can get pretty hectic and then obviously you have to network and go to an event, if I have like a photo or a video shoot, that can happen as well, but I felt like it has taught me like, once I get to a certain stage in my career where I won’t need a day job, where I probably would handle myself with literally a 24 hour day of work, because that’s kinda what I have now. It’s just broken up into different pieces and obviously like during the day sometimes I’ll be doing interviews like this or sending out emails, cause I handle all my business as well. So getting things together with my band and my designers or stylists or photo shoots and videographers for videos, like today I have this interview then I have to get on a conference call with this video director for this video shoot in January. After work today I have a rehearsal for a interview and a show I have on Wednesday so it’s pretty hectic.
PYNK: I believe it. What do you typically do in your spare time, like when you do have that down moment that you just want to relax what do you generally do?
Isa: When I have that down moment, like I’m very much into crystals and spirituality, so I do meditate a lot. I do pray a lot. I love a good bubble bath and I love to journal, so journaling what I’ve gone through in a day or how I’m feeling just to get it out of my head so I don’t over think. So I really like to get into a spiritual mode more than anything, like quote on quote recharge myself and just come back down to earth, like okay, you’re stable, you’re good, you know don’t worry about anything. I’m like very much so like connected to God and like that phase so I always reach back for that scripture, so like everyday on the train I’m reading the scripture just to keep my going through the day; but definitely on my spare time is that Isa time to connect back to God for sure.
PYNK: Absolutely, I totally agree and totally love it, yes! You just moved me, I got goosebumps as you were talking, because that’s what it’s all about. You have to re-connect. You have to have that time to just ground yourself, you really do, it keeps you stable and spirituality is very important. So I know you just recently released your new EP, Mirrors Vol. 1. Tell us about it and why it’s necessary to take a listen.
Isa: So Mirrors Vol. 1 started off like in a random way. I was kind of trying to find my sound and where I was going and I was at a stage where I didn’t really have a production team, did not have a manager, and I really had to pull whatever I learned from my internship and the work I did do at labels and in school together and kinda get my own ship, like my own plane of the ground literally. So it came together because I was formulating it by myself and like putting the pieces together as time went on the songs that I wrote for it, everything was happening in real time is the best way to say it. Everything was happening in real time so all of the songs on the EP are literal things that happened to me so like in “Money,” when I say, ‘I ain’t got no money to support these dreams to support me…’ I really did not, like I was temping at Spotify at that time and I had a show I remember that weekend and I’m leaving and I’m realizing oh shit I don’t even have money to pay these musicians this week, like what am I gonna do; like how am I gonna get this money in such a short amount of time, but I need to have this show; and I literally started writing it in the corner, like I don’t have no money and when songs like, “Good for Me,” like I was also in a predicament where I was in a back and forth situationship and then I almost started another situationship at the same time and now you’re stuck between two people and I was like I don’t know what I need to be doing and the song, “Harlem,” that was the first song I ever wrote for Mirrors Vol. 1. That was really real as well, like what’s gonna happen to our apartment in Harlem, what’s gonna happen to all these dreams, like literally I was just getting out of a relationship where it was just like we were gonna move in together in Harlem. ‘You know used to take care of your little brothers and sisters, like I was really close to your mother, like we were playing house, this was like a family and now it feels like I don’t have this family anymore.’ Like wow, like I don’t have anything so because it was formulated in real time and all those songs were 100% true stories and things that I was going through I decided to name it Mirrors Vol. 1 because it was a direct reflection of what was happening, like no sugar coating, no lie, like this is what it is; but it was a direct reflection without judgement; because I accepted things for what they were and I kept going until I actually finished my project and I made progress in my life and you know found myself, my sound a little better and where I wanted to go, who I should be working with, who I shouldn’t, and I think people should listen to it because it really is a well, it’s a project that a lot of thought was put into it from the song titles, from the track-listing to what was incorporated, like the intro for example I did a monologue to give ode to my grandmother and I did Maria Callas operatic phrase in the beginning of it to give ode to the operatic foundation because, I did put it together with a producer who had classical training as well so we literally made every song from scratch. So I would write and sing over the melodies and then send it over to her and we would put it together on the piano. So everything was done from scratch, like from beginning to end it’s a full blown picture and story and those are things that can happen to anyone, cause I’m sure anyone can relate, especially living in New York, like I don’t have money to support my dreams, like I wanna do all these things, but sometimes it’s not that the person doesn’t want to do them, they just don’t have their resources; or songs like, “Take It Slow,” that was also a stand still in a relationship, the last relationship that I was in actually where it was just like I don’t know what to do anymore, like I’ve tried everything. I don’t know what you want, you don’t want to leave, I don’t want to leave, so I guess we’re just gonna have to take it slow and let life take its course and see what happens. So I think it’s definitely a must listen for people because it’s there is 100% true story telling, very relatable, the arrangements themselves were well thought out, I definitely show my vocal range throughout the EP, and there’s something there for everyone for sure.
PYNK: I agree, and that was 3 years you working on that, right?
Isa: Yeah, 3 years.
PYNK: That’s a long time, so it took a lot of thought?
Isa: I feel like Mirrors Vol. 1 was kind of like my lesson. Other than just being a gift to give to the people and just me sharing, it was definitely a lesson for me to see how long it can really to take to put together something solid, because it’s not just the sound or the songs themselves; like the designs to the cover, the music videos, the website, the photos, you know the publicity; all the pieces that go together, like it’s just about you and me Isa, me, me, me, like no. It takes a lot of putting together and a village to make something, something, something of quality.
PYNK: Absolutely, I definitely agree with that! So what’s your personal favorite; if you had to say out of all of them that are great, which one would you say is your personal favorite if you had to choose?
Isa: I would say, Harlem is my personal favorite. Just because it was the first one and because it’s so real (breath), like (exhale). I mean they all are, but that one in particular that’s so specific, it’s so specific to New York, where I’m from. Like, I mean even towards the ending of the song I’m just saying and paraphrasing, I’m like, ‘no one hurt me like you hurt me,’ and I just repeat it over and over and like, just that simple phrase, but it was from a really hurt place, like I was really hurt, like no one every hurt me like that in my life and it’s just like, (exhale again and laugh), like I’m getting emotional thinking about it and I’m like wow, that song was, that’s my favorite, that’s my favorite.
PYNK: Awww! (Both laugh). Do you ever feel any pressure from the industry to be something that you aren’t?
Isa: Definitely in the past I did. Especially, when I first started out, like I feel like I was being malleable, which sometimes can be a good or bad thing, like you know you don’t want to be so malleable that you don’t know yourself that you don’t know what you will or won’t stand for, but throughout that process of actually making the EP that kinda went out the window for me, like I know what I want, what I want to represent, and I know that some things are give and take, but when it comes to my integrity like that’s a no, no; and like one meeting in particular that I did have with a lawyer way back when I started just made me so upset, especially as a woman, like when you get asked to do certain things or well you should represent yourself like this and you need to be more naked, or you did do so more or this or this. I was just sitting there, like what the ‘f’! Like, I knew that this happens, but it’s different when it happens to you, when it’s so up front, so non-chalant. I remember I was so angry, like I bursted into tears because I was so angry and I couldn’t do anything and I was like, I swear to God that I will never do those things and I will prove to these people that you don’t have to do that to get to the top; and even that motivated me even more so at this point no! Like, I know there’s give and take for certain things, like I know people need to make money and sell singles, blah, blah, blah, but I just feel like I respect my integrity so, nope, if it doesn’t sound good to me and it’s disrespecting who I am as a person and what I represent then it’s a no, no!
PYNK: I feel you! When was the moment that you felt like you made it or do you still feel like, even since all the things you’ve accomplished, there is still work to do?
Isa: Oh no, I definitely have not made it, but I feel like I’m the type of person, I’m very ambitious and I’m a go-getter, but I also learn. What I started realizing was that it never ends, like you never really make it, like let’s say I get signed to a label tomorrow, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game now. Cause’ now you gotta stay relevant within another group of people and now you have charting to be concerned about, and then once you hit a certain amount of charting, like a certain amount of #1’s, no you’re in another level. Now you need to be concerned about what you need to achieve there. I think of it more or so it never ends, but for me if anything, making it is when I see people send me DMs, like wow this song really touched me, I see this and this for you, and like, what you represent. When you inspire people and you really touch people and they really, really, really believe in you, I mean total strangers! That for me is, like yeah I made it, I mean I achieved what I was supposed to because that’s the reason why you have the gift to spread a message to people, to inspire people, to motivate people, to guarder that reaction and that love; like there are certain supporters of mine that I have, like I consider them my friends now (laughs) and I’ve never met them a day in my life, but we’ve become so connected, like it’s crazy, but as far as making it, it never ends, like it’s levels and levels and levels to this; I don’t think it ever ends.
PYNK: With all the craziness that’s going on in the world right now today and you know we do need definitely positive messages and affirmations, like your movement, I noticed Breaking the Glass, what is that and can you tell us about it?
Isa: Yeah, so Breaking the Glass started initially because of my MVI EP, but as I also started growing spiritually I felt like this is bigger than just one EP so I constantly like upload motivational quotes and post images and videos of things to keep people uplifted, because I feel like we’re in such starved times that if you don’t find that clear motivation or just that little bit of light, you can easily get lost in drag. Like for example, Donald Trump got elected and it sucks, it does suck, but we can’t sit here and cry about it, we gotta move! We need to make movements, we need to strategize, we need to see how we’re going to have our people succeed in the midst of all this bs, really. So that’s why I find it so important for me to have Breaking the Glass to show people that you literally can break, you can break the glass, you can get through anything that’s opposing you, whatever obstacle, and in that sense as well, like I always try to show on that page that it’s not just about motivational quotes, it’s more so their visual representations to keep you motivated, but it’s more so about remembering that you have the power on you. You have that power from the holy spirit within you to get done what you need to get done and in that same way, help your fellow man, the person beside you, and to make your world better, because it starts with you; so that’s the purpose of Breaking the Glass, just to have that visual representation of that as a reminder that you know you can do this and despite all the mess that’s going on, we can do this, especially my black and brown people, like we really can and we just gotta strategize and stick together, seriously, like I don’t wanna hear all lives matter! Seriously, we can stick together and get things done, like we come from a lineage of people, with a lot of power, hello; the Egyptians, Africans, like that’s the birthplace of the world, like why wouldn’t we be able to!
PYNK: Since everything, what were some of the lessons you’ve learned about yourself along the way, career, professionally, or relationships?
Isa: I would say the most important one of all, I would say is you really gotta love yourself and I feel like I didn’t really learn that until this past year so sometimes I think when people tell us to love ourself, like oh you know just take care of yourself, go to the hair salon and get your hair done, your nails and whatever, and be cute! No, no, no, being like loving yourself 100% is waaaayyyy more than that, it’s being able to like dig deep and face those hard truths about yourself, being able to say no to people; it’s so hard sometimes, especially in this industry, when someone presents you with an opportunity to say no and you may be like, but it really doesn’t go with who I am, but it’s such a great opportunity; you gotta be willing to say no and think about the long run and your best interest and other than loving yourself, I would say patience. I’ve learned that patience is a place and that goes patience with people, with projects, and the movement of things. I would be he type of person that just push, push, push, like I have to get this done, push, push, push; and I realized like sometimes no! Sometimes you gotta let things go and leave it to God, after you’ve done everything you can, you gotta let things go and give it to God, because it just takes some time for things to come through and when it comes through it’ll be the right time, like this EP was supposed to come out a year ago, over a year ago, and so many things prevented it and I was so upset and devastated, but I realized like wait no, let me calm down (laughs), after I had my little fit (laughs), let me calm down and just let it be and I’ll keep going more strategically. That’s another thing, strategy. I mean you can have all the talent in the world, no matter what it is you do, whether it’s singing, etc., etc., but if there’s not strategy behind it it’s not gonna matter, it’s not gonna matter. Strategy is so important.
PYNK: What advice would you give to someone, a young lady or anyone that wants to do what it is that you do? That wants that success.
Isa: Armor yourself with knowledge, because if you have the knowledge, if you make sure that you’re informed, if you have your receipts, no one can pull one over on you, no matter how hard they try; no one will be able to pull one over on you, because trust people will constantly try to pull one over on you, but if you’re armed with the knowledge it makes it that much harder for them and that much harder for you to even get annoyed that they even tried to do that, cause you’ll have the knowledge and you’ll be able to find a solution. So I would say that armor yourself with the knowledge, read as much as you can, if you can intern, intern. Don’t be embarrassed to take a part time job or a day job while you’re quote on quote trying to make it. Do what you need to do, you have to survive. You don’t have to be a starving artist. I feel like that’s a myth. No one has to be a starving artist. Be willing to put in the work and sustain for your life, think about the long term. You know, you wanna build wealth, it’s not just about, ‘oh, I wanna get on and have a hot 100 hit…’. No, no, no, want to build wealth, but that all comes down to knowledge, you gotta have that knowledge!
PYNK: So what can we expect from Isa in the future? Do we have a Mirrors Vol. 2 or what can we expect; where do you plan on taking the music?
Isa: Oh definitely 2 more music videos for the EP for sure. Definitely more new music, definitely am looking to re-find my sound. I feel like towards the end of MVI that’s when I really started to get like an ear for how I wanted to sound more so and re-finding the sound. Definitely will be doing a lot of shows in NYC, might be doing a few in LA next year as well so just growth! Definitely, expect growth, new music, new visuals, and just getting out there. I definitely want to, that’s a big thing that I was talking about with my team when I was developing Breaking the Glass and partnering with other organizations just to bring more awareness to it, just to get us going, just to get us going and to spread the message. 2017 is gonna be a year of movement, strategizing, especially with everything that is going on, so that’s where I’m at; ending the year strong so that I can step into the new year just ready!
PYNK: So do you have any plans for the holiday, Christmas?
Isa: For Christmas, actually my best friend from the DR is gonna be here so that’s gonna be fun and we’re all gonna get together and keke at one of my other best friend’s house for New Year’s. I actually wanted to have like a vision board party with a few of my close friends, just to get all of us. I feel like there is like a domino effect, like we’re all in that mode and like it’s so crazy, like I can’t tell you how much my life has changed since I really started writing things down and being more positive, meditating, talking to more people, being more open, like so many doors and so many things have opened up for me. So those are my plans, getting everything cleaned up and ready for the new year; just having fun with close friends and family.
PYNK: That’s so important. So what’s your favorite holiday or Christmas song?
Isa: Oh, wait I can’t forget this. I did a cover for this! “The Christmas Song!” (Sings), ‘Chess notes roasting on an open fire…’
PYNK: Oh, yes!
Isa: I love that one! That is my favorite! There are so many, I feel like their all really good, it’s just a matter of whichever one sticks in your head the most! (Laughs) Most of them are really good! Oh, actually I forgot, Oh Santa by Mariah Carey; oh my God I love that song!
“You can find them in The Bronx, in Harlem, you can find them in Brooklyn, in Queens…she’s a Queen.”
Photo Credit(s): @isthatIsa’s Facebook