New York creative Maluca Mala (real name Natalie Ann Yepez) is known for a distinctly flavorful perspective born out of her Dominican heritage and New York roots. Stylish, thorough and just plain fly, more so than just a quote-unquote influencer, she’s a rock in the foundation of the culture. As she has written oh-so accurately, “NYC is where you come to make your dreams happen, but we just happen to be born here. We are the dream!”
Musically, Maluca first turned heads with “El Tigeraso,” a 2009 single produced by Diplo. While she performed “Love Is Free” with Robyn on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” last summer, the appearance was preceded by a period when she considered leaving the music industry altogether, an internal debate spurred by a deep immersion in the study of yoga.
We had a phone chat with Maluca about the live meditation sessions she’s been hosting on Mondays on Instagram, her music and more. Enjoy the exchange below.
Snobette: How did you get the idea to start the weekly Monday meditations?
Maluca: “I was thinking of a way to give back to the community that has held me down for so long. I was thinking of ways I could be of service. I have been meditating for a while, went to yoga school, got my teaching certificate a few years ago and I found the Instagram meditations to be to be a great way to connect.”
Snobette: Has meditation always been part of your lifestyle?
Maluca: “For the past six years I’ve been very dedicated to my meditation practice. For a very long time, I was always attracted to spiritual, esoteric teachings. Once I committed to meditating regularly, I started seeing changes in my thinking in my life, and in my creativity.”
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Can’t believe it was only a few weeks ago I was getting ready to step on the MSG stage. I’ve been on the the borderline of giving up many times. To all those artists on the verge of giving up; TRUST THE PROCESS. Keep showing up to your craft, cause you never know?! Glad God had never given up on me and I’ve never given up on myself. 📸: @friedplatano And just a MAJOR thank you to this glam team w/ best energy! 💄: @raisaflowers 💁🏽♀️: @seanchristopherfears
Snobette: Last April, you mentioned on Instagram that you were on the verge of giving up music. Can you tell us why?
Maluca: “Oh definitely. When I started studying yoga, I really wanted to just deepen my practice as opposed to becoming a teacher. The course work was very intensive. The yoga training schedule went from 8:00 AM to about 8:00 PM for a month. The teachers made us aware of the changes we would experience. People were switching careers, breaking up with people, lots of existential awakenings.
“At the same time, the music industry can be very toxic and I’ve been surprised there hasn’t been more of a ‘Me Too’ movement in the industry. I’ve been in music videos as a model and it’s always been a culture that uses women. I’ve been fortunate to have not been a victim physically, but there are still lots of microaggressions and shady dealings reflecting an old way of doing things.
“Because of social media, now artists have a lot more power. We’re in a different space now but women are still underpaid. How many top female producers are household names?
“Going through the studies, I questioned everything and certain behaviors, environments and people became unattractive to me. I became sober about six years ago. Things really shifted and then I had an awakening that encouraged me to continue making music in the digital space, something that enables me to stay connected with the public.
Snobette: Last July you performed your 2015 track “Love Is Free” with Robyn on Jimmy Fallon. How did the collaboration come about?
Maluca: “Robyn is great inspiration for me, she’s been in the industry since she was 15. I met her through Diplo, who was working on her album back in 2010. We met at Carnival in London. If you’ve never been to carnival in London it’s packed, so much fun, tons of people, in the streets. That night trains and buses were shut down, so we all had to walk miles to our hotel, and that journey bonded us.”
Snobette: For a born and raised New Yorker, you’ve have seen so much change in the City. Does it still feel like home?
Maluca: “It does because my mom is in New York and it feels like home wherever she is. My family is here as well so no matter what, it’s home.
“There are still a few places that have that old New York vibe, but if I say it in public, everyone will know about it, lol! I know someone whose family has owned a few buildings in the same neighborhood since the ’80s and all the businesses have been here for years. It feels like a time capsule, especially when everything else in the neighborhood has been transformed. It’s weird and cool at the same time.
“Parts of the Bronx, Washington Heights and the Lower East Side still have that authentic feel. What bums me out is that nightlife died even prior to COVID-19. In the early ’00s there were so many underground clubs and bars with all kinds of music. Places that were fun like Santos Party House where I worked when it first opened.”
Snobette: You wrote the following on Instagram: “NYC is where you come to make your dreams happen, but we just happen to be born here. We are the dream!” Can you share what you meant by that?Maluca: “I’m obsessed with New York. My upcoming album will be all about New York City. I was born here so I don’t know what it’s like to want to move and be here. When I hear stories of people leaving their homes to come here to live a life that I am living, it’s cool but it’s also a reminder for us to not give up and let ourselves be pushed out by gentrification. We are the dream, we made New York aspirational for so many people around the world.”
Snobette: Your style is always on point, how important was fashion in your home?
Maluca: “My dad worked in music for a while. He would travel to Europe and would come back and tell us about what kids were wearing. At one point he told us all the kids in London were wearing Clarks and to us it was crazy because at the time it was all about Timberland boots. And sure enough Wu Tang Clan later on were wearing baggy jeans and Wallabees.
“My parents were young and cute, always dressed cool. That’s for sure where my sense of style comes from. I remember my mom had this hunter green fur coat, it was amazing. A lot of people in the neighborhood thought we were rich, and she was like, ‘It’s fake mija.’ lol My parents had lots of style and I was able to experiment with my style.”
Snobette: How are you coping with quarantine for 30 days in?
Maluca: “I really feel like its the wild wild west and I’m in the Home Alone movie sometimes. I’ve even had cake for breakfast! Then I try to make sense of it, go outside to take a walk, and maybe grab an iced coffee. Then reality kicks in that I have to wear gloves and a mask to go outside…. It’s as if all the sci-fi movies we loved growing up have manifested .”
I’ve also realized that we have a lot of power, we’re at a fork in the road. We have to use this time to take a stand. I’m joining a group of activists from @refusefacism in protesting against the current administration. We’re turning our instagram profiles to black as a symbol of mourning but also a protest against the current administration.
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BLACK OUT: we are living through a global pandemic. Under lock down. Our privacy and rights are vulnerable and compromised. state representatives are looking under couch cushions for money for essential needs like tests, ventilators etc. Corporations are being bailed out by US, while essential workers are risking their lives for us and struggling to survive. While we are stuck inside, the Trump/Pence regime is accelerating the COVID-19 pandemic on a path to genocide. We are at a turning point and WE ARE NOT POWERLESS. WILL YOU JOIN ME in a virtual protest tomorrow demanding the immediate removal of Trump & Pence, and a just response to this crisis. To participate – simply make your IG profile photo SOLID BLACK ⚫️ starting at 12PM EST . @refusefascism