Fresh off the latest season of VH1's Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, Detroit singer, dancer and activist La'Britney, known for her viral "LaMix" videos, is working hard to deliver her fan base — LaNation — what they want: good music. Her new EP Never Fold, featuring her hit "Actin' Funny" featuring Kash Doll, is a testament to La'Britney's life as a businesswoman, artist and television personality. PAPER caught up with the multi-hyphenate to discuss how becoming a mother at 14 gave her the drive to succeed no matter what, inspiring young women through her When Beauty Meets Brains movement and what's next for her and her family.
So you just finished touring with Arin Ray?
Yes. That was my first time hitting the road like that. We started off in Detroit, and my daddy drove me and my team to New York, from New York to DC, from DC all the way down to Atlanta, back up to Cleveland. This was my first time doing a live show in a lot of these cities, so I really had no idea what to expect. And every single city that I was in sang the words to my songs, they showed me so much love, and that made me feel good — like the hard work is starting to pay off.
That must be such an amazing feeling.
Yeah, it definitely is, and Arin Ray, he's so talented. His whole squad and his whole team, they just treated me good, so it was a really good experience. I can't wait to go on tour again this year.
Are you planning to?
Yes, I'm definitely planning on touring this summer for sure, once we're done filming for the TV show.
Is your dad going to drive the bus again?
Heck yeah! Yes my daddy is going to drive the bus and it's just going to be a bigger bus this time, you know we had to upgrade. [laughs]
You've got to be comfortable! I often hear from artists how rough touring can be on your body and your health.
Yes, and it's expensive as hell. You know, I'm an independent artist. I'm not signed to a major label so I pay a lot of money for us to hit the road. It was me, my two dancers, my best friend who's my manager, and my assistant and my dad. So it was all of us, and I made sure that we ran it properly. Nobody would've thought this was our first time doing this, touring state to state, literally days back to back to each other. It also made me proud of myself as a businesswoman. I have my own situation, making entertainment. The people that are close to me, like my best friend, all these people, we've been working together, we grew up together, you know? To be able to tour like that as an independent artist with an artist that's signed to a major label and still be able to keep up, that felt really good.
Is being signed to a major label something that you're interested in, or do you like being independent?
I definitely love the independent vibe because I can truly just be La'Britney. I don't have a million different influences and I feel like it's an easier process to just create. But it gets tough because it's very, very expensive. So I'm grateful that these days, as an independent artist, we have the ability to be able to build our own core audience, distribute our music to Apple Music and Tidal and Spotify, and as long as you're grinding you're still able to bring in some sort of revenue. It may not be millions yet, but you keep building that fanbase and it's going to be, eventually. So I love the idea of independent artists' growth, and then once you reach the point where you have created so much success for yourself, these major labels are going to want to partner with you. And the deals that they offer you, they're going to be different. It's going to make more sense for you and for them because they feel like you already hold value. You won't be so indebted to them. I really love where the music industry is today because five years ago, eight years ago, we didn't have the ability to be able to make money and do what we're doing like this. The major labels controlled everything. If you weren't signed, you couldn't do nothing. It was a different game.
Have you always viewed yourself as a businesswoman?
It's crazy because it's in me, it ain't on me. Since I've been a little girl, I always tried to start up different businesses. I taught myself how to sew and I had my own clothing line. I was literally in my living room with two sewing machines and sewing dresses and leggings and tops, selling them to all the girls in the city, making money off my clothing line that was paying my bills so I could be able to do music, because you can't really get a real job doing music, you know. When I was 14 years old I had my first son. I wasn't even old enough to get a job so I had to make money to pay for him to go to daycare, so I taught myself how to do hair. I used to braid everybody's hair on the block, do all the girls' twisties and ponytails, and that's how I made my money. I've always been self-driven and all about using my skills to make my money.
Having a child at a young age surely changes your trajectory.
Yes, I have two sons. My oldest son right now is 15 years old, and my youngest son is 11. I had my oldest son when I was 14 and I was a sophomore in high school. Nobody knew I was pregnant until I was eight months along. Literally, nobody, not my mother, nobody. I don't know how I managed to do that or even why I did that, I think it was just denial, and I was afraid. I was still doing everything I would normally do — cheerleading, rehearsals, everything — fully pregnant. When I was eight months, that's when I had to tell my parents. My dad had had a little suspicion anyway, because I had stayed over at his house for a week and he had called my mom like, "La'Britney been sleeping a lot, you know, I don't know if it's her stomach." But my people love me so much, they support me so much that even though we only had 30 days until my due date, I still had the craziest baby shower in the basement. The whole high school came out. It was literally like, all kids, but the support was just so real, and it's really been like that ever since I had him and that's part of the reason why I'm still able to pursue my goals and my dreams.
I have a great support system behind me and I'm also a very, very active mother. My kids come first at all times. I go to football games, I go to all the band recitals. It keeps me balanced, too. They actually make me work harder, my kids do, because it's not only about me. I have two children that are dependent upon me for their next meal, to put clothes on their back, and to have a roof over their head. I'm passionate about what I do, I was born to entertain. So with that being said, I gotta go hard. I can't play around with this shit. I didn't just wake up yesterday and say, "I want to be a singer," no. This is what I do. That's the reason why I've been able to just elevate. I recently moved to California this year and started doing television for the first time. Opportunity always comes to to me. Even though I'm an independent artist and a mother of two, God's always still opening doors for me because he knows that I'm genuine about what I do and I'm really trying to make a difference, not only for myself but for the people that I love as well.
Is that background what inspired your activism around uplifting other women?
Yes, I started the When Beauty Meets Brain movement four years ago. The model behind it is: you can be beautiful, but what's beauty without brains? We honor high schoolers, young girls, girls graduating from college, women doctors, women lawyers, women in the business, period. Remember I told you I was sewing clothes and making money? I would go to Walmart and buy these crewnecks and I'd take it to my friend and have him print my logo, "When Beauty Meets Brain" on the front, and then me and my sister would go to JOANN and buy cool colored fabric, like sequins or something, cut the sleeves off, sew on new sleeves with the sequins print, and put them up for sale. We would do little contests, like, women would tell their stories, just telling us about how they're grinding, or something they went through and how they overcame it, and we would give away these crewnecks for free, so that started When Beauty Meets Brain.
I'm really into fashion and I'm really into makeup, and women are too. They love to see how I'm dressing, they love to see how I'm going to wear my hair, so I realized that I would like for When Beauty Meets Brain to encompass all of it. I just released my first lipstick, it's called "Ooh La La." It's real cute. I packed up a couple of lipsticks and I did a contest where the girls had to submit to me their grade point averages, and if they had a 3.5 or higher then I sent them a free lipstick, stuff like that.
With the When Beauty Meets Brain movement I've also booked a lot of speaking engagements, women empowerment panels where I go and I tell my story about how I started, what I'm doing, what my plans are, and how I was able to execute my vision into actual reality. I book a lot of events like that. I speak to a lot of teenage parents and young girls that are pregnant. When Beauty Meets Brain is really special to me because that's the part of me that really represents La'Britney off camera, you know? Just being a black girl, a woman is trying to live an everyday life. I want the girls to be able to come to When Beauty Meets Brain and get motivation, fashion tips, styling tips, all of that.
Photo by Davide
When you started on "Love & Hip Hop," did you have any hesitation about putting your life on TV?
I was a little apprehensive at first about "Love & Hip Hop" just because "Love & Hip Hop" doesn't hold the cleanest, most positive reputation, but I had to sit down and think about it and at the end of the day, they can only work with what you give them. If you're on TV being ignorant and you're willing to do certain things that's not within your character, then that's you, and they're going to take it and run with it. With me, it was like, 'La'Britney, you just get on this TV show and you be yourself,' and that's exactly what I do and what I did last season. It was really my real life. It would show me doing shows, performing, pushing my music. It showed me with my family, my two sons. They filmed one of the episodes with me, it was really dope, and we talked about relocating them from Detroit to Los Angeles, which is something I'm working on this year. Honestly, it was easy for me and I had a very successful season as a new cast member. I ended up in 12 out of 16 episodes, and was able to show who I am. It ended up really working in my favor.
Are you planning to do it again?
You've got to watch and see, Claire! You've got to tune in!
That's fair! You recently put a new EP out, Never Fold. What were you inspired when making that project?
When I wrote most of the records on that project, during that time I was in a real fucked up place. I think everybody goes through those, but this time it was just really crazy. It was right before I moved out here to LA and was still in Detroit. I packed everything, and I was like, "Fuck this shit. I don't know what to do." This music, the entertainment world, it's tough, it's not easy at all. Nothing was shaking for me, nothing was moving. I just felt like I was at home in Detroit working so hard, but I was working in circles. I felt like I wasn't growing. I'm like, shit, should I just go get a regular job so I can make some money? Because I don't like being broke. I hate being broke, and I was so broke. I was sleeping on my best friend's couch, me and my baby daddy had split up, we were together for ten years, and we had split up. I had moved out of my house. I had nothing. I was stressed out, but I talked to God, and I talked to God every day and I locked myself in the studio and just started writing and writing and writing and putting my feelings into my music. Regardless of what you're going through in life, when things get tough and you hit a roadblock, you can't fold. You've got to keep going. You're stronger than that, we didn't come this far to fold, it's never fold.
The cover of the project is my two ID cards, one is my license and one is my ID card. In one of them I'm smiling and in the other one I'm pissed off. In this industry or in this life in general, a lot of times people look at you from the outside in and they see and feel like you're doing so amazing, but behind closed doors shit can be hard for you. That's what that cover art represented. Life ain't always what it seems to be. Plus, I had just finally got my license, because I used to always get a bunch of tickets, and my license would always be suspended, so the ID card where I'm smiling at, that's my license picture, I was so fucking happy. I had to work hard. I worked hard, I saved up all that money to get my license. I got my license, no matter what. So that project, Never Fold, it gets kind of personal. I talk about my family, I talk about my shows, I talk about music people, I talk about me fighting demons, telling myself, "Don't give up, you've got to keep going." My sister, Afro Cubaan, is featured on this project, and we've got our song, "Tell Me Nothing." It's so crazy because when we was kids, I forced my sister to do music with me, and she would do it because she loved me so much, And now we actually got a song out together, shit.
You got to keep it in the family.
They're the only ones you can really depend on.