Nomi Ruiz Channels Janet Jackson in 'Be Your Girl'

Nomi Ruiz Channels Janet Jackson in 'Be Your Girl'

by Kenna McCafferty

Nomi Ruiz’s latest single is a welcome breeze in the summer heat. "Be Your Girl," released today with a Janet Jackson-inspired visual to boot, is about all things sweet and sensual.

Ruiz has always enjoyed the softer things in life, curating a soulful and inviting sound charged with the heat of passion and ease of The XX. While harkening on early R&B influences, like Jackson, Ruiz’s music is no less boundary breaking. As the first Latina transgender woman to perform on prestigious stages worldwide, Ruiz has developed a powerful presence in pop culture, fronting Nu-Disco troupe Hercules & Love Affair and her own electro-pop act Jessica 6.

Now, she’s going solo with a highly anticipated album, Hi-Def Femme, on the way. If "Be Your Girl" is any indication, Hi-Def Femme promises to deliver songs of sweet nothings to whisper in your summer lover’s ear.

The visual, drawing from Jackson’s wistful classic, “Again,” nurtures intimacy and vulnerability, exploring the relationship between Ruiz and her beau, played by Abel Sanchez. The two spend the day wrapped in each other's arms, celebrating the simple bliss of romance.

"I wanted to capture that moment of initial touch, to show these lovers exploring each other for the first time over the course of a day,” Ruiz says. “For me, there’s something so intimate about sharing space with someone while watching them in their element. Allowing them to be themselves while learning more about how they operate by simply letting them be."

"Be Your Girl" captures Ruiz in her element, as the visual opens with an introduction speaking to the power of love and its inevitability. “I used to believe love was weakness,” Ruiz’s voice croons. “But as I began to feel it for the first time, really feel it, I realized that love was like death — unavoidable and coming for all of us.”

"We rarely see trans women of color being treated with tenderness on film."

Ruiz may also be coming for us, with lyrical chops and silky vocals, but even outside her music, she aims to build something more meaningful by carving out a place for herself and fellow trans women of color.

"We rarely see trans women of color being treated with tenderness on film," she says. "The most intimate moments with the lovers in my life have been when we’ve sat and stared into each other, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable while exploring our curiosity and passion. I thought that would be powerful to see on film and it was important for me to find someone I had a special chemistry with who could go there with me."

Watch the PAPER premiere of Nomi Ruiz's "Be Your Girl" and stream her single, below.

Photos courtesy of Nomi Ruiz