Paloma Mami Builds on Her Roots

Paloma Mami Builds on Her Roots

Story by Ivan Guzman / Photography by Claudio RoblesApr 04, 2024

Paloma Mami is at her grandparents' farmhouse in Chile. She connects over Zoom, soft-spoken and very engaged, in a setting where it all started for her.

“I’m always craving terreno Latino,” she tells PAPER. “It’s very much needed.” Born Paloma Rocío Castillo Astorga, the New York-bred musician moved to Chile when she was a teenager. There, she bloomed musically in a way that NYC couldn’t allow her to, writing her own songs and even competing on the first season of Chilean talent competition Rojo, el color del talento.

Ultimately, this landed Paloma a record deal, making her the first Chilean-American artist to be signed to Sony Music Latin. Since then, the 24-year-old reggaeton princess, whose stage name was inspired by Drake’s Instagram username, has released a steady stream of Latin-meets-R&B infused hits and built a devoted, sometimes rabid, fanbase in the process. She says it’s become a common occurrence for fans in Chile to camp outside of her grandparents’ house there, belting her songs for hours and even trying to break in. “But it’s all love, you know?” she says. “As long as nobody gets hurt.”

Things seem to be only going up from here. Below, we discuss the creative bursts that come from solitude, Selena and her transformative new sound.

Glasses: Gentle Monster, Earrings, necklace and bracelet: Swarovski, Dress and boots: Diesel

How are you? Where are you in the world right now?

I'm good. Right now I’m in Chile. I'm actually currently in my grandparents’ crib. So I'm on a farm.

Oh nice. I’m in Texas right now. I always crave nature.

I think being Latin, that happens. I'm always craving terreno Latino. It’s very much needed.

Do you find that inspiration comes to you based on your location?

Yeah, it varies. I could go to a new location and get lots of inspiration, as well. And then sometimes I'm in a place that I'm always at, and I get blocked if I’m in a place for too long. So yeah, I like to hop around. Being in nature is always super inspiring.

Jacket and mini-skirt: Mugler, Sunglasses: Swarovski, Shoes: Diesel

Tell me about being raised in New York and then moving to Chile. What was that dichotomy like?

It was crazy, honestly. I was always really different from everybody in my school, because I always had these two worlds, basically since I was born. I was always able to have my Chilean culture and also the New York culture, which is a whole world of its own. I feel so blessed that my parents had always shown me mis raíces here [in Chile] and had me come to be with my family. And then it was a blessing, obviously, to be raised in New York, because of the education and the different cultures. It definitely made me more liberal and [influenced] the way that I think, the way that I dress and the way that I act. It also really helped me see how different it is here in Chile. It's definitely a bit less advanced, and they're not so open minded. So I was always able to see the difference and it was really striking.

Who are some of your favorite tastemakers in reggaeton? Or just in Latin music in general?

I’ve always loved Plan B. Chencho [Corleone] has always been my favorite since I first heard Plan B when I was 11 years old. Chencho is always my favorite. His voice, his lyric and his melodies just do it for me every time.

Sunglasses: Gentle Monster, Earrings and necklace: Swarovski, T-shirt: Heaven by Marc Jacobs

Music-wise, who did you look up to growing up?

I would listen to a lot of Shakira, a lot of Marc Anthony, a lot of Rihanna, a lot of R&B, you know? Brandy. I love Aaliyah. I started listening to her when I was probably 16. Destiny's Child, too. A whole mix of Latin and then R&B flow, too. Those are the references from when I grew up. Even Avril Lavigne. So random. So many different styles.

Was there any one specific piece of culture that was really formative for you?

Yeah, a lot of movies for me. For example, Selena. I always grew up watching that movie. I could watch that movie so many times. I loved knowing about her story and how she was as a person. That's how I was able to have that connection with her music. I actually think I saw the movie Selena before I even knew who she was, before I even listened to her music. So that's when I was like, She's such an amazing person. Her story. I love how she's both Mexican and American, and people loved and accepted her because she was such a good person and such a good artist. And genuine, you know? That's a movie that I always held very close to my heart.

Clothing: Dsquared2, Jewelry: Swarovski

Are you working on new music?

Yeah, I am. I'm working on polishing up all my songs that I'm doing for this next album. I'm having a lot of fun creating. This is the first time I've worked alone, when it comes to all the creative stuff like directing, the songs, the production, everything. I've had a lot of fun doing it. I've been discovering myself even more as an artist, because when you're alone is when you really get to know yourself. I feel like that’s the only way you can know yourself. So I've definitely been experimenting and learning, and I feel like I am growing. I've had a lot of fun with everything that I've been working on.

What does that experimentation sound like or look like?

I’ve been working on doing the classic sounds of reggaeton, which is minimalistic, but at the same time, when it comes to my vocals and melodies and all that, it gives the music more of a futuristic vibe. So I'm doing a mix of the classic stuff when it comes to production and lyrics and that flow, and then mixing it with my essence. Super fresh reggaeton that is different. I love it all so much, I’m so excited.

Dress: Diesel

Where do you see the sounds of reggaeton and Latin music going in the future? Do you think it's going to evolve?

Yeah, I think it's gonna evolve. Because of how reggaeton originated in Puerto Rico, I feel like each country is at its own pace, evolving differently. But there are definitely so many different fresh, unique sounds from each place and everybody's putting their own take on it, which is so beautiful.

What’s the craziest fan experience you’ve had?

I've had a lot of crazy fan experiences. I'm not gonna lie. Here in Chile, especially. I’ve had a lot of fans, when I'm here at my grandparents’ house, they actually come and try to get into the house. And I'm not even here sometimes. But my grandparents are, and my grandma hears all these kids screaming and she's like, "Oh my god, there are people trying to get into the house." Like, fans singing songs for hours outside of the house when I'm not even here. It's pretty crazy. So many encounters where I've had people even try to come into my hotel room. Things like that. But it’s all love, you know? As long as nobody gets hurt.

Is there a difference between performing in Chile versus in New York?

Well, sadly I've only performed [on my own] in New York once. But it was so amazing. In the US, I did a mini-tour and got to go to a couple of cities, and everybody was so loud and so energetic. It was so beautiful. Chile is one of the places, when it comes to music, they're gonna be the best. The best fans and the best audience because they're so ecstatic to see you and they're gonna be screaming your songs. I've never heard anybody sing that loud. New York was the only place where I was like, Oh my God, I feel like they're just as loud as [Chile]. The energy was just as strong. I was completely taken aback. I couldn't believe it. They were euphoric. So it was really cool having both where I come from and where mi raizes are from being the same intensity. It was so beautiful.

What do the Paloma Mami fans have to look forward to this year?

My album. They're going to be looking forward to a lot of playful vibes from me. A lot of pink, for sure. That's my vibe right now, what has been representing me. I hope to bring joy and happiness and lots of good energy with everything that I'm going to take out with this album. That's what they're gonna expect from me: being present.

Glasses: Gentle Monster, Earrings and necklace: Swarovski, T-shirt: Heaven by Marc Jacobs, Jeans: Zoe Gustavia Anna Whalen, Shoes: Dsquared2

Photography: Claudio Robles
Creative and styling: Tomas Meersohn
Makeup: Sofia Castillo
Hair: Lauren Berrones
Photo assistant: Diego Rodriguez
Studio direction: Jayson Villaflor
Set design: WayOut Studio
Shot at Canoe Studios