Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis has taken the music charts by storm. Her success is due, in large part, to her authenticity. But also to her unapologetic commitment to freedom.

“As an artist, I’ve always tried to express myself freely. I think [that] opens a door for other artists to feel free and express themselves when it comes to bilingual, Spanglish music,” she told Billboard. “It’s really special when young girls tell me that, because of me, they felt empowered to be freer in the way they create. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like you can inspire the next generation.”

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Now, Uchis is entering her new era: motherhood. And she wants to continue to inspire new generations with her experience.

Kali Uchis epitomizes a Latina woman: hard-working and tough as nails

After bursting onto the music scene in the early 2010s, Kali Uchis (born Karly-Marina Loaiza) proved she was more than just a talented artist. The star wrote, produced, directed, and edited her music videos.

Her 2015 EP “Por Vida” conquered audiences. Almost ten years later, she cemented herself as one of the most influential Latina artists of the moment. Navigating English and Spanish, Kali Uchis experimented with genres such as R&B, pop, indie and Latin rhythms. That ability to combine and experiment is due, in large part, to growing up between two cultures.

“Having these two different cultures has inspired and influenced a lot in everything I do and compose,” the Colombian-American artist told Billboard Español.

The adventure of being a new mother

Like any Latina woman, Kali Uchis wanted not only to be a successful artist but also to feel fulfilled in her personal life. To that end, she tried to organize her work to enjoy the arrival of her first child.

“I was working practically the entire pregnancy,” she said. “I was touring and getting ready to release this album. I shot a lot of music videos. I was doing as much work [as I could]—so that when I had my baby, I could just enjoy my new baby and not have to worry too much about work.”

“When it comes to my son, everything else can wait. I always told myself, ‘Someday, if God gives me the opportunity to be a mother, I don’t ever want to be the kind of person who says, ‘My career comes first,'” she said. “Life is so much more than your career. That’s how I see the world. So it’s been a beautiful thing to get [the album] out and see what happens. Now, I’m getting back into the swing of things. We’ll see if another song comes off the album. But if not, I’m not really worried about it. I’ve got my next album ready. I’m ready for my next era.”

Kali Uchis and the experience of growing up bicultural

Kali Uchis grew up in Colombia, but once her family returned to the United States, the singer says she had “a tumultuous upbringing as far as heritage goes.”

“When I came back to the U.S., our house was the place where family members [stopped] when crossing into America. It was full of immigrants,” she said. “As an artist, trying to find my place not only as a person but as an artist, your artistic identity. All of that has played a big role in my life. Being a dual citizen and having these two different cultures has really inspired and influenced everything I do and make. Finding that balance was probably the most challenging part for me.”

This challenge largely involved the artist feeling “other,” especially as a Latina in the United States.

“When I was growing up, you had to identify yourself on the papers by checking a box [specifying] whether you were black, white, Asian, Pacific Islander. I always checked the ‘other’ box. Every day, I had the feeling that people were trying to take away your identity, to make you not feel proud of where you come from, and to make you feel that it’s not okay to speak Spanish. Even people coming to this country would change their children’s names to make them more Americanized, so they wouldn’t be discriminated [against]. A lot of that experience was a challenge for me.”

And in the music industry, the experience wasn’t much different

Kali Uchis shared that, for the release of “Con Sin Miedo,” there was the fear of rejection for not being “Latina enough.” The singer claimed to have felt that she would not be accepted by the Latin market for being “gringa.” Similarly, with English-speaking fans, the rejection was, “She’s making music I can’t understand.”

“There was some embarrassment, something out of your control. But I was privileged to never feel that pressure of having to be commercially successful,” Kali Uchis said. “Now there are so many of us who have had that experience, [first- and second-generation Latinos]. It’s this new layer of Latino-ness that didn’t exist before. Now that America is becoming so Latino, it’s almost like I’ve found my place in that too.”

Kali Uchis succeeded and did not hesitate to experiment with genres such as dembow, neo-soul, and even boleros. The singer assures that she tries to “top and experiment as much as I can” with the genres that have influenced her.

“It’s my chance to have as much fun as possible,” she says. “A lot of times, when [non-Latino] people think of Latin music, they only think of one type of artist or sound, and I’ve tried to be as free as possible with my expression so I can show the range of Latin music and everything that inspires me.”