Photos: Jonathan Weiner
Similar to any new trend that gains sudden and rapid prominence, the term "influencer" has gained a less than favorable connotation in recent years. And Fyre Festival certainly did the term no favors. In a similar vein, the recent trend of Vine, Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube stars who venture into other creative outlets such as music have been met with a similar sense of disdain. This reaction is nothing unique to music. It exists whenever celebrities make a seemingly sudden pivot.
So, what can be said of 16-year-old Malu Trevejo? The Cuban-born, Spain and Miami - raised personality who quickly went viral on musical.ly, now Tik Tok, boasts over seven million followers on Instagram, and is making her foray into the music world. On her sudden social media fame, Trevejo shares that her involvement with various platforms began, "When I moved to Miami. I just started getting followers out of nowhere. I just made my page and it started blowing up."
However, it was not the sudden move from Spain to the US, following her parent's separation, that spurred Trevejo's interest in music. "I always wanted to be a singer. Since I was little, I always tried to be a singer and dancer. My inspiration was Shakira, but as I've grown up, it's become Rihanna." Inspired by Latin crossover acts, Trevejo's music mirrors much of the same braggadocio and characteristic flare of the crossover genre that originally inspired her as a child. Now, her music videos rack up plays in the tens of millions, with her most recent video for "Swipe Dat," garnering over a million views in a matter of days.
Solely looking at Trevejo's rapid emergence onto the music scene however would discount the all-too-familiar struggles she faced emigrating to the US. "People would laugh at my accent whenever I would try and speak English, so I taught myself English in about six to nine months." As someone who took four years of French without much of it all sticking, the perseverance shown by not only Trevejo, but most immigrant children in the face of bullying, is admirable. It is this sense of perseverance that has carried her forth in spite of harassment faced both growing up and online.
In discussing her at-times difficult upbringing and joking about the most challenging part about constantly feeling the pressure to Instagram, Trevejo candidly shared, "I guess it's the caption and the picture honestly. Instagram girls always try to be perfect, because of what people have to say. Sometimes I get depressed with comments or rude posts people make about me. It's really hard. Being a girl is not easy."
Faced with comments trying to tear her down, Trevejo has it found it more worthwhile to turn a blind eye to her haters. "It's better to just not read comments. You just get used it to really. You got to get used to people's bad vibes, because whenever they see you winning or they see you doing good, they're going to talk about you." That is not to say her sudden fame has been a solely negative experience.
Trevejo's legions of fans have proven to be both a somewhat comical information source and critical form of emotional support. "They know about everything I do. I used to have a boyfriend, and they caught him slagging on a park with another girl. They were taking pictures, telling me he isn't good for me. I love my fans. So, don't try me. I'll snatch the girl you talk to too." With a social media following that outnumbers the population of many a small country, the simple joy Trevejo receives from meeting her fans in person can be somewhat surprising. "I really like when they come up to me. It makes me happy."
So, to address a previously poised question, what can be said of Trevejo's rise to fame on social media that has quickly begun bubbling over in the music world? You can call the 16-year-old artist's rise to fame on social media platforms vapid or shallow, but the music she makes says otherwise. Her most recent single, "Como Tú Me Quieres," is a bilingual sensation with all the hallmarks of a crossover hit. Trevejo is living the American Dream, making the English and Spanish - sung music that informed her childhood.