A few years ago Becky G was creating YouTube covers of Jay Z And Ke$ha songs. Today, she’s working with will.i.am creating her own hits, doing commercials for CoverGirl, throwing shade on Empire—essentially becoming the new Latina millennial icon. When her debut album drops this year, Becky’s transformation from next big thing to BFD will be complete.
Chin cocked defiantly forward, an arm posed confidently over her head, Becky G plants herself before a mirrored wall rocking an animal-print blouse and skin-tight leather pants. Today, she looks like a blend of Cookie Lyon and Selena Gomez—in other words, not the spunky teen in overalls who graced Latina’s cover two years ago. At 19, Rebecca Marie Gomez seems self- assured and even beyond-her-years sultry as she works the camera until the photographer gives the thumbs-up, indicating he got the shot. Becky exhales. “I can’t believe people pay so much money to be this uncomfortable,” she blurts out to a room full of fashionistas. She catches herself. “I mean, it’s a really beautiful blouse.”
Back at her parents’ house in Lawndale, Calif., a part of Greater Los Angeles that’s regularly described as “the ’hood,” we remind her of something she told us two years ago: “I always thought I’d be the first person to walk onto a red carpet and be asked what I was wearing, and I’d say, ‘Marshalls!’ ”
She laughs. “Oh my God, of course I said that,” she says with a roll of her eyes. But a look around her modest but beautiful home suggests that, indeed, not much has changed in the past couple of years. Becky didn’t pull a Kylie Jenner when she turned 18: She still lives with her family, her shoe collection favors sneakers over stilettos, and, as she says, “I’m still babysitting my siblings.”
Of course, the hallway plaque commemorating her hit single “Shower” going double platinum tells a different story. “I think career-wise, obviously, it’s been kind of insane how much has really happened and how fast it feels like it’s going,” she says. “But it’s been a really long time coming, you know?”
Becky remembers bringing that plaque home in the wee hours after a late-night recording session with her producer and mentor, Dr. Luke, and her frequent collaborator will.i.am. “I snuck into my parents’ room and put it in front of the TV so when they woke up, they would see it,” she says. “My dad woke up and didn’t say a word. He goes into the garage, grabs the drill and screws it into the wall and goes, ‘That’s the shit we worked for!’ ”
Dr. Luke feels the same way. “She’s always been so bright and ahead of her time, but now she has taken off in every way,” he says. “She’s become a better writer, she has more insight into what she wants. She was a little girl when I met her, and now she’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Since her breakout as a YouTube sensation, she’s been working nonstop, most recently putting the final touches on her debut album, touring with Katy Perry and J. Balvin, and kicking off her acting career with a stint on Empire. But Becky isn’t following some playbook. From the moment she decided she wanted to be a superstar— and it was definitely her decision—she’s been doing things her way. After a frustrating stint with a girl group, during which she says she was forced into the background while the other, older girls got solos, Becky says she started writing raps. “They were not even 16 bars. They were, like, 8 bars. Just the cherry on top of the song.” The cherry, as she calls it, soon became the whole sundae. “I finally got to a point where I knew I could do it on my own,” she says. “I didn’t need backup any more.”
After that, there was no turning back. Becky rejected conventional advice, including bypassing the Disney Channel route, in order to carve her own path as a legit artist. That meant practically living in a recording studio, writing hundreds of songs and learning how to craft a beat. Playing the long game was worth it, she feels. “I think I really tested myself, what I’m capable of handling and not handling,” she says. “That’s why I feel so empowered and in control right now. I was waiting for this moment, and now this moment is finally here, and I can take charge.”
Seizing the moment, however, comes with sacrifice, and the biggest one for Becky has been time away from home. “I’m basically part-time living across the world from my family,” she says. “It’s crazy how much strength it takes. That part has definitely forced me to grow up a lot.” Still, she says, “There are definitely nights in the hotel room where I have all the lights on and the Disney Channel blasting because I’m scared of the dark.”
Another big part of Becky’s coming- of-age has been her first publicly acknowledged romance, with fellow pop star Austin Mahone. They met at a recording studio in Los Angeles when they worked together on a track for The Smurfs 2. Their relationship status was set to “just friends” for more than a year, until suddenly things felt different. “I can’t tell you when or where, but it just happened,” she says.
Despite initial reservations, she adds, it was exhilarating. “It kind of took me by surprise. For me, it was the first time dealing with being with somebody in the public eye. I thought, ‘OMG, I’m living the teenage dream, a pop star dating a pop star.’” Privacy, obviously, was an issue, especially since the blogs seemed to catch on mere moments after their first kiss. “He and I had to make a decision,” she says. “We were just like, ‘We’re together. We’re not going to hide it.’”
Things heated up quickly, and before long, PDA-filled pics began showing up on their Instagram feeds. Becky even took the leap of introducing him to her family. “It was really funny because I have a big old Mexican family and he’s just a white boy from Texas,” she recalls. “He used to always tell me, ‘You know, I’m pretty Mexican,’ because he grew up in Texas, and I’m like, ‘No, you’re not, not until you meet my family, and they give you that cred.’ ” The opportunity finally came after their joint performance at the 2014 Premios Juventud. “I literally introduced him to one person after another, after another, and then I took him back to my dressing room and asked him, ‘Do you remember anyone’s name?’ And he was like, ‘No.’ ”
Unfortunately for the tabloids, Becky and Austin’s relationship ended a few months later without much drama. “We both really cared about each other, but we had to decide if we were going to stay in this until the wheels fall off and we hate each other, or if we’re going to put our friendship first,” says Becky with a maturity that stretches far beyond her age. “We both knew what was coming in our careers, and that we just have to press pause,” she says, adding, “for now.” Pressed a little on that last point, she just reiterates, with a little smile, “Yeah. Keyword: pause.”
As the Internet tends to report, Austin has already been linked with others since splitting with Becky—one of the downsides of living and loving in the public eye. “When you let go of it, you’ve got to let go,” she says. “As tough a pill as it is to swallow—if he finds happiness in another person, then it just is what it is.”
Besides, it’s not like Becky has been sitting at home with pints of ice cream, either. She has already been linked to Luis Coronel and Cuban heartthrob William Valdés. But she insists, for now anyway, she’s single. “Honestly, I cannot go to any Latin awards show without people playing matchmaker,” she says, laughing. Though Becky has yet to date a fellow Latino, the possibility excites her. “There are definitely certain things you can connect on—traditions, language,” she says. “There’s just an understanding of the way you grow up.”
For now, though, Becky has bigger things to deal with, like finishing her album, prepping herself to play the Yellow Ranger in the 2017 Power Rangers film, and—perhaps most significant—embracing her role as a burgeoning millennial Latina icon. If there was any doubt that Becky is more than just another YouTube-bred pop star, her song “We Are Mexico” erased it. The anthem went viral when she released it online following Donald Trump’s insulting anti-immigrant comments last summer, even spawning its own hashtag #WeAreMexico, but Becky insists the song came from a place of love, not anger.
“It was great timing, but I actually [wrote that song] about a year before I released it. I’ve always just been super- proud of where I come from and the way I was raised,” she says. “My grandparents came from another country, not knowing the language, not having any transportation, any jobs, and just wanting the best for their families. Literally, like, ‘We came here for our version of the American dream.’ And they did it.”
Ironically, for Becky, the first realization of that dream came in Mexico City, while she was on tour with Katy Perry. “It was the first time I saw fans literally camping outside of my hotel, in the rain, waiting for me with presents and candies...and tamales!” she recalls. “It was just so much love—40,000 people came to the show each night. And I thought, ‘Here I am, in the motherland, connected to my roots and connected to my dream.’ Seeing those things come together was amazing.”
The second realization arrived closer to home, while she was on tour with J. Balvin. “I had just gotten offstage, and then I watched my first episode [of Empire],” she says.
“I just got so emotional, like, this is insane. I’m seriously living my dream right now. That night I called my parents and just told them I’m so thankful [for] all the support and the sacrifices we’ve made as a family. And it’s just incredible to think, ‘Man, I’m just getting started!’”