Interview: Mila J Shares Her Journey From Dancer to Artist
Mila J, the exotic beauty with sensual vocals and street style, seemingly appeared out of nowhere early this year with her hit “Smoke, Drink, Break-Up” - now almost at 4 million views on VEVO. But the dancer turned R&B singer has worked her way up the ladder for years and now that her dues are paid, she is not holding back. After taking some time to find herself as an artist, Mila J returns to Motown Records with no signs of taking it slow. Her current EP, M.I.L.A. already reached #1 on the iTunes R&B Charts including her new single "My Main" with Ty Dolla $ign and production from heavyweights DJ Mustard and Eric Cire. She takes a visual approach to the EP, having already released music videos for 4 out of the 5 songs, the latest “Pain In My Heart” showing off her natural beauty and sultry vocals. She also appears in R&B crooner Trey Songz’ TRIGGA album and iconic artist Prince has even sampled one of her songs for his recent song, “U Know.” After recently finishing the BET College Tour, the proud Los-Angeles native talks about her life growing up in the music industry and her upcoming album.
What was it like growing up in a multicultural family and how do you think it shaped your music career?
Growing up I didn’t realize we were different, so to speak. I went to a private school called International Children’s School and everyone was from different backgrounds so I never realized I was different or that my parents were in an interracial relationship. Probably around 5th grade it dawned on me when children would ask “what are you?” and we asked our Mom and she would explain to us. We celebrated all kinds of traditions, American and Japanese.
My Mom is a very involved parent so she put us in different sports and dance, just to see what we would take to but for me in particular, I’m not trying to toot my own horn [laughs] but I was really flexible and limber and I had a lot of energy so people suggested ballet and dance and that’s how it kind of started. I really liked it but I actually didn’t want to do ballet ‘cause I liked tap dancing and Hip Hop better.
On starting out in the industry...
From there I started going to dance 4 times a week and doing recitals and eventually a dance agent would start sending us off on commercials and print ads and later on music videos, and that’s how it transitioned into the music industry.
On transition from dancer to artist…
From my dance company, we formed a group – it was me, my older sister, and our friend, who we considered a cousin since we were with each other all the time. We tried it out and we did some rapping and singing and that was the start of actually pursuing music, shopping around, and trying to get signed. I was probably 8 years old. When the group got signed I was 10 or 11.
You were signed previously but after a couple singles, you disappeared. What happened?
I got deported [laughs]. Actually I took a break because that was the second group I was in that didn’t work out and after that I still kept the deal because they wanted to keep me solo but I didn’t feel like I was ready. Literally my whole career I was in groups and on top of that, I was always the rapper in the groups. My family knew I could sing but nobody else really did so I just felt like I had to take a break to refresh because I been doing it since I was literally 5. And I had to decide if I still want to do music – in a group setting versus being solo. Seeing as the groups haven’t worked out I decided go solo but obviously you have to develop yourself as an artist it’s completely different.
During your time off you became a licensed esthetician – was that random or do you have a plan for that?
Right before I signed my deal I received my license. Records labels started calling me so I said “okay, I guess I don’t need this.” It was literally in the same week that I passed the test. I don’t have time for it now but I eventually would want a skin care line. I want to be heavily involved in that too, like actually in the lab helping to create the product.
On working with Ty Dolla $ign…
We have known each other since we were kids in the industry starting out. Ty is quick and so talented. For all his features, he knocked it out in less than 30 minutes. He is just dope. Him and his whole family too, they were all in a full band and under 10. So he came from a strong musical family.
On her upcoming album…
Don’t have a name but I might let the fans help me decide the name. The album is going to be uptempo R&B with some ballads but there’s not a really a theme yet. Now I am just going to be working on an album and possibly touring some more.