Raj Girn: This week’s theme is Leadership and Advocacy, where I’m going to be pulling back the curtain on how to build a celebrity brand. To help me break this down so that you can garner these insights to incorporate into your own brand whatever stage it may be that you’re at, whatever it is that you may be serving, I’m thrilled to be joined by my dear friend, multiple platinum musical artists Mia Martina, whose long list of hit songs include Beast, Latin Moon, Burning, Heartbreaker and Stereo Love. She is also the co-author of an inspiring self-help book called ‘Boss Up Your Life: A Girl’s Guide to Her Dream Career’ and is a mentor to many girls and women who seek guidance on how to manifest their dream career.
This is Part One of our conversation:
Raj Girn: Welcome to the show, my Girl, the fabulous Mia Martina. Thanks so much for agreeing to be on the show, sweetheart.
Mia Martina: Raj, it’s such a pleasure to see you again. You’re like my favourite person.
Oh, my gosh. Ditto back at you girlfriend. So I’m super excited to be taking everyone on this journey with Mia, because what a treat it is for everyone who’s watching, listening and reading this to be getting firsthand knowledge on building a celebrity brand from a celebrity rather than from academics and thought leaders and people that I usually bring on the show. Because I really felt that this particular subject matter needed someone that had firsthand experiential insights. So with that said, are you ready to get started, girlfriend?
I am so ready. Let’s do this.
Let’s do it. So let’s start by getting your take on what determines celebrity status. So from your experience, Mia, what is celebrity status?
A celebrity status to me is somebody that’s got massive success in sharing their arts and their art. I should say for me, that’s what a celebrity really is, that they’ve been proven on their talent.
I want to ask you this. Can you share from your perspective what are the criteria that make for a celebrity brand from your experience?
Honestly, Raj, there’s so many elements that go into becoming a celebrity. Like you just said, there is so much work that goes on on the back end that people never will see. There is so much work, trial and error. It just doesn’t happen overnight. But everybody thinks that it does. You know what I mean? That’s the beauty of it. People are like, “Oh my God, where did this all come from?” But they have absolutely no idea that probably that person’s been at this for maybe five, 10 years, consistently working on their craft and their art. So there’s not really a blueprint. There’s a lot of trial and error here when you become a celebrity,
“There’s so many elements that go into becoming a celebrity. There is so much work that goes on on the back end that people never will see. There is so much work, trial and error. It just doesn’t happen overnight.” ~Mia Martina
So from your perspective, are there any key elements that you can share regarding maybe the early years when you were looking at getting into the music business? Was it something that you had your eyes set on or was it something that just certain things happened in your life that took you along that journey more from kind of a serendipitous perspective?
Well, for me personally, I think I’m born with the gift of singing and I have the aura. I think I’m definitely born with it. I remember at three years old, just performing. And I remember it. It’s crazy but I remember. So I knew from a very young age I had a passion for singing and making people feel good and entertaining people. I knew that was my calling from a very, very young age. I just knew it. So having said that, it’s almost like I was manifesting my life without really knowing that I was manifesting my life. You know what I mean — by that energy in me? I think you can only achieve great stardom with, number one, passion. The passion is what’s going to drive you and fuel you. Because we don’t come in this with money. It’s the passion that fuels it and that really gets you where you want to be. It’s that inside. Now, having said that, when you start experiencing success, the passion kind of can go away because you’re filled with so many other elements of the business, so it’s not as pure anymore. So that’s why there are so many key factors here in becoming a celebrity and maintaining celebrity status.
I want to touch on a couple of things that you just said. Mia, first of all, you said that you knew that you had an aura about you that was destined for celebrity status. And it’s interesting that you said that because we see a lot of the brands that are the iconic brands, the brands that we’ve looked up to over generations, and they could be celebrities, for example, Marilyn Monroe being one of them — that have the it factor. It could be all the way up to somebody like Princess Diana, for example, who was royal celebrity. And again, she had the it factor.
Even when you take a look at spiritual brands like Sadhguru, right? There’s something about his aura that also has that it celebrity factor. From your experience of knowing that this is something that you’ve always had, you always had this special something about who you are in addition to your talent, and having worked with many people that also kind of fit within that kind of parameter, is there any way that you can define what the it factor is? I know that’s a really difficult question because it’s well . . . Let me not put words in your mouth, you know.
Yeah, I get what you mean. I think it’s your energy. It’s the way you make people feel. I think that’s a big thing, is that your energy is electrifying and people are just drawn to you because of how you make them feel. There’s something about you because your energy is so good and uplifting that people just want it. They just want it. And if you have the talent, that’s a bonus. You know what I mean? Because talent is not everything when it comes to a brand. It’s maybe 30 per cent. To me the rest is all branding and who you are and your energy.
“Your energy is electrifying and people are just drawn to you because of how you make them feel.” ~Mia Martina
Absolutely. So let me let me touch on something else that you said as well, which I think is really important for people to understand. And that is that it takes a lot of time and effort to cultivate a brand, and that’s any brand now you have the celebrity status component to it and all of a sudden that amplifies things in terms of the amount of time and energy it takes to really build out that brand. So I want to ask you this: from your experience, when did you know that you were a brand? Like what was it that you were experiencing or perhaps have people been treating you differently that made you realize that, hang on a minute, there’s something more here than my talent, which is something that you just alluded to?
Well, for me, funny enough, it was when you hear a song on the radio and the minute that you just hear “ah” you know which artist it is. That’s when I knew I was a celebrity, that people knew right away it was a Mia Martina record because it was so left field. It was nothing like the radio. And I just had that distinct sound and I worked really hard on that. That was my goal. And I accomplished it because I knew that is what made me different from everybody else. I didn’t want to follow the regular formula because that’s not who I was. I was very big on that. When I was creating my craft, it was like, I want to make music that the minute you hear the sound, you know it’s a Mia Martina record and it just takes you back on a beach and you just want to dance and feel good and beautiful. It’s a goddess vibe.
Girl, it totally is, and it’s really funny because my favourite type of music is world music, like world dance music. That’s kind of my vibe. It always has been because there’s something so ethereal about that kind of music. It’s not attached to geography or a type of person. It really is a very communal sound and a sound for everyone. So it’s really interesting to me that you were very, very meticulous and clear that your sound needed to be representative of who you are because that’s what I’m hearing you say.
Absolutely. Exactly. So I wanted everybody to love my music from my mom, my grandma, kids, everybody. I wanted my music to be played at every event because I wanted to bring my energy to their home and I wanted to uplift the mood. That’s why I make music, is to essentially make people feel amazing and to escape. Sorry my French is coming out.
“I wanted my music to be played at every event because I wanted to bring my energy to their home and I wanted to uplift the mood. That’s why I make music, is to essentially make people feel amazing and to escape.” ~Mia Martina
We’re okay with that. For those people out there who don’t know, Mia is actually bilingual. She speaks fluent French and fluent English. So there’s a little caveat for you right there. And that brings up a question that I want to ask you, Mia. You’re very proud and clear on your identity as a woman — from the cultural aspect to the things that you stand for, to what you believe in. How have those things factored into creating your brand and elevating your celebrity status?
Well, honestly, it’s like when you embrace your culture and embrace what they’ve gone through for me to even enjoy life as now, your ancestors and stuff, you see the world a whole different way. And I thank God every day that I was able to travel and experience so many different cultures and was able to actually have a conversation with them and learn. Because without that, without our ancestors in our past, you really wouldn’t be here. So for me, it was so important to be able to connect with the people.
And for those people out there who are listening to what you’re saying here, who feel that they need to fit a formula in order to become successful or to garner celebrity status, what would you say to them who are willing to maybe give up a part of who they are and their identity — something that you haven’t done?
Don’t because you’ll never be happy. The minute things are not resonating here, your your art will not be the same. You’re going to always work in lack and you don’t go to work in lack, you want to work with abundance. You know what I mean? When you feel good and you embrace who you are, that’s when everything else is going to come to you. You have got to think about it like that. It’s all energy, right? When you’re not being true and authentic, you’re not going to produce the same energy to what you’re putting out there. But when you embrace who you are, that’s when the magic happens.
So let’s talk about that magic a little bit more. What is your magic like? What is it that people have shared with you, your fans, that sits with you and resonates with you? Maybe it was something that you weren’t sure that was there until they started to share it with you or anything that you can share with us.
Definitely. I feel like over the years people always ask me why I’m so humble. And it’s so funny to me because it’s not something, it’s just something in you. They’re like, “oh, my God, you’re so humble. You’re not pretentious. You’re always who you are. What you see is what you get.” And I never lost that. And I never want to lose that. You never want to let all of this effect that because we’re all people. We’re all the same. And we’re just trying to make the most of this life right now in our avatar. So I never want to lose that. And I think that is so beautiful about myself that I kept that. And I’m so grateful for that. I am.
So let me ask you this, Mia. Who is Mia? The brand? Who is Mia Martina?
Mia Martina makes makes amazing music. She makes music for you to feel good. I represent femininity. I represent everything that is positive. And I hope that when you leave my presence that you feel inspired to go after your dreams. And I’m here to always uplift and elevate women to make sure that they go after everything that they want because it’s there. It’s there for you. It’s right there.
“I represent femininity. I represent everything that is positive. And I hope that when you leave my presence that you feel inspired to go after your dreams.” ~Mia Martina
And this is a lot about what you talk about in your book as well. What was it in the phase of life that you were in that you felt that you wanted to kind of document some of your experiences and to provide it as a resource to girls and women looking to build their own brand authority?
I wrote the book because I wish I would have had that guidebook when I was starting. And I wish I had a mentor. I really did. I really think that having a mentor or a coach or just somebody there that you can confide in that’s really just there for you is so important because I made a lot of mistakes that I know a lot of people would have a really hard time to bounce back from. And because I have a very strong personality and I have a very strong foundation, thank you to my parents for that, I was able to bounce back. So I want to make sure that people don’t go through what I’ve gone through. I want to facilitate that for them.
So let’s talk about that a little bit then. Mia, what are the advantages? Let’s go there first. What are the advantages of building a brand to celebrity status?
You essentially are in control of your brand. That’s really what it is when you’re a celebrity. You really get to dictate what you want to do and what you do not want to do. And you are the director of who you want to be. Now, a lot of people that are influencers don’t have that luxury. I can say no if it doesn’t resonate because I know the value that I bring. It’s about value. Once you become a celebrity status and you’re consistent with your brand and your hard work and you’re authentic to who you are, the possibilities are endless for how you want to create, how you want to be perceived. You are all of that. But when you’re an influencer, you don’t get that luxury because you haven’t achieved that yet. Keep that authenticity of who you are. You’re still trying to figure out what’s working and this and that. And you’re not always being authentic to who you are because you’re chasing the paycheck.
“Once you become a celebrity status and you’re consistent with your brand and your hard work and you’re authentic to who you are, the possibilities are endless for how you want to create, how you want to be perceived. You are all of that.” ~Mia Martina
When you don’t chase the paycheck, you chase the feeling. You chase greatness.
It’s really interesting that you’ve actually mentioned that. Folks, if you’re just tuning in, I am in conversation with the fabulous Mia Martina. She is a multi-platinum recording artist as well as an author. We are in conversation right now about an avatar of her persona, which people are starting to really imbibe with, and that is her mentorship specifically, mostly for women and girls. But I know you, Mia, like if a guy was to come to you and say, “Listen Mia, this is where I’m challenged.” You would help them because I just know that’s who you are, knowing you personally.
Let me just mention to all of you who are just joining us that this conversation that we’re having is a little bit different than the conversations that we normally have on this show. I normally speak to thought leaders, experts, executives, entrepreneurs. And it’s interesting because I feel that all of the above is who I’m speaking to right now in the fact that I’m speaking to a celebrity brand that was created from scratch. And it’s kind of come to the level that it has where Mia — I know that you’ll agree with me when I’m saying this — but you are the executive of your own company, you are the brand builder of who you are from a celebrity status. You do decide where you want to lend your value system to.
All of these things are what make for a business. And that’s the other thing that I feel a lot of people who look at celebrities kind of don’t realize is an important component of the longevity of being a celebrity status brand. And that is the the work ethic and the business ethic that goes along with staying on point with who you are, what you stand for, and doing the work to make sure you stay there. Your comment on that.
One hundred percent. Of course, it’s about consistency. That’s exactly what I was just saying. If you look at somebody like JLo, she’s consistent. No matter what she does, she does it perfect. And you can tell she’s really meticulous about what she touches and every single one of her project. Everything is very well thought out. And it’s who she is. She doesn’t drift off on what she’s not. She’s always her. What she is. It’s consistent.
And that’s the key here, right, Mia? That when you’re talking about being a brand, the whole goal is to make it very easy for people to know who you are, what you stand for and what’s in it for them to be a part of your ecosystem. And that really is what she’s done. That also kind of lends to a lot of what you’ve been speaking about right now in terms of your own brand, Mia.
“When you’re talking about being a brand, the whole goal is to make it very easy for people to know who you are, what you stand for and what’s in it for them to be a part of your ecosystem.” ~Raj Girn
I mean, you have been talking about how you never want to lose sight of who you are because those people who lose sight of who they are, they emanate from a place of being less than then from a place of abundance. This was a really important statement that I really want you to rewind back if you’re just joining us. It’s going to really change the game from a mindset perspective for anyone out there who thinks that going viral over a video is a marketing strategy because it really isn’t a marketing strategy. It’s the consistency and the authenticity that Mia’s talking about. Is there anything else you want to add to that, MIA, before we move on?
One hundred percent, you’ve got to be authentically you. Because I’m telling you now, people will know when you’re not being your true self. They’re too smart. Now, there’s so much information out on the Internet. They know all the marketing tactics. They know how to sell a product. They know the old tricks in the book. So when you’re a personality and you’re putting yourself out there and you’re faking the funk until you make it, they’re going to catch on to you because only consistency will win and only consistency will make you last in this business. If you want overnight success and you want to be gone in a year, follow that that path. But if you want to stay relevant for 10, 20, 30 years, you got to be authentic and consistent. There is no other way.
Absolutely. So let me ask you about the flip side of that. What are the disadvantages of building a celebrity brand that you’ve experienced or you’ve seen to your network base?
Well, there’s always pivoting points, right? So you can be amazing for two or three years monetarily because you’re riding on that wave. You just created a project and it’s time for you to create a new project. So there are periods of time when there’s not that much coming in because you’re in the creative state of a new project. And you’ve got to be okay with that because you’re not going to always be booked every night. There are gaps. It’s like any business. But this is what being a celebrity is.
Essentially, I’m not busy all the time like people think I am because I need to think of what’s next for my brand. So there’s a lot of big gaps. And sometimes those gaps are scary because you’re like, “Oh, no, how am I going to be? How am I going to become relevant again?” You have those thoughts. But the only way to not have those thoughts is to be consistent. That’s why I’m saying it’s so important to be consistent, because your next product because you’ve built such a strong foundation and you’re following will always appreciate what you put out because it comes from an authentic place.
You just said something that I want to make sure that everyone heard loud and clear. And that is the key magic about developing a brand that then goes to celebrity status is that you’re following is very clear about what you stand for and who you are so that whatever you may pivot to, they follow you because because they believe in who you are at the core of your brand.
Exactly. And you can’t forget about them because those are the people that supported you at the beginning. So you have a duty to them because they’re your supporters, they’re your clients. You have got to give them something that they’re going to be like, “Oh, thank you. Thank you. You didn’t disappoint me.” You have a duty to them. They’re your supporters.
What Mia is saying right now, folks is also something that you can adopt into any other industry. I mean, Mia comes from the entertainment perspective, which is very easily understood from a celebrity brand status. But if you are a coach, a consultant, an executive, you’re in the corporate field, you’re in politics or spirituality, health, wellness, any of those fields, a lot of what is being shared today, the experiences that Mia’s had are things that you can actually also transmute over into your brand and what you’re doing today, irrespective of the stage that you’re at.
So let me ask you a question here, Mia, that I feel is important for people who perhaps are a little scared sometimes of the growth of their business, because that’s also a real thing. Is there an example that you feel comfortable sharing from your experience or perhaps from something that you’ve seen happen to other celebrities around you or powerful brands around you that you feel is worth sharing for those people who feel that sudden growth?
Yes, no problem. I’m a perfect example. So when I first came out, my first song, Stereo Love, exploded so fast and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready at all. I wasn’t trained. I didn’t even know how to perform live properly. I didn’t even have a proper image. I had no real identity because everything was so new and just exploded. It was the biggest song in the world and all around the world, like crazy. So I was really taken back. I was like, “Oh my God, what if I become a one-hit wonder? How am I going to follow up with Stereo Love? How do I beat that song? How do I do it?” And that was a very big fear of mine. So I was in the studio day and night, day and night trying to create something at the same level, and it just wasn’t happening, it just wasn’t. And the song was losing momentum and I knew I had to come up with something else. I was really, really scared. I’m like, “Oh, my God, I’m going to be a one-hit wonder. Oh, shit. This is it. That was my moment. That was my 10 minutes of fame. And that’s it.”
Until, my team and I had a meeting and somebody sat me down and they’re like, “Mia, you just got to put your art out there. People are going to resonate with you. You have to stop trying to measure up to Stereo Love because you can’t control what people like, you just don’t.” And it’s true, you can’t control what people grasp on to. Stereo Love just happened. It was just something bizarre, you know what I mean? You don’t expect those things to happen. So after I had that real good conversation, I went back to the studio and I just forgot about the song. And I’m like, “Okay let me just do what I do. I’m experienced now. I’ve performed over 150 shows at this point while we sing live. Now, I’m actually a decent performer. I’m not great yet because I still have a lot of training to go. So let me just focus on becoming the best I could possibly be. And my foundation will grow with me. My fan base will grow with me.” And that’s exactly how that one came. And then you know what happened? Latin Moon came and surpassed Stereo Love.
Yeah. So the minute that I let that fear go is the minute that I was able to create and not have that fear of just being known for the Stereo Love song. That’s when all my other hits started happening because I let go and I just let the art speak for itself. And I trained so hard to be the best that I could possibly be, and not just in performing, but in who I was as a person, how I present myself, how I style myself, how I want the world to perceive me. And that’s how everything happened for me.
Absolutely. And all of the things that you’re sharing here, Mia, are very indicative of any type of brand that’s out there. There’s points when we get scared of growing faster than we had planned that we would grow. There’s the whole idea of something you said that I think is very key in growth and in scale and in being able to manage that with your brand. And that is having some sort of a formula in place, some sort of a system in place on how you do what you do.
So I want to ask you to maybe share a little bit more about that. You have hit after hit after hit. Clearly, you tapped into some sort of a formula that made sense to you to be able to create that magic. Can you share a little bit about what that was? What were the commonalities between your process within each of the songs that you that you came up with?
Well, so really what we did, the synergy with my team was really amazing. When that project came about, we were really aligned with who I was as an artist, what my sound was. And we did not explore outside the box. We knew what would stick. We didn’t go outside the box. We knew what was working. We knew world music is what was working for me. So we stuck with that. Until people started knowing me on the street. And we did not differ from that. We were so consistent. And that’s how Mia Martin became Mia Martina. And that’s how I was able to sell out all my shows, because the sound was very consistent. The synergy was great with my producer. I did not venture out. I stuck with my team for as long as it took until I had the luxury that I could venture out. But we didn’t do that until I became a household name.