fashion

Meet Rosalía, the star that lit up the VMAs -- and your new favorite artist

Updated 27th August 2019
ROSALÍA poses with awards in the Press Room during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center on August 26, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey.
Credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Meet Rosalía, the star that lit up the VMAs -- and your new favorite artist
Written by Leah Asmelash, CNN
If you didn't know who Rosalía was before, she's making sure you do now.
The Spanish singer was nominated for four awards at MTV's 2019 Video Music Awards Monday night, taking home Best Latin Video and Best Choreography with J Balvin for their song "Con Altura."
The 25-year-old flamenco singer also performed multiple songs during the VMAs, interweaving meticulous choreography in her performance.
Here's the lowdown on Rosalía, who could well be your new favorite artist.

She's an emerging style icon

Rosalía at the MTV EMAs, soon after the release of her second album, "El Mal Querer."
Rosalía at the MTV EMAs, soon after the release of her second album, "El Mal Querer." Credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Though she's been criticized for borrowing aesthetically from both Gitano and Latinx culture, Rosalía has also become something of a fashion industry darling, often sporting flamenco-inspired ruffles, dramatic furs and '00s inspired tracksuits.
She's worn emerging lines like Paloma Wool and Left Hand L.A. -- the latter also beloved by Rihanna -- as well as Emily Ratajkowski's brand Inamorata. But she's equally at home with major designers, as evidenced by her VMAs Burberry look. Moschino outfitted her in green dollar bills and matador-inspired black and gold for her latest solo video, which combines the singles "Milionària" and "Dio$ No$ Libre Del Dinero."
In May, she launched her own clothing line with Spanish high street brand Pull&Bear, firmly establishing herself as a fashion influencer. And with 4.9 million followers on her perfectly curated Instagram, it's likely that influence will continue to grow.

Her single "Malamente" got 20 million YouTube views in three months

That's according to Pitchfork. "Malamente" also secured her two Latin Grammys in 2018.
She's got a range of celebrity fans, collaborating with J Balvin, Ozuna, Billie Eilish, James Blake and Pharrell, among others. Pedro Almodóvar cast her in his latest film, "Pain and Glory," while Burberry chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci has designed looks for her (including the beaded black dress she wore on the VMAs red carpet).

The Obamas are already fans

Rosalía and J Balvin's hit "Con Altura" was featured on the Obamas' Summer Playlist, which Barack Obama tweeted out earlier this week.
The Catalan singer has the presidential stamp of approval.
The Catalan singer has the presidential stamp of approval. Credit: Javier Bragado/Getty Images

She's involved in songwriting

Her most recent album is "El Mal Querer," which came out late last year. Rosalía has a writing credit on every single song, and was also involved in the production and arrangement process.
And she's stressed the importance of having women in the studio, saying at the Latin Grammys, "I'm going to have to keep fighting until I find the same number of women in the studio as there are men."
At last year's Latin Grammys, Rosalía took home two trophys.
At last year's Latin Grammys, Rosalía took home two trophys. Credit: Sam Wasson/Getty Images

She grew up listening to flamenco

And those influences are clear in her music. Her debut album, 2017's "Los Ángeles," was effectively a flamenco album, whereas "El Mal Querer" blends the genre with a greater range of musical styles.
Rosalía, who grew up on the outskirts of Barcelona, studied the traditional music for years, even going to college for the craft. She said in an interview, "To learn flamenco is to swallow your pride."
Rosalía's music and aesthetic are heavily influenced by flamenco.
Rosalía's music and aesthetic are heavily influenced by flamenco. Credit: Ollie Millington/Getty Images
Speaking to the Guardian, she explained her attraction to the art form. "I would say, for me, flamenco is so pure, so raw," she said. "I love pop culture but sometimes I miss the root, the rawness. With flamenco, I felt like I always needed it, I just didn't know it. It's purer than anything else for me. If you don't put the truth into it, it won't work. I don't know what it will be but it won't be flamenco."

She's been accused of cultural appropriation

Flamenco is an art form rooted in Andalusia's Gitano community (as Romani people are known in Spain), while Rosalía is not gitana and was born in Catalonia, northern Spain. As a result, she's been called out for cultural appropriation: Some have specifically targeted her use of an Andalusian accent that's not her own, as well as words from the gitano Caló language, while others have objected to her overall approach to flamenco and its aesthetics.
"Flamenco is suffering a kind of institutional racism that whitewashes the art form and markets it like a piece of meat wrapped up in plastic," gitana activist Noelia Cortés told Public Radio International.
Rosalía has responded to the controversy, telling the Guardian, "Music is beyond races, beyond territories."
Rosalía collaborated with J Balvin on the award-winning single "Con Altura."
Rosalía collaborated with J Balvin on the award-winning single "Con Altura." Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
More recently, criticism has emerged around her repeated (inaccurate) classification as Latinx, despite being from Spain -- she was featured in the Billboard series "Growing Up Latino," and she appeared on the cover of Vogue Mexico as one of "20 Latino artists." What's more, she's been accused of appropriating Latinx culture both through her style and music.