Doris Anahí Muñoz talks about her journey from manager to artist
Doris Anahí sits in a cafe in Mexico City and talks to rolling stonee on the phone, when a little hummingbird lands right in front of her and flaps its wings. “It’s my ancestors saying ‘What’s up!’ she laughs. She has been in Mexico for a few weeks; she arrived first in Guadalajara and spent time working on music and connecting with her family. Little moments like this happen all the time: she’ll see an animal or some kind of symbol in nature, and she’ll take it as a sign from the universe – a little nod from her elders – affirming that she is exactly where it should be. “I feel like Mulan and my ancestors are all around me, and they’re like, ‘Yeah. OKAY. You are on the good road.'”
Anahí has already opened several paths in the music industry. Known to most people as Doris Muñoz (full name is Doris Anahí Muñoz), she worked as an activist and organizer, creating the popular Selena for Sanctuary concert series to help undocumented people raise funds for visa applications through Selena Quintanilla-themed fundraisers. The idea was born from Anahí’s personal experience: she is the only person in her family born in the United States, and in 2017 she had done everything she could to help her parents cover legal costs. related to their green card applications. She threw the first Selena for Sanctuary at a club in Los Angeles and raised around $6,000. Realizing she could help more people, the event continued to grow, eventually landing at Lincoln Center in New York in 2018, with headliners Mon Laferte and Omar Apollo, and later SummerStage in Central Park in 2019, with performances by Kali Uchis and Helado Negro.
During all this time, Anahí had built an impressive talent company called mija mgmt which made huge waves in the Latinx music scene. His roster included artists such as Inner Wave, August Eve, La Doña and, perhaps most notably, Cuco, who signed a seven-figure contract with Interscope in 2019. Anahí turned heads as a label executive – but few people knew she was laying around some serious talent as a singer. That all changed last year, when she decided to step away from the world of management and jump headfirst into her own artistic career. “I definitely took Hannah Montana’s wig off,” she jokes.
Now she’s getting ready to launch Learning for the Malas, a delicate EP that weaves together traditional bolero melodies, ranchera influences and R&B and indie rock sensibilities. One of the project’s most impressive moments is the moving title track, which airs today alongside a baroque music video directed by Ambar Navarro.
But the music coincides with another big piece of news. In 2019, she was approached by Mexican-American filmmaker Isabel Castro, who wanted to tell stories about the Latinx indie music world that Anahí revolved around. They started touring right before the pandemic hit, and by the end of 2021 they had done mijaa heartbreaking and beautifully shot documentary that follows Anahí as she tries to balance her professional life and the well-being of her family amid the uncertainty brought on by Covid-19. mija premiered to favorable reviews at Sundance in January, and then in March, Disney Original Documentary acquired worldwide rights to the film. (FX, which is part of the Walt Disney Co., will retain rights to develop scripted content based on the project.)
Anahí has been in shock ever since she found out. She says she and Castro didn’t even want to get too hopeful for Sundance; she hadn’t imagined what it would be like to be hit on by Disney. mija, she feels, has found the right home: “It’s not like princesses waiting for their prince anymore,” she says. “Now it’s like these strong girls trying to heal the generational trauma and the wounds of their family. I think, like, Brave, and I think of Moana, and I think of Canto. Someone said to me, ‘Yeah, you fit that narrative too,’ and I said, ‘Oh, shit.’ »
I note that during our one conversation, she named Disney characters like Mulan, Hannah Montana, and Moana, and she immediately burst out laughing, “Oh my God, that wasn’t on purpose, I swear.” It’s because that’s literally what I love. That’s what raised me. Her brother used to babysit her and throw Disney movies at her to entertain her when she was a kid. It was around this time that she also began to fall in love with music. Growing up, she sang in church, played saxophone in the school band, and violin in the school band. She did high school choir and dreamed of Juilliard. In college, she majored in musical theater and communications, but decided to venture into the music industry once the doors began to open wide for her.
“I found myself backstage and backstage and working on these shows,” she says. “I found myself in the music industry for a while, and I felt like I could not don’t sing anymore. I felt like I was being judged for it, or people would think I had ulterior motives, when I was truly dedicated to supporting the artistry of others. I was like, ‘How can I save space for both?’
The pandemic has radically changed things. The tour came to an abrupt end, and she and Cuco went their separate ways. A break from her managerial career gave her time to pursue new projects, and she decided to take a scholarship to USC, where she returned to singing, writing, and recording. Slowly, she started posting videos of her music, although it made her nervous. “Because of my background and my background, it was like this weird self-sabotage where I was like, ‘Oh, no, I can’t. Like, ‘I’m going to be embarrassed.’ If I reached out to people I convinced to be champions for the artists I represented, I couldn’t bring myself to say, ‘Wait, are you ready to be a champion for what I’m doing right now? moment ?’ ”
But supporters showed up for her in droves, especially after she shared a sweet garden shoot she did on her 27th birthday. “Jessie Reyez reached out, Mon Laferte reached out, La Marisoul reached out,” she recalled. “America Ferrera posted it.” Eventually, she crossed paths with producer and music maverick Camilo Lara and showed him a song called “Que Sufras” that she was working on. He was immediately intrigued and asked if he could work on it with her. “He really gave me the encouragement, that push,” she explains. “Because if he hadn’t contributed to the song, I don’t know if I would have ever released it.”
There is a melancholy to Learning by us Malas, which roughly means “Learning the hard way”. The songs capture a time of intense and difficult transitions as she grappled with big changes and what she wanted her future to look like. “For the past few years, I’ve been like, ‘Oh, my God, like the universe gave me some, like, serious, like, chingasos”, she said, using a Mexican slang term for “blows.” The creative process felt almost like a purge for her, a chance to let it all out – something that shines through in the music. “I hope when I sing these songs, they’ll be a place of reflection and catharsis that other people can connect with.” She has already started working on lighter songs and exploring a more creative side. She tentatively calls her second EP Learners for las Buenas: “Learning from the good.”
Before we finish talking, Anahí sees another sign: “A bee just stopped right next to me too. Wow!” she says excitedly. For her, it’s another greeting from the universe, another acknowledgment from the people before her that she’s in the right place.