Mexican rapper Niña Dioz is chipping away at the American hip-hop industry one track at a time. Born Carla Reyna, Dioz found her way into hip hop through online forums and eventually adopted her stage name, which translates to “girl God.” Shortly after recording her first demo with the help of “some dudes” from a forum, she performed her first live show, where she played one song. (It was all she had.)
A girl approached her after to ask why her set was so short. “She said she loved seeing a girl rap and she would have liked to hear more,” Dioz says. “That reaction—one girl inspiring another—left me hooked. I went back to record some more, and the rest is history.”
Back in 2009, the Los Angeles Times called Dioz “Mexico’s answer to Grammy-nominated powerhouse M.I.A.” And her star’s been rising ever since. Her politically and socially-charged lyrics are meeting a moment where women are finally receiving some critical recognition.
Dioz’s most recent single “Tambalea,” which NPR called “a dauntless feminist anthem,” is about Mexico’s feminicidios, the massacres in which more than 23,000 women have been killed over the past ten years. Dioz, an unapologetically queer Latinx woman in a field dominated by straight men, makes songs that explode with both rhythm and meaning.
Consequently, she’s been harassed online for years. “I have a powerful voice that generates yin/yang attention,” she says. “It generates some light, some love, and some support—and some hatred from people that are really opposed to me being a powerful woman pursing my dreams. But I’ve learned to stand up and face those trolls and say: ‘I want to make something positive with what I have—and if you don’t like it, just go fuck yourself. Because I’m going to keep doing me.’”
Three years ago, Dioz got sober, a decision she credits with her peace of mind and focus. The tour for her new album Reyna, which will be released on May 11, starts next week—and she’s in charge of logistics. “I don’t have a manager right now, so I’m basically doing everything myself,” she says. She stays grounded by writing a gratitude list, hitting the gym, and playing with her dog in the park.
Dioz advises us to listen to our hearts and bodies above all—and that, even if those two are in tip-top condition, a little coconut oil can only help. She shares her go-to habits, tips, and products ahead, in this week’s “Shortlisted.”
“Right here, right now.”
It helps me to bring back my attention to the present moment, and not dwell too much on the past or the future.
I love the St. Ives face scrub—I use that about three times a week at night. I keep things pretty simple when it comes to my skin; I just clean it and keep it super hydrated. I don’t like to use a lot of chemicals.
Podcasts aren’t as big in Mexico as they are in the United States. I just started listening to them a couple months ago—and I really like them! My favorite one is the Bruce Lee podcast, where Bruce Lee’s daughter [Shannon Lee] talks about martial arts and scales and all kinds of things.
Happy Place Outfit
My tattoos are my favorite accessory; I have about 15 of them. My most recognizable tattoo is on my left shoulder; it’s a painting of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. I got it just two weeks after the painting got stolen from the museum. It’s the tattoo that gives me tons of weird and cool connections to people on the street. So many people can relate to this piece of art that I decided to have with me forever—and so many people want to talk about it. I love that.
Currently Listening To
I’ve been listening to J. Cole’s new album KOD on repeat. He sheds a light on the whole movement in hip hop right now that’s about heavy drugs and infidelity. He talks about how we will never have enough power; our materialistic pursuits will never be enough. At this point in my career, I feel like we need more realness and more artists who are committed to speaking the truth.
Sleep! I’m actually not the most healthy person with my sleep and I get anxiety when I don’t sleep well. But when I get a full eight hours, I feel I can be as productive and accomplish as many things as I want.
Instagram. I use it for work and to give my friends a closer view into who I am. It’s important for me to not just post the cool photos, but to show my daily life. I don’t want to post pictures that make people feel like I’m doing something that’s unobtainable for them. I want to show them that everything I’m doing is something anyone can do if they commit to it and work hard for it.
Good Hair Secret-Weapon
I love coconut oil—period. I eat it; I put it on my face; I put it on bread. I love the smell. I love how good it is. I just bought coconut oil that says it’s especially for your hair; I use it on my wet hair after I jump out of the shower for a little extra shine. I haven’t eaten that yet.
Flats, Sneakers, Or Heels
Sneakers, 100 percent. Nike has been my favorite brand since I was growing up. I’m a big Jordan fan; I have a black pair of Cortez that I really like; and I just got a pair of Air Money. Air Money is like Air Max, but it has velvet and dollar signs on it. It’s cool and it’s like me. I’m all about my business, all about getting money.
Self-Care Method Of Choice
Not doing heavy drugs or drinking alcohol—and hitting some heavy weights instead. I moved to L.A. a couple years ago because I was living an endless party-VIP-access-free-booze life in Mexico City and when I was touring. I needed a break from all the temptations. LA really helped me get clean. Since I did that, I’ve been able to create from a different place.
It’s all baby steps. I had to learn how to get on the stage without alcohol. I had to learn how to look people in the eyes when I talked to them and to be confident and happy in my own skin.
That’s a big part of my life right now. I’m just staying present.