The untold truth of Rosalia

Spanish singer Rosalía has taken the world by storm with her unique sound, infusing traditional flamenco music with modern influences, such as rap and electronica. And considering her massive popularity, it's safe to say you'll be hearing more from Rosalía for years to come.

Born Rosalía Vila Tobella in 1993, the songstress burst on the scene in 2017 with the release of her debut album, Los ángeles, which was described by The New York Times as "a guitar-based vocal album about death." However, it was her second album, El Mal Querer, that really put her on the map. On El Mal Querer, Rosalía worked with producer El Guincho to create a whole new sound that was thoroughly and uniquely her own, which some have dubbed "millennial flamenco." As Rosalía told the Times, "The music is connected with my roots, with my culture, but it's also connected with the rest of the world."

Rosalía — who won her first Grammy in 2020 — has definitely proved herself a force to be reckoned with. But what else is there to know about the talented singer? Read on to discover the untold truth of Rosalía.

Rosalia bombed as a teenage contestant on a Spanish talent show

Rosalía displayed a powerful voice that belied her years even as a young girl. In a May 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Rosalía revealed, "I'd sing the things that I heard on TV or the radio [as a child]." She continued, saying, "I didn't know why, I just did it." 

When she was just 15, Rosalía auditioned for a Spanish TV talent competition called Tu Si Que Vales – which loosely translates to You Are Worth It. In a clip from the show, which seems to operate much like America's Got Talent, she can be seen accompanying herself on acoustic guitar for a performance that left the judges rather unimpressed. According to a profile in The New York Times, one judge criticized her lack of "character," leading her shift to gears and bellow a brief snippet of Alicia Keys' hit song "No One" that persuaded the judges to send her forward to the next round. Unfortunately, she was sent packing after a disastrous subsequent performance that one judge criticized as being "regularly off-key."

Soon, Rosalía shifted her focus from chasing stardom to sharpening her actual craft and pursuing musical excellence.

Rosalia was trained by a famed flamenco teacher who only took on one student per year

Rosalía discovered flamenco music as a child in Sant Esteve Sesrovires. As she told The New York Times, flamenco was "a street thing" then, and not "mainstream." However, her obsession with flamenco led her to take dance classes at age 13, and her vocal abilities continued to grow increasingly more impressive. When she was 16, she was accepted to the Catalonia College of Music, which admits just one student to study flamenco each year.

Getting into the school was no mean feat, given that there were multiple applicants for only one spot. However, Rosalía quickly discovered that the pressure involved didn't crush her, but spurred her to push herself even further. "It is difficult to get in," she noted in an interview with Billboard. Added Rosalía, "But it made me force myself to work harder."

She studied under the tutelage of famed flamenco performer José Miguel Vizcaya, known by his nickname El Chiqui. "I studied what she'd done and saw she had a lot of work ahead of her," Vizcaya told El Pais of his first impression of his former student. 

Rosalia once charged 20 Euros an hour as a flamenco teacher

At age 20, Rosalía was still studying at the Catalonia College of Music while struggling to break through as a professional singer. To earn some money, she advertised her services as a vocal coach. Her profile can still be found online, detailing her experience, her education and the various musical projects in which she'd been involved. The cost of an hour-long singing lesson from Rosalía: a mere 20 Euros, approximately $22 U.S.

Rosalía graduated when she was 24, taking with her a bachelor's degree in flamenco vocal performance. Her instructor, José Miguel Vizcaya, told El Pais that one of the biggest challenges he faced in teaching her was to seek out songs that would prove to be a good fit for her unique vocal stylings. 

"But in the end, the classes I had with her were a pleasure," he admitted. Added Vizcaya, "She wasn't hard work at all — she went the extra mile. Every week, she came to me with songs that were perfect."

Rosalia's first collaboration was with her then-boyfriend

In 2016, Rosalía collaborated with Madrid-based rapper C. Tangana on the track "Antes de Morime" ("Before I Die"). Rosalía and Tangana were dating while recording the song and filming the music video, something that seems apparent in the atmospheric music video for the song. 

While there are plenty of celebrities who broke up but still worked together, Rosalía and Tangana are two celebrities who worked together but still broke up. According to Billboard, Tangana is credited with writing lyrics for eight songs featured on Rosalía's sophomore album, El Mal Querer. However, in an August 2018 Billboard profile on Tangana, the singer revealed that he and Rosalía had recently split after being together for two years. 

Still, the former lovebirds' collab single was a hit — even though it took a few years for it to really catch fire with fans. In fact, it only became popular when the third season of the popular Spanish teen drama Elite debuted on Netflix in March 2020. "Antes de Morime" was included on the soundtrack of the show, and it didn't take long for fans to learn every word of the sultry single.

Rosalia has had some high-profile collabs

Rosalía and C. Tangana's "Antes de Morime" is far from the Spanish singer's only musical collaboration. In the span of just a few years, the songstress teamed up with some of the music industry's biggest artists. In May 2020, Rosalía notably linked up with rapper Travis Scott to release a joint single called "TKN," which debuted at No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In fact, her collab with Scott marked Rosalía's first entry on the influential chart.

Prior to that, Rosalía collaborated with Scott on "Highest in the Room", which also featured rapper Lil Baby. Other collaborations have included "Con Altura" with J Balvin, "Yo x Ti, Ti x Yo" with Ozuna, and "Barefoot in the Park" with James Blake.

In April 2020, Rosalía teased a long-in-the-works collaboration with Billie Eilish, leaving fans waiting in excited anticipation. And in a January 2019 Billboard interview, the singer revealed she'd been working on her third studio album with famed producer and musical artist, Pharrell Williams. Obviously, this gal has no plans of slowing down anytime soon!

Rosalia received some early support from a Kardashian

When Rosalía first began making a splash in the U.S. music scene, she had one of television's most popular reality TV stars as an early booster. As Elle Spain reported, Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Kourtney Kardashian used the singer's "Malamente" as background music in some of her posts on Instagram Stories.

However, Kourtney isn't the only member of the Kardashians to embrace Rosalía. In January 2019, Kourtney's little sister, Kylie Jenner, shared a photo on Instagram of herself and Rosalia snuggling up together on a leather banquette. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Rosalia opened up about her friendship with Jenner, saying, "She's a very good friend of mine." Rosalía continued, revealing, "I love her a lot, she knows it ... we have fun a lot together." 

The KUWTK siblings haven't been the only celebrities to succumb to Rosalia's onslaught of talent. According to the Daily Mail, actress and model Emily Ratajkowski shared a video of herself on social media blasting Rosalia's "Con Altura" on her car stereo. One thing's for sure: Rosalía has fans (and friends) in high places. 

Rosalia made a cameo opposite Penelope Cruz in Pain and Glory

Rosalía has many fans, and some are more surprising than others. Much like the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, it seems Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is a big Rosalía fan. In fact, in 2018, it was revealed that the songstress would be making her acting debut in the director's 2019 film Pain and Glory

Rosalía shared her thoughts about the opportunity in an Instagram post, along some photos of herself, Almodóvar, and Penélope Cruz on set. She wrote about watching Almodóvar's movies with her mother and sister when she was young, noting "the women featured in them seemed from another world and at the same time so familiar." While admitting that her entire life has been focused on performing, Rosalía wrote, "I can truthfully say that I dreamed about doing something like this since I was a little girl."

In a November 2018 interview with Paper, Rosalía gushed about working with Almodóvar. "You can't even imagine ... he's my very favorite artist in Spain," she told the magazine. Added Rosalía, "He connected to my music and I connect to his movies, so it was very natural and organic to work together."

Rosalia's collab with J. Balvin became an international sensation

"Con Altura", Rosalía's collabration with rapper J Balvin, was released in March 2019 — and it quickly went on to become a massive hit. In fact, Fader declared "Con Altura" to be nothing less than "the song of the d*** summer."

Balvin and Rosalía spoke with The New York Times about what went into creating the song. According to Rosalía, she wanted to record a track with "this classic reggaetown vibe, like Daddy Yankee." After working on the song with her production team, the end result left her feeling seriously pumped. "I was proud of it," she revealed. 

Rosalía immediately began pondering which artist she envisioned joining her for the track, and quickly invited J Balvin to join her for the collaboration. "I loved it," said Balvin after she sent him the recording via WhatsApp, admitting he was surprised by what he heard. Balvin — who performed at the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show — told the NYT, "It wasn't that I wasn't expecting something good from her, but I wasn't expecting it was a straight-up pure reggaetown." Added Balvin, "I was like, 'Wow, this is fire, let's do it.'"

Rosalia has faced accusations of cultural appropriation

While Rosalía's star is clearly on the rise in the U.S., she's actually been hit with some backlash in her home country over accusations of cultural appropriation. Her success, in fact, has proven to be a double-edged sword in her native Spain — due to controversy stemming from the cultural origins of the flamenco music that she's been revolutionizing.

As Encyclopedia Britannica notes, flamenco was born in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain, the traditional music of the Roma people (also known as gitano, or Gypsies). Given that Rosalía is from Catalonia — not Andalusia –  and her heritage isn't Roma, this has become a bone of contention for some. According to The World, Rosalía has been accused of "adopting an Andalusian accent, sprinkling Caló (the Spanish Romani language) into her songs, dressing like a gitana, and using Roma imagery in her music videos."

According to a statement given to The World by the Association of Feminist Gitanas for Diversity (AFGD), Rosalía's co-opting of flamenco is contributing to "the oppression of other women." Added the AFGD, "That's not being a feminist, that's being a poseur."

Rosalia has three major musical influences

In January 2019, Rosalía opened up to MTV International about the specific artists who have influenced her music the most. According to Rosalía, she has three primary musical inspirations and influences: Spanish flamenco legend Camarón de la Isla — known to fans as simply Camarón — British singer-songwriter James Blake, and iconic flamenco cantora La Niña de los Peines (translated as "the girl of the combs").

Rosalía revealed she first heard Camarón "by chance" when she was 13, admitting she "discovered a vast universe within this musical style." That said, she had a different reaction when she first heard La Niña de los Peines at age 16. "I would say, it sounds horrible, I don't like it," she revealed. It wasn't until a few years later, when she listened to the singer's recordings more deeply, that she started to feel a connection. "I began to appreciate her melodies," Rosalía explained. The songstress continued, "I realized she was unique. She taught me many of the songs I know."

Rosalía began listening to Blake as a university student, explaining that his music "left a mark" on her. We're sure Blake is flattered!

These are Rosalia's biggest fashion influences

Rosalía is not only responsible for creating singularly unique flamenco-inspired pop hits, she can also boast of a sartorial style that is equally distinctive. In a video interview with Billboard, Rosalía opened up about her biggest fashion influences while playing the magazine's "Fishing for Answers" game. When asked who her style icon was and why, the songstress had an immediate answer. "My style icon, Lola Flores," she said, singling out the famed Spanish flamenco performer and movie actress who passed away at age 72 in 1995. Rosalía continued, saying, "She was amazing back in the day. Her attitude, everything, I love her." 

The Spanish singer also said her signature style and aesthetic had been influenced by flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya. "I loved her," Rosalía gushed. She continued, saying, "She used to wear masculine clothes in a moment when no other woman was dancing in masculine clothes." 

Speaking of admiring masculine clothes and style, Rosalía also cited Spanish flamenco singer Camarón for "his rings [and] his tattoos."

Rosalia was hit with backlash over strip club visit with Dua Lipa and Lizzo

Rosalía had quite a memorable night at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. The star delivered a buzzworthy performance at the awards ceremony — which was held in January 2020 — and even won her first-ever Grammy for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album. Rosalía was also nominated for the coveted Best New Artist award, but ultimately lost out to Billie Eilish.

Understandably in a celebratory mood, Rosalía joined fellow artists Lizzo, Dua Lipa, and Lil Nas X to party at a Los Angeles strip club. However, when video of their hijinks wound up on social media, they were hit with backlash. As Refinery29 chronicled, their strip club visit led to a fierce debate on social media, with some feeling they were participating in the exploitation of women, while others thought they were just having fun. 

Dua Lipa defended the visit in an interview with The Guardianinsisting she and her fellow artists had nothing to apologize for. Despite the controversy, it's safe to say the night of the 2020 Grammy Awards will forever be a seriously significant and fun memory for Rosalía.

Madonna tried to book Rosalia to perform at her birthday party

Rosalía's fan club keeps adding notable names to its roster. According to an interview Madonna gave to Spanish radio station LOS40, the "Material Girl" singer was so enamored with Rosalía that she tried to book her to perform at her birthday party. "I adore Rosalía," Madonna gushed. She continued, saying, "She is incredible, really, because she is unique." 

When she first discussed the birthday party idea with Rosalía, Madonna said it "seemed like a simple transaction." However, she explained, the whole thing soon unraveled and became a giant, complicated mess. As Madonna told LOS40, "A manager appeared, then an agent ... and then there were already five people in the middle who wanted to collect an extraordinary amount of money." Added Madonna, "Then they told me that Rosalía's team would be made up of 36 people and I kept thinking: 'What?'"

Considering how much Madonna is really worth, there's no doubt she could have afforded to book Rosalía. However, she ultimately decided to celebrate a flamenco-free (and Rosalía free) birthday. Maybe next time, Madge!

Rosalia's university thesis inspired her album El Mal Querer

Rosalía broke into the North American music market with her second studio album, 2018's El Mal Querer – which has some pretty interesting origins. 

Speaking with Rolling Stone in November 2018, Rosalía revealed that the concept album — which can be loosely translated to Bad Love in English — was actually inspired by her university graduate thesis. Her thesis, also titled El Mal Querer, delved into the 13th-century Spanish novel Flamenca, in which a jealous husband keeps his young wife imprisoned in a tower. 

In an interview with The Daze, Rosalía said, "[El Mal Querer] is, in fact, my senior thesis, which took me two years to write." As the songstress explained, the album follows the structure of the book, with each song representing a chapter of the tale — described by Rosalía as "a dark love story" that unfolds song by song. "The album features songs I wrote taking flamenco as an inspirational starting point," Rosalía revealed to The Daze. She continued, explaining she'd hoped to bridge the gap between electronic sound and "roots music." Never stop experimenting, Rosalía!