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Fame did not come easy for Camila Cabello. As a Cuban-Mexican immigrant who entered the United States when she was six, the former member of Fifth Harmony always viewed success as out-of-reach. Recently, the 19-year-old star spoke to Lena Dunham about the start of her career and the power that comes from being Cuban. Her interview aired during an episode on Dunham's podcast, Women of the Hour, as well as in a story in the newsletter Lenny Letter.
On the podcast, Camila told how her Hispanic roots are the platform for her success as a pop star. When she was about to turn 15, The X Factor announced it would hold auditions in North Carolina, which was a close enough drive from her home in Miami. “It was my fifteenth birthday and I wasn’t going to have a quinceñera. So I asked my mom instead if her present for me would be for her to drive up with my to audition," Camila told Dunham in the interview.
When she arrived, the producers didn't choose her. “For two days I was like right about to go audition and they would tell me, ‘Oh no. You can't audition. You might as well go back home. We don't want you to keep getting disappointed.'”
But she didn't give up. In the end, she worked her powers of persuasion.
“I ended up auditioning because they saw how badly I wanted it and how persistent I was. It's a Cuban thing,” she said.
Camila addressed being a Latin celebrity amid the hatred ignited during the U.S. presidential election, saying she had never realized the extent to which racism persists in her adopted country. “All of the things that were being spoken about hit so close to home, to me being an immigrant and being a Latina. I feel like in a way that's just kind of made me prouder of my roots," she said. "Now and forevermore, I'm going to stick up for immigrants and I'm going to stick up for Hispanic people and their rights. I feel like that's just my job.
Camila also spoke about what it is like to grow up having to be a sex symbol in the music industry. “Especially with being a girl group, there's been a lot of times where people have tried to sexualize us to just get more attention. Unfortunately, sex sells,” she said. “There's definitely been times where there's stuff that I have not been comfortable with and I've had to put my foot down. There's nothing wrong with showing sexuality. If you have that inside, it's just an expression of who you are. If you want to share that with people, that's amazing. I love that. Look at Rihanna. She's so sexy. She comes from Planet Sexy. I worship her. I really, really do.”
Even though she was always surrounded by people while on tour with Fifth Harmony, Cabello said she found a way to get to know herself and her own voice. That's likely to serve her now as she digs into her solo career.
“Creativity and me writing in hotel bathrooms for the whole time we were touring became a necessity,” she said. “A lot of myself I found through making art and making my songs.”