Herizen Guardiola Of Netflix’s “The Get Down”

Many of us know her as disco princess Mylene Cruz from the Netflix series “The Get Down.” Although the musical drama was cancelled after its first season, Herizen Guardiola has been singing her heart out her entire life and dreaming of giving a piece of herself to the world through her music — much like her character in “The Get Down,” Mylene. But that’s where the similarities end. With a Cuban-born, Rastafarian reggae star as a father and a strong Jamaican-Buddhist mother, Herizen’s upbringing could not have been more different than the character we know on screen — and she wants the world to see and hear her for her authentic self.

Herizen recently dropped two singles in anticipation of her first EP, “Come Over To My House,” that elicit an unforgiving stab at the social media world we live in and her fearlessness in her essence of self. She allows herself to be vulnerable, yet still vocal about the world around her. It is obvious that this is only the beginning for Herizen, and we cannot wait to hear what layers of her identity she’ll share with us when the rest of the EP drops on October 26.

RIZE: After you started on “The Get Down,” you went from a few thousand Instagram followers to over 100,000 in a month. What has been the biggest change for you since your role on “The Get Down?

Herizen Guardiola:Well, I mean, people started treating me differently, I guess. I got more people trying to talk to me. I guess one of the things I would say that was weird was that people thought I was my character. They didn’t know who I actually was, and whenever I would speak out or be myself on social media I would lose followers, because they’re like, “Oh she’s nothing like her character.” I guess that’s one of the weirdest things for me, was to see people wanting to know my character instead of wanting to know me.

And then the big parties and being around a bunch of celebrities — that was definitely a change, as well. Personally being invited to stuff like that, like going to Met Gala, all that stuff was surreal.

DOPE Interviews | Herizen Guardiola of Netflix's “The Get Down”

You mentioned being around celebrities a little more. During the making of “The Get Down,” Grandmaster Flash was around a lot, helping you learn about hip-hop. Did learning from who many would argue is one of the most influential men in what would become hip-hop change the way you looked at the genre? Do you listen to any of the classic artists Grandmaster Flash introduced you to?

I mean, a little. I guess I’m not a huge fan of the old school hip-hop, just because I was never allowed to listen to hip-hop music. I was never really around it, so no. I mean, I did my research for the show, but I guess I would say I have a newfound respect, for sure. Because it was difficult for them, and they made something really incredible out of nothing, and I definitely respect and have newfound respect for the struggle and the hustle that hip-hop came from. That was definitely a cool experience, to get know that firsthand.

At nine years old, you sang in front of 4,000 people with your dad. Did your dad invite you on stage often as a young girl?

Yeah, most of my childhood is full of memories of me and my dad making music together. Me singing with him on stage — he always had me on stage with him. Me even more so than my youngest sister, because she’s a bit more shy. It’s not the case anymore, but when we were younger growing up, she was definitely more shy.

I loved the spotlight and feeding off of the energy of people, and I was a daddy’s girl, so anything that my dad did, I wanted to do. Music was an overall positive thing for me. It was the only thing that I thought I could do for the rest of my life, and that was definitely thanks to my dad for bringing me around all of the time. Teaching me how to play guitar at like five, getting me my first guitar, just always encouraging me. He even had me sing backup vocals on a track when I was 15. That was one of my first experiences in the studio.

You just released singles for your debut EP, “Come Over to My House.” You’ve seen the career that your father had — what are your hopes and dreams for the future of your music career? What do you hope to accomplish?

I mean, longevity — I guess I kind of want what every artist wants. I want to be able to give a piece of me to the world through my music. Sometimes a part of that is losing a little bit of yourself, because you have to share yourself to a mass of people, but that’s okay with me if it’s through my music. I just want to help people channel how they feel through my songs.

That’s beautiful. Can you tell me more about your single, “Social Jungle,” and what inspired that song?

The single, “Social Jungle,” I wrote in the moment on the guitar — there were producers out there too, just vibing. I just got this moment of this overwhelming thing that happened to me, it’s kind of hard to explain, but it happens to me when certain songs are like, “Oh shit, that was really good.” And you’re just like, “All right, you have to make this one a track, this is a banger.”

I started thinking about LA and social media and how different people are, coming from where I was in Oregon. I had lived in LA for a while, for years, but I guess I was so in it that I didn’t really take a break. In fact, I was also in high school, so I wasn’t so much in the adult world of everyone comparing themselves to everyone and people trying to climb the social ladder.

I never really saw it the way I did the day I wrote that song — it kind of just punched me, I was like, “Wow, this is ridiculous.” How people go out to have a fun night, in quotations, a “fun night,” and they just sit on their ass and stare at other people and make fun of them, and take selfies and go on Instagram and just completely waste their night on being superficial.

It frustrated me, the thought of that, because I’ve been a victim of meeting someone who I thought was really cool and then they go, “Well, what’s your Instagram?” Instead of like, “What’s your number? Like, let’s actually connect, let’s talk.” They just go straight to how many followers you have. They’re talking to me so many times, and as soon as they find out that I have a decent amount, they’re like, “Oh, okay I see you.” And I’m just like, “No, you don’t see me, actually. You don’t actually see me, you see an app and numbers, you’re not seeing me at all.” That just frustrates me a lot, and so I just went off, and maybe it was a little stab at the world that I’m in, but that’s okay. I don’t mind. I want people to hear the song and actually hear me, and watch the music video and actually see it.

DOPE Interviews | Herizen Guardiola of Netflix's “The Get Down”

For me personally, when I’m out I close my eyes and I go to the forest and I go to the jungle in my mind, and I don’t open my eyes until I’m fully tranced out. The music trances me out, and I feel like I’m glowing, and all humans are connected to music that way, but they’re so distracted by a superficial world that they forget how to do that. And I just want to write about that, I guess.

You were living in Miami for a while and then you moved to Eugene, Oregon. The West Coast is much more accepting of the cannabis space. Have you noticed a difference between the two areas?

Well, I love Oregon because it’s cool, man. Everyone cares for Deadheads, everyone’s super chill and down to earth, and it’s a vibe. I love Miami, it’s my home; I’m Cuban and Jamaican, that is where I thrive, in the heat by the water. But it is a Red State — they give marijuana a bad name. [Cannabis] is not something to be scared of. It’s not a bad thing, it’s medicine, it’s safe, it’s helped so many people feel tranquil and relaxed. I smoke CBDs when I get really bad anxiety, cause I get really shy sometimes and I get really bad anxiety, and it just helps me relax a little.

My dad is a Rastafarian — I grew up watching him smoke the chalice and read The Bible with all of his Rasta men around the bonfire in the backyard. It’s a beautiful plant, and it gets a bad rap for no reason. There’s so many worse things in the world. Tobacco and alcohol are like ten times worse than weed ever could be. Those things are legal. I think states that are accepting are radical, because they are conscious of what the plant can do, and it’s not just to get high all the time. It’s actually medicinal, it’s used to get rid of headaches; my mom gets terrible migraines, and she’ll have a little CBD and she’ll be able to breathe again, and there’s cancer patients that need it.

Absolutely. You mentioned that your father is a Rastafarian – what was your first introduction to cannabis?

Actually, the first time I smoked was with my dad, because I’m not big on jading yourself. I like to keep myself as pure as I possibly can be, to the point where I’m almost like a child. There’s so many things I haven’t done, or so many things I haven’t seen or tried, and I want to keep that going for a while because there’s so much to life — you don’t want to experience all of it at once.

So, my first real experience of smoking weed was with my dad at a basketball game, at a Miami Heat game, which is one of our traditions. And I freaked out, I was freaking out, but I was like super, “Oh my god, what’s going on? I’m freaking out, man.” He’s like, “Man, you’re killing me, relax.” And I was like, “All right, if dad says I’m cool, I’m cool.” Since then it’s been something that all my friends smoke and it’s not a big deal, it’s all groovy— it’s cool, yeah.

I feel like I sound like such a stoner, right, and I swear to god I’m not!

What is your favorite way to consume? Smoke? Edibles? Concentrates?

I like to dab sometimes, ’cause it’s not so harsh on my throat and my stomach. Edibles get me way too high — I’ve had maybe four edibles in my life, and it’s because every time I give it a chance, I’m all normal and then it smacks me in my face and I have to go home or I have to sit down and, like, cuddle something … I definitely will roll a joint, and I’ll hit it a dab pen. I’ll hit an occasional blunt if it’s around, but I don’t really like blunts — they’re too harsh for me.

That’s usually when I’m in a creative mood. I don’t smoke every day. It’s also so good for cramps — like, menstrual cramps — it’s the best to have CBD with, like, a little THC and just relax and have a bath … that is like one of the biggest things that I use it for. In the studio, yeah, I like to hit my dab — just kind of mellow out and feel the music.

DOPE Interviews | Herizen Guardiola of Netflix's “The Get Down”

Luna Reyna

Luna Reyna (she/ella) is the founder of RIZE Entertainment. She is deeply invested in shifting power structures and centering and amplifying the work and voices of systematically excluded within the arts. She believes that art is vital for revolutionary practice and movements and hopes that RIZE can be an instrument for amplifying art that expresses the conditions of an unjust society and facilitates healing.