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Karol G Bet on Herself and Won

ON THE LAST DAY OF JUNE, about 15,000 fans have braved dense New York City smog to worship at the altar of Karol G. At Rockefeller Center, a massive crowd assembles for the superstar’s debut on the Today show, dressed in Colombian levanta-cola (butt-lifting) jeans and the lemon-yellow jerseys of Los Cafeteros, the country’s national soccer team. There’s even a little girl sporting a black crop top emblazoned with Karol’s moniker, “Bichota.”

Inside 30 Rock, the greenroom feels like an extended-family function: A dozen or so managers, assistants, and makeup artists are talking over one another, swarming around Karol and cracking jokes as they touch up her look for soundcheck. It is 5 a.m., and most of us have slept only three hours, but Karol, 32, is bright and animated, possessing an enviable bubbliness, the kind that only someone who is accustomed to waking at these hours has. Outside, I’d overheard a fan say that La Bichota is probably still asleep. When I recount this information to Karol, she just laughs. “I didn’t sleep at all!” she exclaims in her cantaíto paisa accent, a smile across her face.

Chrome Body Armor by KWK by Kay Kwok. Leather bra and panty by Zana Bayne.

Karol’s aunt, whom she briefly lived with as a teen, has come all the way from Long Island to support her niece — wearing a T-shirt decorated with the artwork from Karol’s recent album, Mañana Será Bonito, of course. She brought Colombian empanadas from a bakery in Hempstead for Karol’s team, but is surprised that there isn’t anywhere to warm them up (“You can’t eat cold empanadas!” she gripes, the tía energy reaching Guinness World Records levels).

After a quick soundcheck, Karol returns to the greenroom to change into her costume: a white maxi skirt, a long-sleeve mauve crop top, and thigh-high hot-pink platform boots. A tiny braid and a collection of silver charms frame her heart-shaped face, while a heavy cross, bejeweled with magenta gemstones, clings to her neck. Backstage, the head of security walks over and says that there are so many people outside that the NYPD has called for backup; apparently, some fans who didn’t make it into the plaza are stuck on Fifth Avenue, trying to rush the stage.

All morning, rumors have circulated that Karol has surpassed the attendance number that Harry Styles set when he performed on Today last summer. As the morning unfolds, the speculation seems like it could turn into fact: Today staff members believe she’s eclipsed not just Styles, but also what they think is the show’s all-time attendance record, set by Ricky Martin in 1999. At one point, Al Roker emerges from a random door in a baby-blue pinstripe suit: “It hasn’t been this crazy since Ricky Martin!” he squawks.

It is almost too on-the-nose that Karol might have broken the attendance record of an artist who laid the groundwork for her own ascent into the mainstream. Along with heavyweights like Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Karol is part of a new generation of Latin American and U.S.-born Latinx artists infiltrating the American pop market and rewriting age-old scripts about language barriers and marketing practices. Too often, their commercial achievements have relied on feel-good narratives of cultural affirmation that excise the racial, linguistic, and geographical specificities of Latinx experiences, reifying the notion that we are all one people. At the same time, Karol’s ability to set a new record challenges a xenophobic fiction the Anglo music industry has perpetuated for too long: the lie that Spanish-language music is niche, unpopular, and unknown.

Since she released her first album six years ago, Karol has endeared millions of listeners across the globe with the cool, crowd-pleasing fluidity of her songs. Her music glides through ripples of reggaeton, Afrobeats, dancehall, and trap, and with sunny, radio-friendly melodies, she sings universal stories of heartache, betrayal, and triumph. Her songs feel equally suited for moonlit beachfront perreos as they are for glitzy club outings — and coming from a woman, they offer a brief respite from the male perspectives on conquest and sex that monopolize reggaeton. That recipe has fueled a whirlwind year for Karol, catapulting her to a new level of fame over the past few months. In March, Mañana Será Bonito became the first Spanish-language album by a woman to hit Number One on the Billboard 200, and it’s currently the highest-selling Latin album released this year. This summer, one of her tracks was featured on the Barbie soundtrack. She became the first Latina to headline Lollapalooza, and recently launched a massive stadium tour through the U.S.

In August, she unveiled the companion album to Mañana Será Bonito — a personal manifesto called Mañana Será Bonito (Bichota Season). Karol is still processing all the milestones. “I imagined that I was going to accomplish a lot of things in my life, but really, I never imagined it’d be to the point that it is today. To reach so many people, touch so many people in so many different aspects — it still blows my mind,” she says. “Life has shown me that so many things are possible. I have 10 times more ambition and vision than what I imagined.”

After an hour or so, Karol finally emerges from the greenroom. She exits backstage and walks into the marbled lobby of 30 Rock, where she’ll enter the plaza through a pair of golden double doors. Her team clusters around her in a circle to shelter her from passersby snapping photos, and for a moment, she turns around and hides her face into a wall where no one can see her. Out of nowhere, her tía slides up next to me and murmurs, “If I’m her aunt and I’m nervous, imagine what she must be feeling!”

Eventually, Karol turns around, high-fives everyone in her crew, and steps out into the crowd.

Black mesh top by Natalia Fedner. Chocker by Bootzy Couture. Black leather gloves by Kristina K.

KAROL G IS RUNNING ON confidence these days, and after spending five minutes with her, you will be charmed. She might win you over with how she giddily stamps her feet and squeals “¡Que chimba!” (Colombian slang for “That’s awesome!”) when she’s excited about a new song, which has already occurred at least three times. Maybe she’ll delight you after she whispers a joke about an overly thirsty fan into your ear. She might enchant you when, after singing a line from Bichota Season, she laughs off the male fragility of a former lover. Or perhaps she’ll do it with her overwhelmingly good manners. I mean, not every celebrity offers to order you room service because you didn’t have time to eat lunch.

That charisma is on full display the day before her Today show appearance. Karol answers the door of her suite at the luxe Hotel Barrière Fouquet’s New York, appearing in a white terry-cloth robe with her hair damp from the shower. Her baby-pink locks are the latest curatorial choice in a rotating, rainbow-hued color wheel that’s included electric blue and cherry red during her past two album cycles.

Inside the suite, dusty rosewood panels line the walls, and a matching velvet couch flanks a massive vanity mirror, where Karol’s makeup artists surround her. Suitcases packed with eyeshadow palettes, blow-dryers, and clothes cover the floor like jigsaw chunks, but I find a spot on the sofa and plop down while Karol changes into a sleeveless pink hoodie and acid-wash army-green cargo pants. Her luggage is plastered with stickers of the cutesy cartoons that appear on the cover of Mañana Será Bonito; a stuffed toy of the redheaded mermaid from the album artwork perches on a chair in the corner.

Karol is taking it easy after spending four hours posing for her official Madame Tussauds wax figure yesterday. I ask if she can approve the final version, because sometimes the sculptures aren’t exactly faithful renditions. She says she can, and hesitates a second before mentioning the notorious Cristiano Ronaldo statue that went viral in 2017 as a worst-case scenario. She pulls up an image of the work on her phone and shows it to everyone in the room, giggling impishly at the poorly rendered likeness of the soccer star. But within seconds, she recovers, remembering she’s a global pop star who’s supposed to be polite and poised. “I’m so sorry,” she says, chuckling.

Karol pulls up a chair in front of me, ready to unveil Bichota Season. It’s a new set of songs, but it’s loosely connected to Mañana Será Bonito, which was the kind of breakup album that captured every messy, complicated stage of uncoupling: the sleep-deprived nights you spend scrolling through old photos, wishing they were still yours; the epiphanic realization that your suffering isn’t permanent; the parties you crash with your girls in search of relief.

Mañana Será Bonito chronicled her public separation from her former fiancé, Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA, in 2021. Karol says the failed engagement — and the experience of processing it through the album — was emotionally taxing. The Colombian artist isn’t known for making intimate music, but Mañana Será Bonito was steeped in the belief that vulnerability could offer a sense of autonomy. “The two weeks before the album came out, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat,” she says. “Being so exposed in my music was very psychologically heavy.… Imagine something like this happening, and you have to tell millions of people what happened to you.”

The fallout of the relationship was bitter and resentful, sparking dialogues and think pieces about toxic masculinity and misogynoir, due in part to Anuel’s petulant online antics and fans’ anti-Black comments about his subsequent partner, the Dominican singer Yailin La Más Viral (they have since parted ways). More recently, Anuel has resorted to tagging Karol in Instagram posts, seemingly mocking her song with Shakira, and taunting her at his concerts. At an awards show in June, he wore a T-shirt that read “You’re with Feid, but you know that you’re mine,” a reference to her rumored relationship with the Colombian reggaeton artist.

But while Mañana Será Bonito was about healing from the painful dissolution of a relationship, Bichota Season takes on a different approach. Here, Karol is ready to move on from heartache, welcoming an uncompromising new era. To Karol, Bichota Season represents both a personal credo and a temporal directive, declaring emancipation in the wake of romantic collapse. “I go over the strange moments, the crazy moments, the difficult ones in my head,” she says. “The moments where I felt, ‘I’m dying and I won’t be able to deal with this.’ It’s what I had to go through to get to today.”

Chrome Body Armor by KWK by Kay Kwok. Leather bra and panty by Zana Bayne. Shoes by Grounds.

“S91,” the first track released from Bichota Season, was initially meant to be part of Mañana Será Bonito. “S91” includes a spoken sound bite of Karol reading Psalm 91, a mantra of power in her family. “My mom would say that it was a prayer of protection — that nothing could touch us,” she explains. The song didn’t fit with the rest of the album, but it also didn’t quite work as a bonus track on a deluxe edition. “If I had included [“S91” on Mañana Será Bonito], when people listen to the whole album, the narrative would have been lost,” she explains.

So instead, Karol used that song as a blueprint and dreamt up the Bichota Season universe. In a sense, the album is much more confrontational, projecting a liberated future that still requires claws. Its title invokes the bad-bitch nickname she adopted in 2020 after releasing a song of the same name, though it originally refers to a Puerto Rican slang term meaning “a female drug lord.” In the past, the moniker has garnered some criticism from fans, who suggest that repurposing the word for empowerment erases the violence and struggle surrounding the term’s true context.

Karol says Bichota Season is about regaining “self-confidence” and “getting rid” of fear. “It’s about a woman who feels proud of where she is, of everything she had to go through. Of never abandoning herself, of always having an internal voice that told her, ‘Go, you can do this.’” She adds that there’s a message of self-worth here, too. “They teach us it’s wrong to celebrate ourselves for something we have. And it’s not. We have to be the first ones to give ourselves credit.” She thinks about how she’s worked through her own fears and hardships. “A lot of things that don’t scare me have happened in my life,” she continues. “I’m not scared anymore, because I know I overcame them.”

Karol hands me her silver AirPods Max, which are encrusted with crimson rhinestones in the shape of the mermaid doodle from the cover art of MSB. She looks at me apprehensively, clearly nervous to play these songs for someone outside of her team for the first time (I hear her tell her publicist that she’s curious about what I am writing in my notes as I listen). Before she presses play on her phone, she issues an important statement of intent about the album: “It’s about my achievements and my successes as a person, but also in my career … the mental freedom I have to experiment with things in life no matter what — without thinking about it too much.”

The opening guitar strums of “Mi Ex Tenía Razón” filter into the headphones, Karol’s warm voice layered on top. A clatter of digital and acoustic drums cuts into the melody, kicking the song into high gear. It’s pure Selena, an electro-Tejano lament that feels lifted straight from Amor Prohibido. The Selena tribute is no surprise: Karol has a tattoo of the Tejana icon, along with Rihanna and her own face, on her forearm, forming a holy trinity of bichotas. “There was a long time in my life where I was super obsessed with her, and I would cry because I knew I was never going to meet her,” she says. She especially admires her impact as a barrier-blurring, bicultural renegade. “I’ve seen interviews where Beyoncé talks about her. Any artist, no matter their fame, knows who she is and recognizes her. It doesn’t matter if they speak English or Spanish.”

The lyrics are sly and pointed: “Mi ex tenía razón/Dijo que no iba a encontrar uno como él/Y me llevo uno mejor” (“My ex was right/He said I wasn’t going to find one like him/And I ended up with someone better”). It is seemingly a rejoinder to Anuel’s recent single, “Mejor Que Yo,” in which he assures an ex that she won’t find anyone like him. But Karol is plangent and clear in this retort.

Now I know exactly what she means when she says it’s bichota season.

KAROL G BECAME A STAR across Latin America back in 2017, after releasing her debut album, Unstoppable. With the follow-ups Ocean and KG0516, she gradually built a reputation as a fan favorite in the world of pop reggaeton. In 2019, Karol got a fresh boost with “Tusa,” her hit with Nicki Minaj, which has been streamed half a billion times in the U.S. alone. Karol was a household name across Latin America at that point, but Mañana Será Bonito kicked off a whole new chapter of success after it amassed a pile of historic accolades, including the unprecedented Billboard 200 debut. “It’s the start of some really chimba things for me and my future,” she says.

For Bichota Season, she worked primarily with producer Sky Rompiendo, a fellow paisa who built his career making beats for J Balvin in the infancy of Medellín’s reggaeton movement. There are also credits from MAG, the Dominican and Puerto Rican executive producer of Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, as well Edgar Barrera, the Grammy-winning songwriter who has penned hits for música Mexicana idols like Grupo Frontera, Fuerza Regida, and Christian Nodal. There are some provocative collaborations, too — one track with corridos tumbados man-of-the-moment Peso Pluma and another with Dutch EDM tycoon Tiësto. She’s also got two tracks with high-femme R&B vamp and fellow Colombian Kali Uchis: The first is a bouncy reggae breeze that appears on Bichota Season, and the second is an old-school reggaeton heater that Karol says may come in October. “We’ve spent a year and a half talking about this. We’ve seen each other, gone to the studio together; she’s been at my house, I’ve been to her house. But Kali is like me, we’re like ‘zero pressure,’” she says. “We made a ton of songs, and she would tell me, ‘I don’t like that one,’ and I’d tell her, ‘I’m not feeling it either.’”

Choker by Bianca Armer. Bracelet by DEFAÏENCE

But it’s the final song she mentions that is the juiciest: She tells me about a track she’d been working on called “Verano Rosa,” which Feid had planned to jump on. “It’s a song about heartbreak, which is the best part of it all,” Karol says, grinning. She doesn’t explicitly confirm the relationship, but the comment feels like a surreptitious acknowledgment that something is going on between them. Later, in the rush to leave the hotel for her rehearsal at the Today show, I accidentally pick up the wrong phone off the couch, thinking it’s mine. It’s actually Karol’s, and the background is a candid shot of Feid, slightly sunburned and smiling.

Ultimately, “Verano Rosa” was never finished. Karol wasn’t able to complete it, partly because it took her time to find the right collaborator. “[Feid] says, ‘I know you’ve thought of thousands of people and no one fits but … are you gonna let me get on that song?’” Karol recounts.

The two artists had known each other from Medellín, but they hadn’t really kept in touch. “There was a long time when we didn’t speak to each other, and I barely knew anything about him,” she says. But when Feid started to break out of their hometown and chart across Latin America, Karol invited him to open her 2021 Bichota Tour. They previously collaborated on a song called “Friki,” which became a hit in Colombia. Yet Feid has unlocked a new level of fame in recent months — especially after his chart-busting hit with Puerto Rican rapper Young Miko, “Classy 101,” which recently made its Hot 100 debut. “You go and put on the radio [in Colombia], and it’s like, ‘Can we get permission for anyone else’s songs to play?’” jokes Karol.

Karol has had Bichota Season on repeat lately, and on the car ride to the Today show’s rehearsal, she queues up a couple of different tracks from the project. You can tell that she is thrilled about these songs, and ready to unleash them into the world. At one point, she puts on “Bichota G,” an irascible trap song complete with gunshot sound effects, and a display of Karol’s ability to actually rap. When her song “Oki Doki” comes on, she starts singing the lyrics, her index finger wagging in the air: “No me digas puta/El error fue tuyo y la vida es mía,” (“Don’t call me a whore/The mistake was yours and life is mine”). Some of Karol’s best songs are these kinds of battle cries — manifestos that don’t deny the hurt, but inch toward recovery and independence. And as a woman who’s spent a lifetime dealing with puerile man-children, the line cuts deep, so I tell Karol it’s extremely relatable. “They really start to say those things about you, as if you were the messy one!” she exclaims.

But embracing both sorrow and fearlessness is something rarely afforded to women in reggaeton. Karol has struck a protean balance; her music pushes against the binary demand for either sentimentality or aggression, pursuing full spectrums of complicated, imperfect emotion. In a genre where women have historically been reduced to uncredited chorus girls or sexual servants, Karol doesn’t fall into either role. “Since we’re little, at home, they tell us, ‘Don’t carry that, that’s for men,’” she says. “And they start showing us — incorrectly — where we belong, where we don’t belong, what we can do, what we can’t do. When in reality, we can do everything.” Karol sees the work she’s been doing, alongside other women artists, as a step forward. “We are all paving the way.”

Bichota Season bears a crucial message: Flattening yourself in service of a lover is an ugly, painful kind of concealment. Sometimes, living inside the textures of desolation can guide you back to yourself and your power. “I swear to you, even in the moments when I’ve been super mega in love, I still make music about heartbreak,” says Karol. “You can put on the saddest songs in the world, and it’s as if you were killing yourself, but really, you’re healing.”

THE RESIDENTS OF MEDELLÍN have long been beleaguered by stereotypes of violence and crime, but as it often happens, that myopic view has never told the full story. Instead, Karol says, her childhood was full of joy. She was spared from Medellín’s darkest years of narcoterrorism in part because she was born two years before Pablo Escobar’s death. She grew up in a middle-class home and had a massive extended family. Her father, Juan Guillermo Giraldo Ramírez, has 13 siblings, and many had three or four children. “In Medellín, people are super family-oriented,” she explains. “You spend holidays, Sundays, and weekends with your parents, your grandparents.”

She developed an early connection with music, thanks in part to her dad. Juan Guillermo played in a band in his free time, performing all kinds of music — rock, salsa, ballads. She would sometimes sing with him at special events. Still, at school, she was shy, and often relied on her older sister to speak up for her. “That confidence was given to me at home.”

When she was 14, her father suggested she try out for the Colombian version of X Factor. She says she made it past the first three rounds of auditions, joining 10 other semifinalists after 50,000 people tried out. But she was eliminated before reaching the final competition. Still, Juan Guillermo was adamant that his daughter had a gift, and Karol was determined to pursue music. In 2006, she signed a record deal with Puerto Rican label Diamond Music, releasing a handful of tracks that never really took off, and her father ended up buying out the contract two years later. She was frustrated by the failures, and almost decided to give up on music altogether.

In spite of the adversity, Karol remembers that time fondly, especially because of her family’s unconditional support. She and her parents would hand out CDs wherever they could — schools, universities, clubs, subway cars, buses. Or she’d go to the city center, where she brought her music to street vendors in the hopes they’d include her songs on the bootleg reggaeton compilation CDs and flash drives they hawked. “They’d sell, let’s say, something like Reggaeton Hits. So it’d be Wisin y Yandel, Daddy Yankee, and one Karol G, who no one knew,” she says, snickering.

In 2008, Karol landed a meeting with Universal Music Latino, which offered her a deal as an in-house songwriter. But she was certain she wanted a career as a proper solo act, so she turned it down. Feeling lost and defeated, she went to New York to study marketing and live with her aunt on Long Island. One day while commuting, she spotted an ad for the Boston Music Conference. She decided to attend the industry event out of curiosity. It reinvigorated her, motivating her to return to music with renewed discipline. She packed her bags and went back to Medellín, where she took courses in composition, music theory, and voice at the University of Antioquia for five years.

Chrome Body Armor by KWK by Kay Kwok. Choker by Bianca Armer

Karol had grown up listening to reggaeton, obsessed with Boricua legends like Ivy Queen and Wisin y Yandel, along with genre-defining mixtapes like El Chombo’s Cuentos de la Cripta series. But by 2013, when she had returned to Medellín, reggaeton was taking a different racial and geographical shape. The metropolis had become a nucleus for a new reggaeton sound, first pioneered by artists like Fainal y Shako, Reykon, and Golpe a Golpe. “I wouldn’t say, ‘I want to be like Lady Gaga’ in interviews,” she remembers. “I’d say, ‘I dream of being like Fainal y Shako.’ That’s how big they were.”

Then a younger generation of producers and artists, including J Balvin, Maluma, Sky Rompiendo, and the Rude Boyz, started to remake the genre, giving it a high-gloss, synth-forward, radio-ready veneer — a reinvention that has become a flashpoint for critiques about reggaeton’s whitewashing and dilution into mediocre pop music. Karol says that Medellín producers didn’t have the necessary drum kits or sample packs to make reggaeton in the more hard-hitting Puerto Rican tradition, so they invented their own style. “We didn’t have the sounds, the files, none of what they had,” she explains. “We’d try to make it so it sounded similar, but with what we had.”

That conversation about Medellín has intersected with a broader racial reckoning in reggaeton, due in part to industry-wide missteps when it comes to acknowledging racism — Karol included. In 2020, she faced backlash from fans after she tweeted a photo of her dog during the George Floyd protests with the caption: “The perfect example that Black and White together look beautiful.” The statement was ridiculed for being tactless, and Karol later issued an apology in which she said, “ I recognize that the way I expressed myself was not right.” In 2021, she told Rolling Stone: “I’m aware that I will never be able to talk about these causes in a way of experience, but I can better educate myself in these topics.”

It wasn’t until Karol met her longtime producer Ovy on the Drums that she really started cultivating her signature style. Ovy says he’d been called in to help with her 2013 single with Nicky Jam, “Amor de Dos,” and he went to Karol’s house one day to deliver the final product. Ovy overheard Karol talking about how she needed a DJ to accompany her at shows, and thinking he could take advantage of the opening, suggested himself — even though he had no idea how to DJ. “He says that, and I turn around, like, ‘You’re a DJ?’ ‘Yes, I’m a DJ for some people in Medellín.’ And I was like, ‘So you’re gonna leave those people in Medellín for me?’ Horrible!” She laughs it off now: “My first reaction was like, ‘Who is this? And why did he insert himself into this conversation?’”

“We didn’t really get along at first,” Ovy said in a video interview. “She didn’t really like that I was so forward at that moment.” But Karol gave him a chance. Ovy borrowed a sampler from a friend and learned how to DJ for one of her gigs the following day. After earning more of her trust, Ovy suggested they work on a song together, which became “Ricos Besos.” Karol was immediately impressed. “It was like he took a chip from my brain,” she says. “It was exactly what I wanted for the song, and that’s what has always happened with Ovy.” Ovy shares the feeling. “The chemistry was born in the first song,” he says. “There’s always been a fluid energy between us.… Musically, I’ve given her my best and she’s given me her best.”

Chrome Body Armor by KWK by Kay Kwok. Leather bra and panty by Zana Bayne.

Soon, the pair started collaborating as a bona fide producer-singer team, similar to fellow Medellín-based duos J Balvin and Sky Rompiendo, or Nicky Jam and Saga WhiteBlack. They holed up in Ovy’s father’s apartment to record, using mattresses to soundproof the room. Eventually, they built a makeshift studio at Karol’s house, with the help of some cousins, Karol’s father, and friends; at one point, they even laid bricks themselves. “We’d make music every day,” remembers Ovy. “I’d arrive at Karol’s house at eight or nine in the morning, and I’d leave at 2 a.m.… Sometimes it’d be so late; I’d be so tired. And I’d sleep at her house.”

Karol and Ovy have been working together for a decade now — he produced a few tracks on Bichota Season. He says that she’s interested in more than just making hits. Her vision is more holistic. “She’s a woman who has it figured out. She’s always thinking about innovating, about doing something different. Not just musically, but in her image,” he explains. “When we finish a song, she sees possibilities that you never saw.”

And, of course, he points out how magnetic she is. “She can have a million problems,” he says. “But you’re always going to see her with a smile, always with a good attitude.”

THAT ENERGY RADIATES from Karol when she’s onstage at the Today show. During a break in the performance, she joins the hosts to greet her fans, calling them her “dream come true,” the tooth gem in her incisor glinting in the sunlight. The audience members, sporting white, Feid-style sunglasses and traditional Colombian vueltiao hats, holler with glee, spilling out onto the plaza. This might as well be at an arena show. When the tenebrous opening notes of “TQG” hit, the screams become deafening. “We’re gonna sing this one real loud, right from here,” says Karol, pointing to her heart. I look at the crowd, some yelling at the top of their lungs, others chins’ quivering as tears well up in their eyes.

Almost as soon as she gets offstage, Karol has even more to do: First, she’s shuffled off to do a rapid-fire interview called “8 Questions Before 8 a.m.” Then there’s an in-studio interview, this time with the hosts of the Today show. After that, some social hits. Then a third interview.

But eventually, it all catches up to her. After the on-camera conversation with the hosts, she heads back to the greenroom for a short break. It’s been a hectic few hours, and she’s been holding back tears of joy this whole time, never pausing to digest the magnitude of this moment. Once she arrives in the greenroom, she covers her face with her hands and begins to cry. The room hushes. Through breathy sobs, she begins to speak.

“So many good things come to us. I think it’s so crazy,” she says, her voice trembling. “Beyoncé, Shakira, Rihanna, Ricky Martin have been some of the artists [they’ve had here], and they tell you that you broke attendance records. It’s something you don’t believe; it feels like it’s a lie.”

Karol’s tía gently steps in to console her. “But mami, you’ve really fought so hard for this. All of you have worked hard,” she says, gesturing to everyone in the room.

Karol lifts her face out of her hands and wipes the tears from the creases of her eyes. You can practically see the spunk returning to her cheeks. “I’m very happy. Let’s go for more,” she says. “We’re doing something special, and I don’t mean just me. Many Latino artists are making a massive effort for our community. It’s really big what’s happening, because they didn’t expect that. They didn’t expect that because they don’t understand that Latinos stand up for Latinos.”

One of her managers agrees, his voice breaking. “You see these things and you’re like, ‘One day, one day.’”

“Oh, no, everyone is gonna start to cry,” says Karol, and the room bursts into laughter. In the corner, another member of Karol’s team yelps, “Someone tell a joke!”

When she’s done weeping, Karol walks toward a nearby monitor replaying her performance of “Tus Gafitas.” The camera scans across the crowd, fans beaming and bopping along to every word. Karol shrieks, elated by what she sees onscreen.

¡Que chimba!

Production Credits

Production by RHIANNA RULE. Photography direction by EMMA REEVES. 3D typeface by TOM COBEN. Hair by JOERI ROUFFA for THE WALL GROUP. Makeup by ALEXANDRA FRENCH for FORWARD ARTISTS. Nails by EMI KUDO for A-FRAME AGENCY. Tailoring by HUGO. Photography Assistance by LAURA BERROU and JJ GEIGER. Styling Assistance by RAUL MAGDALENO and JORDAN SHAFFER. Production assistance by DOUG STUCKEY and MIKEY DE VERA. Photographed at SMASHBOX STUDIOS.

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