You may remember Herizen Guardiola from Netflix’s The Get Down where she played aspiring disco star Mylene Cruz, but after you hear her EP drop, trust me, it’s not what you’ll remember her for. The 22-year-old is set to release her seven-track EP on October 26th, and as someone who’s heard it and been playing it on repeat, you want to save the date.
The Oregon native, who refers to her hometown as “the magical forest,” is effortlessly cool. She’s a breath of fresh air and honesty amid all the pop culture noise telling her to fit certain molds. Refusing to shave her armpits at one time, she admits scandal like that lost her thousands of followers, however, “it’s good riddance.” Instead, she puts her energy into music, hoping that people might become more human after taking the time to identify with her lyrics by reverting back to a time before social media took over the world. Teasing the upcoming EP, Herizen decided to drop a music video, releasing her first ever single, “Social Jungle.”
“Just be happy. Get in the vibe of the forest, of the jungle. Put your phone down. Get out of the social jungle,” she preaches the message of the tune, urging those who focus only on being plastic and having X amount of followers to escape that mindset. “Get out of there and go to a place where you don’t have to think about that kind of stuff, and it’s pure and it’s beautiful and the nature is surrounding you and kind of like feeding your energy because people forget that they have to go back to the main source to feel fulfilled. A lot of people are like, ‘I still feel so empty.’ It’s like, yeah, it’s because you don’t go hug a tree and give back to Mother Nature.”
Although she has a steadily rising six-figure social following, Herizen comes from a strict household where she wasn’t allowed to wear short shorts, hang out with boys or listen to certain types of music.
"If it was up to my dad, I would have dreadlocks to my knees and wear head wraps and white dresses," she explains. "Obviously, I had a conversation and was like, ‘Listen, that’s not who I am.’ So, I had to break away from a certain kind of, you know, father figure that was strict and had his own ideas. He would love me to do that and be Rasta and make Reggae music, but I had to break free from that a little bit."
So who is Herizen? I had to ask.
“I am,” she answers simply, and I’m left desperate to discover her layers as I pry. Do you remember that first instance of wanting a music career and going for it?
“Yeah. I was born,” she laughs.
Herizen’s sound is confident in self-awareness and so is she as the layers reveal themselves.
“I feel like I get a little anxious and really introverted when things are about me, but when it comes to my music and I’m singing on stage, it’s about the music so I can hide behind it, and that’s where I really shine,” she admits. “When there’s music around, I come alive.”
And she’s not to blame. Society has been quick to pass judgment on her before. When she was 20, the internet bashed her for taking advantage of a 16-year-old white male after a single photo surfaced, and she was quick to think that this might be the end of the beginning.
“If only they [society] knew how delicate I am when it comes to men and when it comes to love, they wouldn’t feel that way,” she says.
Rejecting social media, deeming it as toxic, and not being able to connect with it on a heart level, Herizen never felt the need to make a public statement because, as she said, it’s no one’s business. This is actually the first time she’s ever spoken out about it, admitting that the only thing all this hurt was her ego, which she is fine with.
“I think love can be more than physical," she opened up. "It can be just spirit.”
The two are still best friends, yet she recognizes the importance of their time together as well as the power of love. She continues, “My whole EP is about love pretty much. Love of yourself. Love of the forest and love of someone else. That’s really special, and I’m not going to let anyone stop me from how I feel, but it takes someone very special in the first place to catch my attention that way, and it is a one-time thing that doesn’t happen to me—ever. There’s beauty around every corner.”
Herizen recognizes the heaviness of the EP, admitting that her last song, “Rug,” was purposely designed to sound different than the rest of the songs that somewhat tie together. Laughing, she shares the tale of freestyling the song with eyes shut while high on a rug with friends.
“When I came out of my freestyle space, they were like, ‘Yo, that was dope. Will you put that on the EP?'" she recalls. "I was like, ‘Yeah, dude. Send it. Put it on the EP.’”
Herizen grew up watching her dad smoke cannabis so now she refers to it as a friend that she definitely doesn’t take advantage of: “When I'm in the studio, sometimes I get a little blocked, and it helps break down the boundaries and puts me at ease, especially when I'm in a situation with new people. Like I said, I get really shy so, sometimes smoking a little CBD helps me relax and just be easy and music flows through me when I feel like that. I don't need it to write, but sometimes it's just a nice way to bump up the experience.”
The song shows her tomboy, harder side—the part of her that’s not afraid to get weirdly dark. “Everyone was super hyped, and it was just a moment of my creativity just flowing out. And I was connected to creature in that moment a little bit,” she pauses. “Creature is my alter ego, that I’ve had on my shoulder since I was eight. It’s just the other side of Herizen.”
There are many sides of Herizen, and the world needs this 20-something-year-old with her loud voice, humble vibe and deep soul.
“Share something exciting with me,” I press her before wrapping up.
“Something exciting?” she asks as if I’d just allowed her mind to wander its unexplored universes.
“Okay. Something exciting. It’s Halloween, and I love Halloween. It’s coming up. We’re almost at that time where you can smell autumn in the air, and pumpkins and costumes and parties. So I’m really excited for that.”
Photo credit: Genevieve Medow-Jenkins.