Puerto Rican singer Kim Viera, who just released new single "Ay Ay Ay" with Pitbull, got her start with viral covers on YouTube

By Justin Curto
August 01, 2019 05:36 PM
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Credit: Gerald Rodriguez

“I got that ay ay ay ay,” Kim Viera sings on the chorus of her new single, and it’s true — it’s hard to put her success into words. “Ay Ay Ay,” released in July, features rapper Pitbull, and he’s just one of the major stars she’s worked with in her young career.

But she doesn’t make music for status. “Music is powerful, it’s pure magic to be able to make people feel something good or bad,” Viera tells PEOPLE over email. “The ability to meet someone where they’re at and even comfort them in difficult times with your talents is just an incredible feeling.”

Here are five things to know about the Latin pop up-and-comer.

1. She’s Puerto Rican.

“Right from Puerto Rico!” Viera sings on her new song, which also features lyrics in Spanish. Although she wasn’t born on the island, she has family there whom she visits yearly. “They have always been a part of my life since I was born,” Viera says.

As Puerto Rico still recovers from the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, Viera is grateful for her family’s good fortune. “After the hurricane, they definitely experienced the devastation there but thank God they’re from neighborhoods that are super close and supportive of each other,” she says. “They got back on their feet fairly quickly.”

Growing up in a Puerto Rican family in New York, she realized that her identity meant more than her location.

“It’s not just about being born on the island, but it’s about loving the skin that I’m in within my own culture,” Viera says. “It’s about remembering where I came from and never forgetting where my roots started, and it’s about unity and looking out for each other.”

2. Her parents both worked in music.

Viera’s father ran a production company, while her mother sang backup for Latin icons like Willie Colón. She remembers growing up around music by artists from Selena and Christina Aguilera to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.

“Music wasn’t just a career for them, it was an identity on some level. I don’t remember a childhood without music in it,” Viera says of her family. “However, I can’t say that if my parents weren’t in entertainment I wouldn’t be here, because at the end of the day, I think God would have led me here in one way or another, but them being in the industry definitely expedited it.”

In particular, her mother being a singer helped her get her own start in the craft.

“She’s the one who taught me technique before anyone else, and she’s the one who taught me how to sing in Spanish,” Viera adds. “She was always very honest with me in a loving and supportive way.”

3. She first got recognized from viral YouTube cover songs.

Viera worked with YouTube cover hitmaker Kurt Hugo Schneider to take on songs like Rihanna‘s “Diamonds” and Sia and David Guetta’s “She Wolf (Falling to Pieces)” in 2012 and 2013.

“Covers were honestly just more fun for me than anything at the time,” Viera says. “I enjoyed taking songs I loved and making them my own, and I remember feeling super taken aback by the responses I got from them. Since I was so new at the time, it was affirming that I was on the right track and that people were really enjoying the work I was putting for something that was just a good time for me.”

4. Along with now Pitbull, she’s also worked with Lil Wayne and Daddy Yankee.

Viera wrote rapper Lil Wayne’s 2014 single “Start a Fire,” which also featured singer Christina Milian. Then last year, she worked with reggaeton icon Daddy Yankee on her song “Como.”

“Man, it’s been a crazy ride,” Viera reflects. “The fact that I was able to work with three people I grew up listening to and admiring is just surreal.”

And while she didn’t get to meet Wayne, she did get invaluable guidance from Daddy Yankee and Pitbull.

“Yankee and Pit are super sweet and just all around bosses who are really supportive and talented geniuses in their own right,” she adds. “Their advice was to just keep working hard and that they believed in me. I’d say my experience summed up was just magic.”

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Next, she says, she wants to work with R&B singer Khalid or reggaeton singer J Balvin.

5. She plans to release an extended play.

She’s released individual songs for years, and now, Viera says of an EP, “I’m excited about it because it’s my first real body of work in all of my years as an artist and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”