When Becky Gomez was nine, her family was forced to move into her grandparents' garage in Inglewood, California, after her young parents could no longer afford their mortgage. At that point, as the story goes, she decided to work to help out her family — not an unusual decision, especially for a second-generation Mexican-American who grew up instilled with strong family values — but her chosen vocation was unusual: She wanted to be a singer, a rapper, an actress.
Gomez spent her tween years holding it down in commercials, a fact her classmates at public school found odd. By her early teens, she was writing her own music, singing in all-girl pop bands and posting videos to YouTube. In 2011, her cover of Kanye West and Jay Z's "Otis" caught the attention of Dr. Luke, and less than a year later she was writing songs for Cher Lloyd and Cody Simpson.
Now just 17 years old, Becky G has a deal with Sony/Kemosabe, a modeling contract with CoverGirl and a mentor in Luke, one of the most powerful pop hitmakers. Last week, "Can't Get Enough," her energetic, Spanglish dance single with Pitbull, cracked Number One on the Billboard Latin Rhythmic Airplay charts, a first for both Becky and Luke. And her latest song, "Shower," promises to be a serious contender for song of the summer.
In early June, Becky G met with Rolling Stone for a breakfast chat at a midtown bistro. She showed up fresh and gregarious at 9 a.m. despite having performed the night before and chattered blithely with a perfect gap-tooth grin.
"Can't Get Enough" just became your first Billboard Number One. How did that feel?
I was at Univisión when I got the word. I couldn't cry because I just got my makeup done. But it was very, very crazy. I have a very busy summer ahead of me. I was just at Walmart headquarters in Arkansas because a new Cover Girl collection just came out. They were like, "OK, now get anything you want." I ran to the brownies and the new Birthday Cake Oreos, 'cause I haven't tried them yet. I really have a passion for food. Of course music, but behind that, it's food. So when I signed to Luke, that was really important to me.
Food was in your contract?
[Laughs] No, not in the contract. That would be going maybe a little too far! But when we met, he offered me my deal and then for like an hour, we talked about food and hot sauce, and I was like, "Oh my God, this guy totally gets me!"
Do you have a memory of the first time you heard music and thought, "I want to do that"?
There's not one where I'm like, ‘That's when I started to like music.' My parents are high school sweethearts. They got married in the Nineties, so they were playing everything from TLC to Britney Spears to Christina Aguilera to old-school stuff like Etta James and the Temptations when I was born. My grandparents are super Mexican, and we listen to a lot of traditional music — rancheras, cumbias — so I really grew up being surrounded by all these types of music. I've always had a passion for it, I've always loved to move to it, and sing along to it since I was really, really little. I didn't realize I wanted to pursue this as a career till I was nine, which is weird because it's still really little.
Did you have a revelation at 9?
Definitely. That was literally my mid-life crisis when I was nine years old. That's when I felt like, "OK, I gotta get my life together. What am I gonna do?" I pushed that on myself at a younger age than the average kid because at the time my family had lost our home. I've always been more mature for my age, so I was already understanding what they were going through. And I just thought, "How can I help them? I can't go and get a job bagging groceries, even." I would have done that, but I was only nine years old, so I figured, why not go into entertainment? I love entertaining people. I always loved being extra loud. I always tell people, coming from such a big Mexican family when there's a new baby every three weeks, you have to do something to get someone's attention. And mine was jumping on a table and being like, "Hello, listen to me, I'm gonna sing for you guys." And at nine years old, I was like, "I'm gonna entertain the whole world, why not?" So I sat down with my parents, and I said, "Give me six months, and we can get me an agent and a manager." I was just going based off of Google, you know?
You were Googling agents?
I was [searching], "Top 10 child agencies." I got picked up by my first little agency and I started going out to auditions. And then I didn't want to stop after six months. My parents were super supportive. And it's crazy because financially, we were struggling. I look back on it, I'm like, "Wow, gas is not cheap, especially in L.A., driving all around the town, having three other kids and a gas-guzzling car." It wasn't easy, but my parents never thought about it twice. And it's been like that since the beginning — even till now, I make all my own decisions. Although I'm a minor, I choose who I work with, I choose the people that are on my team. So that's kind of how it all started for me at a really young age. And I just didn't stop.
How did the CoverGirl relationship come about?
It's so funny how things come full circle, because — this is seriously not because I'm a CoverGirl, not to be a kissass or anything — but CoverGirl is the first makeup I ever bought. Every woman in my family uses it because it's affordable. It's really obtainable for the average woman, which I really love, because we have a lot of those in my family [laughs].
Did you make "Can't Get Enough" with Pitbull in the studio?
No, it happened in pieces. First, I was in the studio with Buddha, Cirkut and Luke and after I did the hook, Buddha was like, "Oh my God, I got to send this to Pit." Pit sent it back with some verse ideas, and I was like, "Oh my God, this is crazy!" He's Mr. Worldwide, he was literally in a different part of the world when we did it [laughs]. It was a rite of passage for me, having a song with Pit — Uncle Pit, as I would say — because he really is like having another uncle. He's just the sweetest, most humble, smartest man I've ever met. Of course I shouldn't say that because all my other uncles would be jealous [laughs].
What's the story behind "Shower"?
Singing in the shower [laughs]. It didn't come to me when I was singing in the shower, but I am a shower singer and someone was making me feel some type of way about it. It's doing really great, it hasn't dropped from the iTunes Top 200. Something feels special and really right — but fingers crossed, because you never know.