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With 20 Latino artists billed on its colorfully iconic flyer, the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will go down as one with unprecendented Latin American representation. For thousands of festivalgoers, though, it was specifically Latina women's talent that lured them to the Southern California desert — something that Karol G, the star reggaetonera from Colombia, doesn't take lightly.
This year, Karol G and Brazilian pop star Anitta became the first Latinas to have been invited to perform at the festival's main stage, the Coachella Stage.
"Many artists start off on other Coachella stages and scale up through the years. My first participation at Coachella, though it wasn't as a headliner, was on the main stage, and two artists ahead of the headlining act," Karol G, 31, said, seemingly amused at her own accomplishment. "That was a big commitment for me. ... It was a moment for me to show who we Latinos are, to introduce a culture that many people may still not know very well."
No Latina has ever headlined the internationally renowned festival, and it's a rare occasion to see women with top billing there at all. Only five women have done so since the festival's inception 23 years ago, including Billie Eilish this year.
Even so, Coachella programming is certainly taking note of Latino/Spanish-language music's ongoing crossover into mainstream success. This year's festival included three more Latino acts than the last time it took place in 2019.
Karol G said she learned about Coachella's official lineup for 2022 along with everyone else and was pleasantly surprised to see she wouldn't be the only Latina there.
"I realized that Nathy Peluso, Nicki Nicole, Anitta (and) Pabllo Vittal would be at the festival," she said, counting them, one by one on her hand. "I felt really proud to form part of this generation of women that are doing big things and things that are representative of where we come from."
Pabllo Vittar —the first drag queen to ever perform at Coachella— hails from Brazil while Nathy Peluso and Nicki Nicole are both Argentine. During these Latina women's Coachella sets, it wasn't rare to spot their respective home country's flags waving from the audience, indicative that their fans recognized and resonated with that representation.
Other up-and-coming Latina talents like Jessie Reyez, Ela Minus, Alaina Castillo and Leyla Benitez also had shows at the festival.
And even Latino icons that weren't physically there had a presence on the Coachella Stage thanks to a 15-minute medley of global hits that Karol G whipped up for her set.
During both weekends, songs from Selena, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Carlos Santana, Celia Cruz and fellow Colombian Shakira all boomed from the main stage, possibly for the first time ever.
"My idea was, let's do these songs by these artists because, the reality is, they did all the work to form a path, to open the door for me," she said. Her intention to add "weight and signficance beyond a regular Karol show," with the mix was received with heavy applause, in and out of Coachella.
Part of the collection of songs included J Balvin's smash hit "Mi Gente," and for her Weekend 2 set, she invited the Prince of Reggaeton himself to sing it with her.
Balvin, who is also from Medellin, made sure to tell the audience he had sang with Karol G since their early days, at much smaller gigs, and was really proud of her.
It was yet another moment that spoke to Karol G's roots: something that she and her team also thought a lot about when it came to her set design.
"Normally, artists are always aiming to do something impressive. But with that, we can end up distancing ourselves too much from who we really are. I felt that this was an opportunity for the world to get to know me for real," she said of her stage's look.
The result was essentially a documentation of the trajectory of Karol G's career, with props that had her coming out of the metro system in Medellin, "The most important method of transportation in my city, where my journey began," she specified.
Meanwhile, the last stop in her replica of the transportation site read "Indio," where the festival takes place every year, conveying that for Karol G, performing at Coachella meant she'd made it.
"It's super symbolic, I swear!" she said, lifting her hands to her cheeks in excitement.
Though Karol G's career continues to skyrocket, it's clear that performing at Coachella was special as she saved some firsts for her festival show.
Karol G and Becky G sang their joint hit "Mamiii" live together for the first time at Coachella, despite having plenty of invitations to do so at previous award shows and the like.
Becky G is Mexican American, born and raised in Inglewood, California, and for Karol G, it was also significant to have another Latina singing alongside her.
"I'm not the only face that represents the (Latino) community and Latina women, so it was important for me to show that, to have another woman in my show that also speaks for us in the world," Karol G said.
On April 22, 2022, she released her latest single "Provenza" and offered her audience at Weekend 2 the first live performance of the song.
Since its release, "Provenza" has already amassed nearly four million streams on Spotify and is steadily climbing up on music charts.
But Karol G is no stranger to hit songs: In 2016, her song "Tusa," featuring Nicki Minaj, thrusted her into the limelight, earning her nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 21st Annual Latin Grammy Awards.
This year, she was nominated at the 64th Annual Grammys for Best Música Urbana Album, a new category at the ceremony.
Earlier this month, she dominated at the Latin American Music Awards, winning six awards, the most of the night, including the coveted Artist of the Year.
Still, Karol G is clear that she has not yet reached the pinnacle: "Every day, what you do becomes the best thing that you've done in your career (but) there are obviously new things you want to accomplish, to go to the next level. I want to, who knows, someday, fill a stadium in Asia or in another continent. But I understand that to do that, I still have to fill arenas here in the United States."
She will have the opportunity to do that very soon. On Monday, Karol G announced dates for her upcoming "$trip Love Tour," in which she'll visit 30 cities in North America, including Vancouver, Canada.
With her strong following, Karol G may have no trouble continuing to show people "how Latinos do it," as she often says.
Eliana Perez covers the eastern Coachella Valley, including the cities of Indio and Coachella. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElianaPress.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Karol G talks Latina representation at Coachella 2022