Kali Uchis Is Living A Retro Daydream 

The genre-defying R&B diva discusses her desires to find strength in soft traditional femininity.

Kali Uchis, the stage-persona of Karly-Marina Loaiza, is the Latina Rosie the Riveter, here to serenade you with her retro funky flavours of R&B. The Columbian-American singer/songwriter is living a retro daydream where only the aesthetic remains; equal rights are praised and celebrated; and women are at the forefront of innovation. 

Outside of music, Loaiza spends her time “investing in property and long walks on the beach.” She believes that through her presence strength can be found in duality; embracing old-school feminine visuals with modern feminist values.

Knowing her true purpose, Loaiza often skipped classes in high school to spend time in the photo lab, making experimental short films, explaining why her music videos carry a highly cinematic quality. This interest in photography led her to creating mix-tape cover art, and eventually music to pair with these works. As a multidisciplinary artist, Loaiza has been able to bridge her personal aesthetic, persona, and now empire, outward through a multiplicity of expressions: all remaining within the realm of vintage, pin-up, and visuals of old school Latina culture.

While all things retro may be today’s craze , for Loaiza, these vintage vibes were born out of necessity and generating a persona within limitations. “I’ve always loved all things retro. As a teenager, I developed my personal style shopping for secondhand clothes and creating new clothes out of them. I would reinvent myself through those expressions of fashion and play around with vintage styles whether that was the 90s, 80s, 70s or 60s; I just loved being able to take something old and make it new, fresh, modern and make it my own,” she says.

Influenced by music of the 60s, early soul, R&B, doo-wop, and jazz, Loaiza bridges visuals of the past with rhythms reminiscent of early 00s soulful pop and R&B: “I love artists that are free and do what they want to. I’ve always loved Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and Selena. Growing up I was really into all types of experimental music: Jimi Hendrix and really just any type of artist who seemed like they were doing their own thing.”

For Loaiza, being a female pop star today means using her platform for philanthropic deeds, speaking at the podium of women’s empowerment and approaching life with a kind heart. She has been playing music since she was seven and says she was “one of those little kids making drum beats off of pots and pans.” Encircled by music in her community and encouragement by her family, Loaiza grew up playing piano and saxophone, while participating in a jazz band. he spent those yearsin a bicultural upbringing in Virginia and Columbia. “I think being bicultural made me very open minded to the world.” 

With a global and empathetic eye, Loaiza participates in many philanthropic efforts helping children and families in need, in and around her hometown in Columbia. “I have my own charity with my family in Colombia and all the proceeds go to Visión Valores Y Vida,” she says of the foundation, which is primarily geared towards providing clothing and toys to children.

“I think growing up, my goal has always been to be successful enough to be an independent person who doesn’t need help from anyone and can do whatever I want to do and also a provider, not just for my family but to other people in less fortunate situations.” 

For Loaiza, the topic hits close to home. Her father grew up on the streets of Columbia as a kid, and her family was deeply affected by the aftershocks of Columbia’s decades of political turmoil. 

Through her many artistic platforms, philanthropic expressions, and as she continues to build her empire, Loaiza believes the route of true success comes from a place of kindness and a place of softness. “If all of us had empathy and were reminded of people who are in less fortunate circumstances, then we could turn a lot of lives around and have the opportunity to do something greater. It’s something that I’ve always personally tried to keep in mind and stay passionate about.”

Photo: Darrole Palmer

*This story was originally published in Oct. 2019.