Aha Moment: Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez

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Lorely Rodriguez performs as Empress Of. Here she sits with her mother, Reina
From and

When Lorely Rodriguez was growing up in Los Angeles, her mom Reina — a Honduran immigrant who worked full-time as a nanny — wanted her to be a news anchor with “a bob haircut and a suit,” she says. To her mom, it was the highest achievement.

As a tween in the Napster age, Rodriguez was poking around the internet one day when she stumbled upon some music that flipped her world around. “I listened to Bjork for the first time and I was like, ‘Nope! I’m going to be the weirdest person I can possibly be,’” she says. “I’m going to be a rock star.”

Recording under the name Empress Of, Rodriguez put out a series of beguiling, minute-long experimental pop songs in 2012 called "Colorminutes" that placed her on the indie music map. In 2015, she released her debut full-length album, "Me," to rapturous reviews. Pitchfork called her “one of the most confident, skilled pop artists of the year.”

Empress Of in concert

To her family, however, choosing music meant choosing a life of hardship. When Rodriguez first told her mom she wanted to be a musician, her mom cried. She avoided talking about her recording act for years, until she had her first tour booked and had to explain to her mom why she was going to be on the road for two months.

Since then, things have changed. Rodriguez’s mom is obsessed with her music. She bought a bedazzler gun and started making homemade Empress Of merchandise. And she wants to attend all of Rodriguez’ shows, even if it means crashing a rave in the desert.

Rodriguez hopes when her mom sees her perform, she sees the opportunity she’s given her daughter. “Where my family is from, in Honduras, a lot of people don’t have the privilege of having art. They don’t have the freedom to just be like, ‘I’m going to be myself.’”

Thanks to Latino USA, who brought us Rodriguez's story.

Music Playlist

  1. Deeper One

    Artist: The Strike Boys
    Album: Playtime
    Label: Stereo Deluxe
  2. Everything is You

    Artist: Empress Of
    Album: Me
    Label: Terrible Records
  3. Army of Me

    Artist: Bjork
    Album: Post
    Label: 143/Lava/Atlantic
  4. How Do You Do It

    Artist: Empress Of
    Album: Me
    Label: Terrible Records
  5. Water Water

    Artist: Empress Of
    Album: Water Water
    Label: Terrible Records
  6. Hat Trick

    Artist: Empress Of
    Album: Systems
    Label: Terrible Records