Massively Famous YouTuber Lele Pons Now Has An Exclusive Record Deal With Universal Music Group

People are angry with with the music giant for offering a major opportunity to someone who they say is already famous and has less music ability over undiscovered talent.

Posted on August 17, 2018, at 1:44 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, the music label giant announced the deal by welcoming the YouTuber to their “family” of musicians.

The news of the deal was also pre-planned with the release of her first single and music video backed by UMG, “Celoso,” on Friday.

Within hours, the Spanish-language song and video has already amassed over half a million views.

Pons has nearly 11 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, 1.89 million followers on Twitter, and 26.8 million followers on Instagram.

“She is a global entertainer who attracts tens of millions of viewers through digital screens,” said Celine Joshua, the founder of the Universal subset label called 10:22 pm.

His colleague Sam Shahidi added, “Lele is a Swiss Army knife of entertainment. She is an amazing actor, director, writer, dancer, singer.”

The Ending Of Warped Tour Is Bittersweet

Warped Tour was flawed, but no more flawed than the many homes I chose for myself outside of it.

Posted on August 17, 2018, at 1:18 p.m. ET

Andrew Cullen

Warped Tour is over for good and I am bummed about it, even though my days of stomping around the grounds of some amphitheater are long gone. To be at Warped was to continually have the question of What disaffection carried you here? asked and answered. It started in 1995, founded by music promoter Kevin Lyman with just 19 bands, mostly hailing from some iteration of the punk genre, spread out over 25 shows across 25 cities. No Doubt and Sublime were the biggest names on the bill, and L7, and a young Deftones. In the following year, Vans became the tour’s main sponsor and by 2001 — my first year attending — there were over 100 bands, sprawled out over five different stages.

Back then, I hadn’t been to a festival, and I’d hardly been to any concerts. I hitched a ride up to Cleveland with some friends because it was summer, and the thought of growing up and going to college terrified me, and I wanted to place two hands at the edge of summer and stretch it out for as long as I could. It seemed like a way to do that was to walk around listening to music I liked but hadn’t fallen in love with yet.

There is a particular moment in the grand story of music discovery, where a person, no longer moved by what they’re currently listening to, has a tape slid across a school bus aisle by an older kid, or blows the dust off a record jacket unearthed in the catacombs of their childhood home. In that moment, the music found on that tape, or on that record, or in the glow of the television screen past bedtime is always transcendent, and it alters the musical direction of the person who discovers it. For me, this moment happened under a tree in 10th grade, when the kind of punk kid who wears a leather jacket in 90% humidity handed me a CD-R. “Sex Pistols” was scrawled across the CD’s silver face in a thin Sharpie so that the edges of every letter appeared dangerous, or violent. The songs were loud and fast and short, a departure from the narrative-driven rap and soul songs I’d attached myself to, or the silent, more meditative rock music I’d grown to enjoy.

The Sex Pistols aren’t the greatest musical introduction to the genre of punk, but the performance of rallying against something, anything — was appealing, and allowed me to chart a map toward more punk, and then its many offshoots: post-punk, garage punk, hardcore, and pop punk. I liked what this music awakened in me, but I didn’t yet have a landscape where I felt like I could fall in love with it. So much of the music and its messaging relied on communal measures as a vehicle to get out both joy and rage, and until my first Warped Tour, I didn’t see, up close, what the music was capable of pulling out of people who I imagined to be like me.

Outsiders are sometimes born out of an unfulfilled desire for inclusion, or sometimes from a desire for exclusion from whatever the mainstream represents, and Warped Tour offered a vision for both of those groups in almost equal measure. Few of the bands who were on Warped, beyond its headliners, could reasonably be considered mainstream, and many of the bands with their names in the small- to medium-sized font on the promotional posters were upstarts or local underground stalwarts. This fostered a sense of intimacy. You could plausibly end up in line to get a shitty slice of pizza behind a person you just saw onstage, or strike up a conversation with band members while waiting to use the same scattered bathroom stalls. There was a draw to this — a commingling out of sounds and groups and experiences that made it impossible for you to not be able to find your people somewhere among the masses.

Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Mosh pit action during the Vans Warped Tour in 2000.

And so I went to Warped Tour again in 2002. I was there when it touched down in Columbus, Ohio, for the first time, and again in the middle of Noblesville, Indiana, where Glassjaw played on a violently humid day and the crowd was so tight that it was hard to tell where my sweat ended and my neighbor’s sweat began, even as I sat underneath a fan in the Uptown Cafe late that night in front of a plate of cheese fries. I was there in Darien, New York, and in Camden, New Jersey, in 2003, for the first taste of Taking Back Sunday and the theatrics of Adam Lazzara, who would twirl a long microphone cord around like a yo-yo, in a manner which seemed both reckless and romantic, the mic swinging but always returning to his body. I was there in Columbus in 2004 to see Fall Out Boy make their Warped Tour debut after following them around Midwest dives and basements for the past two years. In that moment, it felt like watching one of your friends make it as far as they ever would, with everyone who didn’t know your friends there right as they were falling in love with them.

I was there in 2005 for one of the most memorable Warped lineups of all time. The newest emo boom really took off in the time between Warped 2004 and Warped 2005, and so 2005 meant that one could not just peep sets from MxPx and the Transplants, but also see bands like My Chemical Romance play Warped for one last time before they went mainstream. That year also offered new bands to love, like Paramore, who made their Warped debut in 2005. I was at four stops in 2006, dancing alone in the grass at one and sleeping in the car of a stranger while some band played a forgettable set at another. I was there when a storm came in Cleveland in 2007, and I was there in Illinois that same year, when the clouds were white and puffed themselves harmlessly along the deep blue of the sky.

Stephen Albanese / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Katy Perry performs at Warped Tour on Aug. 17, 2008, in Carson, California.

I went in 2008, when a young Katy Perry was added to the lineup, an exhausting moment which made the festival feel cheaper, a little more desperate. It is a cop-out to say that Katy Perry ruined the spirit of Warped for me, but it’s a cop-out I cling to because the truth is a bit harder to come to terms with. I was getting older. I had, in the seven summers I had devoted to Warped, accumulated more responsibilities. I was a teenager when I attended my first Warped, and by 2008, I was approaching my mid-twenties. This is by no means old, but the festival felt more like an obligation than a place of excitement.

I began to consider time differently. There are countless rock ‘n’ roll mantras about wanting to die before growing old, or before you are separated permanently from whatever ideas of youth you once held, and I get it. But for all the waxing poetic about how the soul and spirit can stay young forever, some of us have to survive in a manner that simply won’t allow for it. Some of us have to go to a job where we punch a timecard and then come home too exhausted to drive three hours on a weekend. Time makes fools of the people who plant flags in the ground of their imagined, immovable youth. I sulked through Warped Tour in 2009, went once more in 2010 out of some imagined obligation, and then finally gave in and retired my Warped Tour Road Trip streak.

I didn’t go this final year, though I told myself I should have. I remembered the way my crew and I would look at the early to mid-thirtysomethings who would roam the grounds of Warped somewhat aimlessly. We either assumed they were in a band or, if they weren’t, they were someone trying to relive glory days that were long gone, like the old high school quarterback who pops back into high school parties because no one cares who he is in college. It is an imagined anxiety, sure — but one strong enough for me to wave a dismissing hand and say Let the kids have their fun. I couldn’t have found the time in my calendar if I wanted to, I told myself. The summer is too hot and the bands aren’t good enough and I ain’t getting in anyone’s pit so to hell with it anyway.

Andrew Cullen

The crowd at the Vans Warped Tour’s stop in San Diego, California during the first week of the festival’s final summer run.

Thinking about Warped Tour’s end, I posed a question on Twitter, asking people to share their favorite Warped Tour memories. A quilt of nostalgia emerged, each square detailed with someone’s mosh pit, or someone else’s scream into a microphone handed down from on high by a singer, or someone else’s time seeing one band bring out guests from another band, and so on and so on. A surprising number of people responded to the tweet saying that they remember a time in 2007 when the rain came from a few threatening clouds over the Tower City Amphitheater in Cleveland and didn’t stop.

They remembered the moments after the storm really picked up, when the bands all ran to their trailers or buses while the winds blew apart stages and the crowd chanted along to a jukebox of their own making, as the water pooled at our feet and grew seemingly higher by the minute. We were no longer running from the rain; we were giving into it entirely.

I knew then that I would miss Warped Tour a lot, though I had found myself ambivalent about its winding down. There was something beautiful about those people who reached across the divide of a timeline to say I was there with you. It was all real.

Andrew Cullen

Fans throw devil horns in the air.

Many festivals, by nature, are at least a little bit predatory. They function in part by cashing in on the grand desire for a communal experience, and the fact that that desire can overshadow the need for all other elements. I can speak beauty into the communal moments of a storm overtaking a festival and soaking its participants while a stage collapsed. And if I speak enough beauty into those moments, you don’t have to ask why there wasn’t adequate cover for a day with a storm in the forecast, or why a stage was not built to safely withstand wind.

This is the gift of a festival, particularly a festival in the open air. There is more room for romanticism, and the margin for error is wider than a concert. If one band at Warped Tour put on a memorable enough set, an attendee could forgive the sets they walked away from displeased. But this, too, is a function of Warped catering to a very specific scene. Many bigger festivals can balance the amount of music with the quality, but with Warped, packing a bunch of bands into a single day over a tight schedule means that you might not see any exciting bands beyond the ones that drove you to buy a ticket in the first place. To gorge oneself on mediocrity is another path to fulfillment, and in the moment, the feeling of fullness outweighs the journey it took to get there.

Warped Tour is over and I say good night and good riddance. It was a festival, after all, and festivals are beholden to their own bottom line first, and the fan experience is a far distant second. Even for those deeply immersed in the nuances of its best moments, Warped was sometimes the poorest reflections of the scenes in the cities where it took place. This wasn’t surprising, but in my times attending, there were few protocols for violence enacted against attendees, and even fewer protocols for the lack of safety felt by women or queer folks. Warped isn’t unique in this way — many festivals fail their attendees in this manner — but for a festival catering to an audience of people who might not feel safe and/or comfortable in their own home communities, actually creating a safe space should be a priority.

At Warped 2015, festival producer Kevin Lyman allowed Jake McElfresh (who performed under the name Front Porch Step) to join the tour in Nashville after being accused of sexual misconduct with minors earlier in the year. Lyman insisted the move was to grant McElfresh a “second chance,” while seemingly ignoring that giving McElfresh access and power to the young women he was accused of preying on wasn’t a great idea.

As a result, many bands who would have shared a stage with McElfresh canceled their performances, and bands who weren’t sharing a stage with him called on festivalgoers to boycott his performance. (A performance that included McElfresh taunting an audience member who heckled him.) This was just the latest misstep for Lyman, who often claimed to be listening to conversations about sexual safety at Warped, but remained confident that Warped was doing a good job policing itself, capable of dealing with sexual harassment only on its own terms, in a manner that largely served its artists first.

But the festival reflects the scene that reflects the music, which was largely born out of the emotional turmoil of men who imagined themselves to be tortured without considering how they might be capable of torture.

Andrew Cullen

Concertgoers front row at the Vans Warped Tour.

Warped Tour is over and I will miss it as much as you might miss it, friends. Warped Tour is over and I hated it as much as you hated it sometimes. Warped Tour crawled off into the dark gray sky last week and I hung art in an apartment and shopped for winter clothes before summer was even ending and researched retirement accounts while mumbling about how none of us are going to be alive to spend the money we’ve saved. There is no more Warped Tour as I type this now, and I don’t desire the sweat of another person pressed into my back while my ears ring, but I do desire a memory of it, kept in a box where the moment looks more beautiful than it actually was. I don’t miss the 36-hour romances with girls met on the same road to the same show or in line for the same band T-shirt. I don’t miss the false promises to call and stay in touch with the people I deemed family over the howl of some lyrics we both knew, but then never spoke to again. Warped Tour was always going to fail because it was loved as a concept first, and loved by too many people who came to it vulnerable and looking for more answers than it could provide. But it served enough moments. Warped Tour was a flawed home, but no more flawed than the many homes I chose for myself outside of it. Long live the parts of Warped Tour that still echo beautifully in the hearts and minds of those who need it most. ●

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much was released in 2016 and was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in fall 2017 by Two Dollar Radio.

Singer Shea Diamond On Black Trans Artistry And Resilience

“We’re here, we’re definitely queer, and we’re making music. We’re making art. We’re talented as hell.”

Posted on August 16, 2018, at 11:07 a.m. ET


Break the chains of old beliefs / I’m the flame that you can’t unsee,” singer Shea Diamond belts out, backed only by a single guitar, on the acoustic release of her single “American Pie.”

“I find that music has to be personal,” Diamond told BuzzFeed News. Diamond, who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, pours all of her herself into her music and her debut EP, Seen It All. Her experiences growing up black and trans in the Deep South, running away from home in Flint, Michigan, at the age of 14, and spending time in a men’s prison facility can all be traced through her brazenly honest lyrics. Yet her message, particularly on “American Pie,” remains a universal one — everyone deserves to be happy, to be themselves, to be free. And that piece of the pie? It’s worth fighting for.

It was Diamond’s soulful a cappella performance of “I Am Her” at a Black Trans Lives Matter event that snagged the attention of Justin Tranter, a songwriter who has worked with artists such as Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, and Gwen Stefani. Now, with Tranter as her producer, Diamond is focused on lending her voice to those who have none.

BuzzFeed News spoke with the singer about her latest video premiere, her hopes for the future of trans representation, and why she won’t stop singing until she is heard.

Music has always been at the center of your life, from singing in the school choir to writing songs during your incarceration — what does music mean to you, personally?

Shea Diamond: Music, to me personally, is like my heartbeat. I think without it I wouldn’t be able to live. I think without it I wouldn’t be able to feel much. I think without it I wouldn’t be able to understand or tolerate as much. It’s so much a part of who we all are, the decisions that we make. That’s why it’s so important to be represented in music.

You don’t see representation on TV, music, radio, of people of the trans experience — and that’s not the reality. We’re here, we’re definitely queer, and we’re making music. We’re making art. We’re talented as hell.

As a trans artist, as a black trans woman, how do your identities influence your music — is it possible to separate the two? Would you want to?

SD: I find that music has to be personal. It’s a selfish move if your dreams just include you. I read a quote like that recently: ‘If your dreams only include you — dream bigger.’ The impact that [having a role model] has on a person — I never had that growing up. I want my music to be a type of thing that you feel. Not just bops that I put together just to be popular — I want to send a message. “American Pie” is about everyone fighting for the American dream because it looks different for different people.

“We look at a trans person and we don’t know their experience. What it took for them to be where they are, what it takes for them to get up each day and get out of the house knowing they could be assaulted or killed.”

Ira Chernova

A line in “American Pie” jumps out to me: “Who’s gonna say a want is not a need?” Can you expand on that a little?

SD: We look at a trans person and we don’t know their experience. What it took for them to be where they are, what it takes for them to get up each day and get out of the house knowing they could be assaulted or killed. You can say anything in my life is a want. You can say ‘You don’t really need that,’ but it’s not your experience. We overstep boundaries when we dictate what people want, what they should be doing, what we want them to be, what we think they should be, what people should have access to. No, honey, I need this.

And the line “All those looks that get so dirty / Lets me know that they’re still learning”?

SD: I’m willing to be in this game. If it takes another 10 years for me to keep getting those dirty looks, and being this public person who isn’t popular, and delivering this message of change and hope for people who are more marginalized — then I’ll continue to be the bad guy.

I have to continue going against the grain, being the thorn in Hollywood’s eye. I may not get all the work, but at the same time, while I’m here I want to be at the table. I’ll be putting the silverware out at the table, putting the cups out. I’m not coming to the table to be a part of the problem. We believe that once we get one, we’ve done our job. “Yay, we’ve done it. Look at Shea, she’s a trans artist. We’re not transphobic!” Just like people who say “Oh, I’ve got that one black friend” to prove you’re not racist. It’s not coming from a place of authenticity.

“The one thing that they always told me I could not have was to be trans. The one thing I was after — that killed me. But now I’m actually living it. It’s tangible.”

Ira Chernova

What was your experience growing up trans in the South?

SD: My mother, she and I sort of had a disagreement at age 14 when I couldn’t continue to be someone else anymore. I had to be myself. My heart, my body, everything was just demanding this happen because I wasn’t really living. My whole life, I felt like Cinderella — I felt like I couldn’t go to the ball. Life was my evil stepsister that would laugh at me, that wouldn’t allow me to do anything, that would keep me down. Now, honey, Cinderella is at the ball, Cinderella ain’t just dancing with the prince — Cinderella is raising hell.

This world tells you all the things you can’t be. As a shining young lad or a spunky young lady, you’re told all the things that you can do and that this world is yours. You’re told that you’re beautiful or you’re told that you’re such a handsome young man. But who tells the trans children that they’re gorgeous or that they’re handsome? That’s what is needed. We need love in this world if there is going to be hope.

Your time in prison, as it turns out, ended up being a time of growth for you as a songwriter. How did that time impact your work?

[Editor’s Note: Diamond was arrested on armed robbery charges in 1999 at the age of 20, a desperate attempt to fund her medical transition. She served 10 years in various men’s prison facilities.]

SD: My time in prison was a time for reflection, for growth. I got to know myself a whole lot better than most people will ever get a chance to do. I got to figure out what I actually wanted to do in my life. Most people in their twenties are distracted — Does he like me? How do I look? Your dreams are put on the back burner. I was working on changing my name, getting copyrights for my songs, and doing a lot of writing.

“Now, honey, Cinderella is at the ball, Cinderella ain’t just dancing with the prince — Cinderella is raising hell.”

My transness didn’t mean anything — I was just another guy. I would get tickets all the time for ignoring a direct order because I wouldn’t adhere to someone saying ‘Mister, do this’ or ‘Mister, do that.’ I was a thorn in everyone’s eye because you’re not going to tell me who I’m going to be. What else did I have to lose, besides my life? They took my identity and gave me a number. I belonged to the state. A lot of times, I wanted to give up. I had no money. I had nothing. I wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself.

It shaped me as a diamond because I could withstand so much pressure put on me. Once I got out, I said, ‘OK. Is that all you’ve got to give me? That’s the worst you can do? That’s the worst thing you can call me?’ It gave me a hard shell.

The one thing that they always told me I could not have was to be trans. The one thing I was after — that killed me. But now I’m actually living it. It’s tangible.

Laverne Cox recently opened up about the struggles many black trans women face and her own personal experience of dealing with depression, which you’ve also discussed. What keeps driving you to continue to push and create music?

SD: And you wouldn’t think she went through that. She’s the epitome of what Hollywood wants. You wouldn’t think that would be her experience, but we all have those experiences — the trauma that comes along with being who we are and representing what we represent.

We’ve always been stalked, gawked at. The world is going to always try to highlight your experience itself because you’re deemed a freak — and they’re wrong. No matter where you’re going, no matter what you’ve got on, you’re in the spotlight. They should applaud our strength just in being ourselves. Society doesn’t allow a trans woman to have a healthy relationship. And what does that do, not having access to healthy relationships? To family, to friends? If you’re not allowed to love a trans person, what does that look like for a trans person’s life? A trans person who feels unloved, not able to get a job, not able to be loved by anyone — not even the people who gave them life?

Freedom is when you’re allowed to be yourself. Especially if you’re black, it’s even worse. We’re not free. That’s why I say we have to decriminalize being trans. We’re not free.

What would you say to other trans artists, trans women who are struggling to navigate their place in the world or the entertainment industry?

SD: Don’t give up. It’s not over. When I get messages in my inbox with people saying they’re so disappointed that they aren’t where I am, I tell them the same thing. This is not a race. Don’t give up. Keep on making music — but don’t just make music; make music that changes the world. There will be a whole lotta ‘No’ but make it about your story, our story. We are survivors. We’re not victims of anything — we’re survivors. Our stories will go down in history.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You can check out Shea Diamond’s entire EP here.

Asylum Records