Marcella Ariaca

Vixen Chat: Marcella Aracia Talks Breaking Into the Music Industry and What Keeps Her Motivated

Marcella Aracia isn’t a household name yet, but her music is. This vixen is responsible for helping create hits after hits for prominent figures in music like Chris Brown, Pink, and Missy Elliott. Being one of five females in a class of 170 was one of the few obstacles this engineer would face throughout her career but it didn’t discourage her—it motivated her. “I did everything with a smile, I didn’t care what was asked of me; I just did it," she says. "I didn’t want a pity party because I was a female.”

Vixen chatted with Marcella about her journey to get here, the obstacles she’s overcome, and her red bottoms. Flip the page to learn more about this boss lady.

VIBE Vixen: There aren’t many women audio engineers. What made you want to pursue it?
Marcella Aracia: I always wanted to do something in the music business. Engineering didn’t come as something that I grew up wanting to do; it actually came my way a little bit after I graduated high school. I was introduced to a school in Orlando called Full Sail by my brother. When I went to the school to do a tour, the school offered an audio engineering program, which at the time I was like I know what it is but I really don’t know. [But the] school offers a real life work environment so I got to walk into like what a real recording studio would be and I really had my moment of clarity of knowing what I wanted to pursue. So it was that moment that I said to myself that I wanted to come back, I told myself I would come back in six months. I would go back to Miami, work my butt off and save money and come back in six months, which is what I ended up doing. I started six months later and graduated a year after that.

marcella araicaWhat kept you motivated?
Just me loving what I did or what I was trying to do. But on the flipside it was so much discouragement and people didn’t believe that I would be able to make it in such a male dominated field. We had a classroom of about 165-170 students and only five of us were female. So you could kind of get an idea of what I was about to enter when I really got into the field. There were no female instructors in the program so I would just get a lot of people that didn’t believe or would think that I would get it easy because I was a female and I didn’t want that. I was like if I have to scrub these toilets, if I have to sit here and drive 30 miles to find somebody some fried shrimp because that’s exactly where they want it from, I did everything with a smile. I didn’t care what was asked of me, I just did it. I never wanted any pity; I didn’t want a pity party because I was a female. Even when it came to things in the studio like lifting heavy equipment I would at least attempt it.

Who was the first person that you worked with and how did it happen?
First person that I ever worked with was Missy Elliott. I was in my internship for two months and at the time Missy was based in Miami and she was notorious for calling the studio manager while she was en route to the studio without having a session booked like “Hey I’m on my way! I want to work today.” It was one of those instances and the studio manager was trying to rally up everybody but he didn’t have enough staff so he basically was like [to me],“are you ready?” And that was my first opportunity to be an assistant engineer in a room.. 

What’s your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?
Working on Nelly Furtado’s album called “Loose” we did with Timbaland and Danja is my favorite. It was just so much fun; it was raw.

What was your most surprising one?
Not that I was surprised but I think my session I had with Pink, when we recorded “Sober,” went well. I always thought she was such a talented person but when I actually met her, she’s just a cool, down chick. When you see her in her videos or her interviews you might think that’s just a little personality of hers but it’s like who she really is.

Who was your favorite person to work with?
I love working with Danja and Timbaland—I love being in a room with those two creative nuts. It’s fun. It’s just so much creativity and Tim is just so out there. He’s a good time. As far as an artist, I love working with Usher, I’ve been working with him for a very long time and he’s a sweetheart and so humble.


Marcella AraicaWho haven’t you worked with that you would like to collaborate with? Whether they’re a producer or an artist.
I would love to actually be working on an album with Beyonce. I mixed a record for her on the last album she came out with but at the very last second the song had to be cut because the record label had said 13 songs. I didn’t get to go in the studio with her to record the record. The files were sent to me for me to mix and I sent it to her and it was a very gracious process.

Do you have any advice for females who want to get into your field or any other male dominated industry?
Yes, know that you have to work hard. Male or female just work hard at what you’re passionate about. When you work hard it’s going to show. I think it’s easy and I know it’s very cliché advice but it’s what I did and it’s what I truly believe in. Even with people that work with me now, my assistants or interns that’s all I ever tell them. The interview process or once I hire them it’s the easiest thing it’s like look, all I ask is for you to work hard and communicate, that’s it.

When was the moment you felt you arrived?
When my parents were finally proud of me; they’re middle class and they’re not from the United States, they came here and worked really hard and my father’s thing was to get a degree. He's very traditional and old-fashioned so he didn’t understand the route I took. Just because I was working with Missy doesn’t mean I was making it, I wasn’t making it for years to come so they got worried like “what are you doing? You need to start making some money, you’re not making any money right now,” I’m like “trust me, trust me.” So when things started really happening for me and I just started seeing them be able to relax and be proud that’s when I kind of realized I think I’m good.

I was reading on you Red Bottom Foundation, that’s a very interesting name. How did you come up with that?
The name came up because I would come to the studio dressed up. I think a lot of people have this stigma of feeling like when you come to the studio you have to be in sweat pants and sneakers and things like that. When I was dressed up, people said: “Oh where you going?” And I’m just like “work! I ain’t going anywhere.” Why is it that when you put on a pair of heels it’s a big deal? I’m just very confident and I love shoes. I just felt like starting this foundation and naming it something where it symbolizes the confidence of a woman.

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to have a place where I can gather a group of women that are really trying to find a place in the entertainment business, where they can learn about the business and learn to express themselves. I just want to be able to say: “listen, we can do anything we want to do.”

What new projects are you working on? What can we hear from you in the future?
On the Chris Brown album there are two songs that I mixed on there “Add Me In” and “Stereotype.” I’ve been also working with a young talented artist out of RCA his name is Jacob Latimore. I’m about to get in the studio with Keri Hilson again so we’ll see.

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Cassie Explains How Hiring A Team Of Black Women Changed Her “Creative Process”

The summer isn’t even over yet but it’s already been a whirlwind year for Cassie. In an interview with L’official, the “Don’t Let Go” singer shared how working with a team made up predominately of black women changed her “creative process,” and shared what she hopes to teach her daughter.

The 32-year-old mom-to-be who is expecting her first child, a baby girl with her boyfriend, Alex Fine, hopes to one day make their daughter proud.

“My priorities have absolutely changed, not just for creating an amazing future and life for my daughter, but because I want her to be proud of me,” Cassie shared. “I’ve heard people say that they’re nervous to raise females in today’s world, but I’m excited! I can’t wait to see her grow, learn and challenge the world right back!”

When asked about working with a crew of black female creatives, Cassie explained how the new squad has helped her confidence. “When it comes to me choosing to work with certain people I have to go off of an organic connection. I love the fact that everyone that I work with now communicates fully on every aspect, we are not in competition, we work as a team and they actually understand who I am and who I want to mold myself to become. As a group, we work as a collective.

“For me, this is the first time that I feel that I actually have a strong team in place that has my best interests at heart and the added bonus is that the majority of the team are creative black females. To me, it means we see each other,” she continued. “The energy I feel when we’re in a room together is unmatchable. We all have our own levels of experience and we bring our best to the table. We support each other and balance each other out all at the same time. It just works.”

Working with the new team has changed her creatively because she feels fully supported and makes decisions based on “what’s best” for her.

“I’m just a woman coming into my own learning to trust myself. It’s empowering.”

Click here for the full interview.

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The Brand Is Strong: Miko Branch On The Undeniable Lasting Power Of Miss Jessie's Hair Products

When you think about the evolution of natural hair products in the modern area, Miss Jessie's Hair Care easily comes to mind. Officially launched in 2004 by Miko and Titi Branch, the sisters helped set the precedent for products that work for every kind of kink, coil and curl.

As a pioneer in the natural hair care movement, Miko has seen it all. The wins, the losses and the stories of how Miss Jessie's products have changed the lives of young girls who learned to love and care for their natural hair. It's an aspect she's heard before but needed to hear again as we chat over the phone. In a calm and poised manner, the businesswoman and proud mother allows me to take her 2009 when I had my first encounter with Curly Pudding. With Dominican salons killing my curls with blistering heat and reliable family members miles away from my college dorm, Curly Pudding arrived right on time. My curls could breathe and my esteem rose a degree or two with the presence of what became their signature product.

"Titi and I thought we were coming up with hair solutions but what we quickly realized was we were helping to build back esteem; many of us were told that our hair was bad and 'not good,'" Miko tells VIBE Vixen. With over 20 years in the hair game (Miko and her late sister began in their Brooklyn brownstone as hair salon in 1997), the brand continues to find new ways to shake the table.

Their latest rollout is all about moisture and control–a la edge control. Favorites like Curls So Fresh and Honey Curls are dedicated to luscious and soft curls while Hold Me Down's coconut and argon oils give baby hairs new (and non-sticky) life.

Check out our interview below with Miko as she shares the importance of taking risks in the natural hair care market and how Miss Jessie's continues to thrive above the rest.


The new products are once again, ahead of the game. What goes into creating new mixes, especially with other brands invading the natural hair care market?

Miko Branch: We try to do one thing at a time. Over skewing is not something that we practice, particularly during a time when we have plenty of competitors where there's a lot of product from the shelf. We really feel like coming out with products that are really needed that perform well, that were developed well, make the difference. I believe Miss Jessie's continues to be a leader in this business because we truly are not coming up with a product just to compete.

Performance is particularly important to us. 'Hold Me Down' is not just an edge control that you can put on and it's going to flake or be crunchy, or maybe it stinks, the list goes on. It's something that really, really does exactly what it says it's going to do in the right way. I think with that approach to new products I think that Miss. Jessie's can continue to win.

Speaking of the new products, how would you pair the following: The one who doesn't like products, the one who is new to the natural hair movement and lastly, the one who loves a good luxury brand?

There's so many to choose from because you put a nice mix and blend in here. The product that's sticking out to me for everyone would be Multicultural Curl. It's great for someone who has a tighter coil texture, it's definitely going to bring the softness. It may not be as defined as some of the products that are a bit heavier but you certainly can't go wrong with it. Multicultural Curl also takes less expertise to use a lotion type consistency in the styling product.

Then for the woman who's really about a brand, and maybe she doesn't realize performance is really important, she's really a brand whore. We really rely on word of mouth, the efficacy of it and then also we have wonderful packaging. We're known to really front on our brand in that 'This looks like this is for this kind of person or this product is not a good enough or packaged enough for me.'

Miss Jessie's is good looking, a product like Multicultural Curl or any of our products next to any person who's really about brand names, I think Ms. Jessie's really adds something nice to the mix. It's very clean, it's nicely designed so I think just on a visual tip, I think that person would be drawn and attracted to it.


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Have you tried the best curly products? Drop a 🙌🏾 below 📸: @jeanicewebb #missjessies #multiculturalcurls #honeycurls #holdmedownedges #curlypudding #jellysoftcurls #multiculturalclear #curlymeringue #quickcurls

A post shared by Miss Jessie's (@miss_jessies) on Jun 24, 2019 at 4:30pm PDT

What are some of your favorites from the latest release?

Curl So Fresh is great because it works for tighter coils that need a burst of moisture. There's also Gloss So Good. It's so good because of all of the ingredients. It has avocado oil and jojoba oil, some many good ones. There's also Honey Curls. Our partners like Target, Walmart and Walgreens, they love it and it's our new product to market. We lose sight that we need to keep our scalped nourished and clean, and just as moisturized. Take some time out and use your fingertips to spread it around. What's great about the hair oil is the size. You're able to put it into your bag and doubles also as like a daily moisturizer.

Sonically, if you could curate a decade themed playlist for Miss Jessie's what are some of your song choices?

Growing up, my dad played a lot of soul music in our house so I'm going to take it to Donny Hathaway, I'll start with "Love, Love, Love." Our product is made with love, love, love. And then maybe I'll bring it to Stevie. I love Stevie Wonder, we were raised on Stevie. I think "As" would be my second choice.

My sister and I [Titi Branch] grew up in the 80s so next, I have to go with Eric B and Rakim's "Eric B For President." Like that song, Miss Jessie's was a real, innovated game changer in the hair industry. Titi and I were pioneers, we're trailblazers, within an industry. There were already existing haircare companies, some of them which are black. I think when I and Tiki put it down and really came to market, our twists and presentation for our buyers made us stand out.

For the 90s, I think about Brooklyn. The borough was very instrumental in who we were and what our brand was all about. Brooklyn was a melting pot so, I'm going to take it to Biggie. I love "10 Crack Commandments" because everything that he says in the song are really solid, teachable moments for many people whether it's in your personal life or whether it's in your business. We also have to add India. Aire's "I Am Not My Hair." It's so fitting.

When I think about Miss Jessie's, business and family come to mind. How did you find balance in maintaining motherhood while building the brand?  

There would be no Miss Jessie's had there not been the birth of my son. I was a single parent and I understood all of the responsibilities I was taking on and being able to provide for him was really important, it was top of my list. Luckily, I was raised by a dad who thought it was important that my sister Tiki and I be in a position of choice and freedom. So with that, he thought us being an entrepreneur was the best way to express that and to demonstrate that.

That really prompted us to think outside of the box and come up with solutions and products like Curly Pudding, Baby ButterCreme, Curly ButterCream. Those things happened out of necessity, it wasn't actually a master plan or a big plan. Those were the things that we were responding to that were happening in our lives and luckily we were able to share those creations with you all where everyone was able to benefit. So, that's kind of the beginning of it. The creation of Miss Jessie's actually was a result of us trying to balance failure and wanting to succeed and being helpful and all those things. You found all of that in the end product in the jar of magic and Curly Pudding.

I remember brands like Miss Jessie's and Carol's Daughter being met with backlash for working with major retailers. Now that we see how lucrative the move was for both the consumer and independent companies like yours, how do reflect on those moments?

I think that it's very important that your generation and the next generation like my son's to understand the sacrifices that were made from the people before us. At one time we couldn't do a lot of things and there was a lot of sacrifices, a lot of people paved the way for us to be able to be in a position of choice. The first thing is being free and being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it. In 2013 my sister and I had lunch in New York and she thought our work wasn't finished.

I was like 'Well, what more do we need to do, we're really busy with everything that we're doing, we're really tired, blah, blah,' and she said "You know Miko we're influencers, we encourage many people, primarily women, to embrace their natural texture and they've done it and as a result we've been able to make a living. Our work is not done because we need to share our story and how we built our business from scratch.'

I believe particularly in this country that's important. Ownership is key and if we own more we'll be able to do more. Many of us are the first generation in our businesses. We're just now learning to set up shop, so when we have our first generation of unsophisticated business people because I believe we are, we have these knee jerk reactions to businesses that are black-owned. The decision to go into Target, and how that was "selling out" is puzzling– but that's a move for growth.

That's a distribution move that actually makes it more accessible to our customers all around the nation. The good news is that my sister took the time out before she passed away to share our story so people can unpack and learn how someone like Titi and I with no money and no capital built something from scratch. With more information, the next person will be more informed and have more appropriate reactions to business moves.

We're proud to say that we're still privately owned. Being an entrepreneur certainly extends out to be able to make the best decisions for your company.

Where do you see Miss Jessie's going and how do you view the evolution of natural hair care?

Seeing more hair products from Miss Jessie's is definitely next but exploring different areas of the beauty business like make-up and skin care. It would be uncommon for me to come to market with something like that sooner than later. I'm also working on my second book. My views and ideas of business have changed from five to ten years ago. Like the product, I've evolved as well.

With natural hair, it continues to be on the rise and the preferred style that someone actually feels more attractive in. That's a good thing but I think you know in terms of practicality, it makes sense as a daughter sees her mother wear her hair natural. She's creating a beauty standard that is normal to her daughter growing up.

Check out all of Miss Jessie's latest products here.

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‘Orange Is The New Black’ Star Danielle Brooks Announces Pregnancy

Danielle Brooks is getting prepared for her most important role. The Orange is the New Black star took to social media Tuesday (July 2) to announce that she is “happily pregnant” with her first child.

“So elated to finally share this news with you all. I’m happily pregnant,” the actress captioned a photo of her holding a Clear Blue pregnancy test. Brooks, who is five months along, also shared the pregnancy news on her Instagram Stories writing in part, “When one chapter ends, another begins. Super excited to share with you my new beginning.”


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So elated to finally share this news with you all. I’m happily pregnant! @Clearblue #ClearblueConfirmed #clearbluepartner

A post shared by Danielle Brooks (@daniebb3) on Jul 2, 2019 at 9:01am PDT

Next month, Brooks and the rest of the OINTB cast will debut the seventh and final season of the Netflix hit drama. The 29-year-old South Carolina native plays fan favorite, Tasha “Tastyee” Jefferson and promised that fans will be “satisfied” with the finale.

“I think they’re going to feel full and feel like we’ve answered all the questions that they wanted answered,” Brooks said during a recent interview with Pure Wow.” I think people will still leave feeling hopeful for Taystee at the end of the day.”

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