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.
What 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.
Who 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.