It’s funny how a stroke of luck can put you in a predicament that’s both too easy and too difficult–you’ve got an advantage, but when the going gets tough, you can’t complain. Being the daughter of Mr. Pure Energy must’ve opened a lot of doors, but we can only imagine the pressure it puts on the 24-year-old.
Observing Kiana on set–her understated beauty, lust for life, and a milky speaking voice that hints at a silvery singing voice–makes us doubt if she really even needed that birthright. She very well could have been plucked from obscurity and still be a shining success. But alas, she’s Kiana V., the uber-talented girl who’s embracing–and trying to break out of–the safe and plush Valenciano bubble.
Here, she talks about her burning desire to create, her struggle to find inspiration, and why she does what she does. Her ear for melody and eye for style got us curious–what makes Kiana tick?
What are you busy with right now?
Working on my EP. I just released my latest single, Does She Know, which is on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon now. I’m also blogging–it’s more like a journal where I share things that have happened behind the scenes, the travels, the girl behind the music and fashion shoots.
How and when did you start?
I grew up in the music scene because of my dad. Thank god my parents decided to leave me out of the showbiz world—so I had a semi-normal childhood, high school, and college life. And then I started writing and released my first original single last year.
You weren’t writing your own songs?
No. I wrote my first song the summer of 2016. Circles.
What about music made you fall in love?
I’ve just always loved music because of how it makes me feel. Certain songs remind me of my childhood. It’s like a time traveling thing—I can remember events just by hearing a song. Recently I heard a Disney song for the first time in 10 years and it reminded me of summer afternoons with my cousins. I hope that I’m gonna be able to produce music that’ll bring back that energy for different people.
What type of music are you into?
Everything. Depending on my mood, I like R&B, hiphop, rock, indie pop, electronic…I just love music. If you go through my Spotify, I have all these different playlists and they’re all so weird and different from each other! [laughs]
What’s the weirdest one?
The playlist that my friends find the funniest is called “Schmancy.” It’s like jazz, swing. One of my best friends, KC [del Rosario] and I would listen to it and pretend like we were extra-schmancy [laughs]. But it also reminds me of my grandfather.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I like Al Jerome, Michael Jackson, and I actually really like Janet Jackson. I’m very influenced by her music. There’s Aaliyah too. I like Jojo–she’s my childhood. And Christina Aguilera. I would listen to them and copy their runs. That’s how I learned how to experiment on my own.
Bret Jackson was telling us about your collab. How was it?
He always messages me, “Hey can you come to the studio tonight?” but I’m always at work or with family. So this one night, he told Sam [Concepcion], “Hey we’re gonna record tomorrow. If you’re with Kiana she can come.” And I was like, “OK, we can hang at the studio.” Then right after Sam sang his part, Bret looked at me and he was like, “OK your turn!” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” So I did. I heard the rough draft–it was pretty good. Different.
Can you tell us about Circles? How did you come up with the domestic abuse concept?
I wasn’t abused, but I did write the song from a very personal place. I was working with Mike Carandang, and he came up with the concept solely for the video. I just immediately knew I wanted to do it because I have worked with women who were abused. So instead of it just being a normal music video of a couple fighting on and off, we might as well make something out of it and make a stand.
Did you write it with your dad?
My dad arranged music, I wrote the lyrics.
What’s it like writing with your dad?
I would tell him, “This is how I feel,” and he’d be like, “Why don’t you try and say that in a way that’s not so blunt?” At one point I got stuck and couldn’t finish the bridge, so we actually finished the bridge in the studio when we were already recording.
How much influence does he have on your music?
He lets me roam free, but he sets the bar. He’s my standard. So when I come up with something new, he’s the first and the last one to hear it. He has to hear it at its rawest form which has no music at all. Then he’d be like, “I can work out something, or I can find you a producer.”
How high of a bar does he set?
Before releasing my last track, I had to make sure that my dad thought it was excellent. He knows what I can do, because he’s heard me experiment with my voice in the shower, in my room. So he doesn’t let me release anything that isn’t my best. He’d be like, “This is good, but I know you can do better.” So it’s tough, but it’s better than releasing something half-assed. That’s his influence on me–to be excellent.
What’s a normal day in the Valenciano household? Do you jam? Do you sing all the time together?
[Laughs] Actually, no. We watch a ton of TV, a lot of basketball talk that I don’t understand. My dad spends most of his time in the music room. He’ll usually work out something on the piano, and he’ll get inspired and go into the music room. He’s the one who brings all of that into the house. He’s constantly wanting to create.
Must be great to have that creative energy around.
The rest of us will hear him and get inspired. It’s nice that we get to inspire each other that way. My dad and my brother Gab are music producers. Paolo was in a rock band and he’s a concert director. My mom is a manager. So we kinda just feed off of each other’s energy. So when I have track, and my dad and my brothers will approve of it, and my mom is like, “How are we gonna build this and make it work?” in the business aspect.
Aside from your family, how do you keep yourself inspired?
It’s learning how to appreciate the small things. I always get lost thinking, “If I was in another country, I’d create more, be more inspired.” I always forget that there are things in our own city that are inspiring. Street art, buildings, beaches. And the more I appreciate the small stuff, the more I can build.
For someone with your lifestyle, Manila can get old real fast.
I’m always looking for something new and different, and it’s hard. Nothing’s new anymore in the city. So if you try to find something small that’s been there forever and see it in a new way, and push yourself out of your comfort zone, then you can turn the old into something new.
How difficult is it to be inspired by “nothing”?
My challenge now is learning to write not based off of feelings–it’s much easier to write when you’re feeling something. But what about those days when you’re not feeling anything? It’s kinda like looking at everything for how it is and how it isn’t. You have to MAKE yourself inspired. If you just keep waiting for inspiration, it’s not gonna happen.
You have recently released a song, Does She Know. How did it come about?
I didn’t know where it came from! [laughs] I was heading out of my house, and I just started singing it. That’s usually how I start writing songs–I’d be in the shower and start singing it, but usually I can’t build it. So I have a notebook full of one liners and hooks. With this one, it just came to me, and that’s not normal–for me at least. Some people are naturally like that, but I’m not. So instead of going out, I decided to stay home and start getting into it.
How did the song evolve?
You know when you have girl talk? And they tell you stupid things that guys have done to them? It’s kind of a mixture of that, and things I may have gone through in the past. It’s nice to be able to tell those stories and get the feedback from my friends. And it’s nice to read tweets from fans where they would say that I was able to express their feelings. Impacting people feels good!
Curtismith was awesome in it too. Can you rap?
In the shower maybe? [laughs] One of my friends actually said, “The track is so good, but it would’ve levelled up if you made that extra effort to rap it yourself.” I can’t, but maybe eventually.
How would you even know that you can’t?
When I’m with my friends, lip synching and rapping along, I really feel like I sound like an idiot! [laughs] Maybe I don’t, maybe if I work on it…maybe it’s possible.
When you’re not making music, what do you do to unwind?
I like going to the gym, running, cycling, pilates. I like trapeze as well–it’s like flying! I used to play football, tennis, volleyball back in high school. In college, I got into hiphop street dance. Then I delved into fashion design–I like sketching during my free time.
That’s a lot. Do you style too?
My dad and my brothers always make sure they look good, and I guess because I’m a girl, they’d come into my room and ask what I think. Who else is gonna tell them the truth? It’s so cute! [laughs] So that’s where it all began, then I started styling myself for shoots. I also work with stylists who understand my style, so it’s kinda collaborative.
Does your musical style translate to your fashion sense?
Actually, no. My music is more a mixture of R&B and pop, a little hiphop. But I like mixing 90s, 70s and 60s fashion. I like mixing the classic with the modern. I like vintage styles–the denim jackets, high necklines, the low-backs, the flare cuts, skinny jeans, pencil cuts.
How do you decide what to wear on a daily basis?
It’s really based on my mood and the music that I’m listening to when I wake up. I can one day be in joggers, a sweatshirt and sneakers, but the next day, I’ll be in a floral romper and gladiator sandals.
Any favourite clothing brands?
H&M is definitely the one-stop shop. I have their tops and jeans. But I buy things that I can wear countless times. [For Kiana’s style tips and more H&M Fashion Inspo, click here.]
So you don’t really follow trends?
I’m actually really more of an investment shopper and less of an impulsive shopper. I’m not the one who you’d like to go shopping with–I end up buying nothing! I’m so picky with my clothes, and I’m also kuripot. My friends call me “Kuripot Kiana!” [laughs] When I see something cute, I think, “I wanna buy that, but I know I can make it. I won’t make it, but I know I can, so I’m not gonna buy it.” I’m so weird. [laughs]
Where do you get your clothes?
I like shopping online, and when I do shop physically, it’s when I’m abroad. When I’m here, I really cant be bothered. I know my sizes in all the brands!
Why did you decide to become a fashion influencer?
It kind of just happened. On my IG, I used to post a lot of mirror selfies before going to school. And everyone would ask me “What are you wearing?” So then I started my fashion blog.
How did your blog evolve into what it is today?
I got bored, and I hated being in front of the camera. I had to find a way to connect with my followers without overexposing myself. So I began sharing with them what goes on behind the scenes, who my friends are–it’s not just me and my clothes.
Do you interact with your fans?
On my blog, if it’s about fashion tips, I reply. On social media, it’s more like “I love your song, you were able to put my emotions into lyrics!” And it’s nice to reply and thank them, because I wrote those lyrics for a reason.
Any message to your followers, or advice to struggling musicians?
Never give up. Don’t let the anxieties get into your head. Accept the situation for what it is, but always try to do better than what you have. If you just stay where you are, then you’re settling. If you keep pushing yourself to do better, to keep creating, then you’re gonna get to where you wanna be. Maybe even more than what you were expecting. ~
Story | Iris Lee
Photography | Jerick Sanchez
Styling | Kendell Espiritu
Hair | Jhaypee Tamayo, Jomar Lopez and Ma. Cristina Omayan of Hair Lounge
Makeup | Jorence Delimos