First impressions of Samuel’s new single “I Said What I Said” are reminiscent of a Lauryn Hill, Snoh Aalegra and H.E.R mash-up into one smooth-as-silk voice. Samuel, a multi-faceted up and coming music artist, model and former fashion professional with Jamaican roots, was brought up in a household where dancing and singing were celebrated – a homage to her Caribbean culture. “There was never a pivotal moment when I started singing, but by the time I was five or six, it was already ingrained in me. My earliest memory was in kindergarten singing a solo in a school concert” she explains. It was in her teens that a twist of fate brought her down a slight detour, where she was scouted from her base in Miami and signed up with her first modelling agency at the age of fourteen, which then prompted a move to New York City in 2014.
New York City is a living and breathing beating pulse of the fashion industry but is also unapologetically and notoriously cutthroat. Like most transplants, Samuels jumped right into the deep end and hustled her way from study to fashion editorial – with titles like Elle, CR Fashion Book and Cosmopolitan under her belt. She continued to model and sing on the side, but after a while, something clicked, “I thought fashion was what I wanted to pursue, but found that my heart wasn’t into it. I recorded a demo and at that moment realized I wanted to make music, which fuses my love for aesthetics and fashion, too.” She continued to write and produce music, record tracks and publish them on Soundcloud. Her distinct, velvety sound is a byproduct of her writing process, “I never force myself to write, as I need to be in the right mind space and energy to produce my best work. Nowadays, I’ll light a candle to relax and then write off a beat. I usually need this in place first to feel out the vibe and story I want to tell.” Samuel cites Whitney Houston as the “OG of divine talent”, and Mariah Carey and Donna Summers as some of her music influences; but her authentic sound comes from a mix of jazz undertones juxtaposed with strong lyrics that speak to female empowerment and living one’s truth as authentically as possible. “I would describe my sound as smooth and soothing as if velvet and silk had a baby,” she smiles.
Nailing down the right aesthetic is a huge part of Samuel’s work as an artist. She is inspired most by the 60s to 80s era, where extravagant costumes, hair and makeup were celebrated. “The bigger, the better. I admire women like Diana Ross and Cher as they put so much into their aesthetic and being a complete artist, and I love to dress the part.” Snaps of her street-style have made it on Vogue and are a throwback to the cult classic ‘Clueless’, with vibrant colour, a plumage of feathers, statement pieces and textures a part of her daily wardrobe. “I’m not one of those girls who are into minimalism – I’m attracted to colour and energy, and am inspired by modern designers like Bob Mackie, The Attico, Giambattista Vali for the ‘wow’ factor and Richard Quinn. His pieces are so over-the-top and head-turning – it’s nothing like I have ever seen before.”
Extravagance aside, Samuels likes to curl with a good book or a documentary and cites ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou as her all-time favourite book, to help her persevere and give her the strength to overcome life’s challenges. She recently released her LP in 2019 and plans on making moves – both literally and figuratively – so watch this space.
Photographer: Nick Suarez
Directed by: Andrew Garcia & Latte Samuels Producer: Simon Meklehov
Colourist: Ben Federman
Graphics: Manoj Abey
Creative Direction & Styling: Latte Samuels & Craig Dwelling