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When Tatiana Hazel uploaded her first singles to YouTube at the ripe old age of thirteen, it was clear she was destined for big things. With a very mid-2000s side sweep and original songs about first loves and first heartbreaks, Hazel expressed with grace and confidence what most of us only wish we could have during our teen years. In time, her style and subject matter drew in thousands of views, springboarding her career and encouraging her to pursue music on a more serious level.

Hazel has come a long way since the days of recording on her bedroom floor: she’s conceptualized a music video for her single “Losing My Mind,” performed at SXSW, and been promoted by Apple Music. But even after all these years, her relatability and creative energy remain the same.

Though she’s traded her emo look for a self-designed wardrobe and bright blue mullet, the self-taught musician continues to produce work that is both deeply personal and undeniably Tatiana. Whether the focus is failed relationships from years back or exiting toxic relationships as an adult, Hazel’s music reads largely as a public diary. She isn’t afraid of being who she is and sharing that with the world. “Any time I get frustrated with something in life,” she shared over coffee, “I write about it […] it makes me feel better.”

Hazel’s actual sound is no less personal and creative than the subject matter it reflects on. From the neo-cumbia hit “Dímelo” to the experimental, Kate Bush-esque single “Time,” each track offers something a little different. When we talked, Hazel told me just how wide the range of artists she draws upon is: “I grew up with two older sisters who influenced me a lot…they listened to heavy metal, punk, and hip hop. And then my parents listened to Latin music, so I had a lot of different influences.” She is comfortable not staying within any one genre, preferring instead to let new and ongoing inspirations form her music. She will not allow herself to be boxed in.

The confidence Hazel exudes is undeniable—and this is no accident. She explains that as a young woman, she rarely saw positive role models to admire. “Latino women, especially performers, are so sexualized,” she said. “There was no one for me to look at and say, ‘I want to be like her’…except Selena, and she’s not even alive…I wanted to create that for myself, and be a role model for others.”

Even after inserting herself into the music industry, Hazel is wary of the sexism that pervades the business and the Chicago music scene. “It sucks that it’s a really male-dominated field. It took me a long time to break in to because it’s harder to be taken seriously when you are a female, and you have to work entirely independently, away from the men who are running the scene.”

Despite these challenges, Hazel has used her music and fellow female collaborators to carve out a name for herself and fight back against the patriarchy. “It’s all male-dominated, and if it is women, they’re just talking about men and it’s not very empowering at all. My songs are…about doing things for yourself, and overcoming certain feelings and, being independent. I feel like that’s really missing in Latin culture.”  

In the coming months, Hazel plans to release her newest EP, Toxic, which—you guessed it—deals with the toxic elements and relationships surrounding her past. Where she will go from there is anyone’s guess, but Hazel does not intend to stop moving.  

“My music is all based on my life, and I don’t know where my life is going to go from here, so I am just writing as I go,” she said. “I don’t know what will happen next.”

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Bridget Newsham is a managing editor at the Weekly and is based out of Pilsen. She loves covering new and creative housing initiatives, education, and local artists. In her free time she loves a good swim (when it’s not too cold!), biking, and building sculptures. She last wrote for the Weekly about the controversial Pilsen Land Use Committee in February. Follow her on Twitter at @BridgetNewsham.