For Yendry, Diving Deep Has Helped Unlock Vulnerability in Her Music

Sebastián Saldarriaga
Sebastián Saldarriaga

After two years of being constantly on the road, it's only now that singer-songwriter Yendry has been able to come up for air. Being on the go has meant not always having the time to reflect back on how far she's come. But these days, the 29-year-old is working on remaining present and is grateful for all she's accomplished thus far — making a name for herself as an artist with hit singles in a number of genres and collaborating with the likes of Damian Marley and J Balvin.

"I was recently creating a PDF of everything I did in the past two years, and I realized it was a lot," Yendry tells POPSUGAR. "When you're in it and you're just working, sometimes it's hard to just stop, breathe in, let in, and realize what you have achieved. I'm definitely feeling good — a little bit tired —but it's a good tired."

It's clear that Yendry, who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Italy, is having a moment. And on Friday, May 19, she dropped her latest single, "La Puerta," accompanied by the official music video. The song is her first ballad, and it's inspired by the loss of her grandfather.

"It happened two years ago," she shares, referencing her grandfather's death. "My abuelo passed on April 18, which is also my younger brother's birthday. They were literally about to cut the cake."

Not only was it a hard loss, but it was also initially a difficult thing for her to process, especially being on the road and away from her family. "I remember I was away working, and I knew that he was not feeling that well, but I didn't expect him to go that quickly," she shares. "I remember I was like, 'I gotta get home,' but this career sometimes makes you feel like you have to be [everywhere] and you have to keep going. When they told me, it was like, wow, I didn't even get to say goodbye to him."

Two months after her grandfather's death, Yendry was still very much in a heavy state of grief. She even had a moment where she almost forgot he was no longer around. "I haven't told anyone this because I just remembered it now. It was Father's Day and I went to call him, and when I called, I realized that he had passed away. Somehow my brain didn't process him," she openly shares. "Being far from my family and friends for so long, sometimes there are things that I am not processing."

Through grief and all the craziness happening in her career, the artist shares that part of what has kept her centered has been working with a therapist and learning how to take time for herself. It wasn't easy to start therapy, though.

"The way I was raised before by my mom has always been, 'You're strong. You don't need anything.' I know that comes from Dominican culture and also an immigrant mother who had to deal with everything herself," she says. But that eventually shifted: "I think that [old school] mindset is what brought me to a point of maybe I need to stop. Maybe it's OK to ask for help. I'm getting better at it, and I feel like even my mom is opening up to me."

Indeed, prioritizing her own mental health has even inspired her mom to consider finding a therapist too, Yendry shares. "I'm just happy that at her age — she's 50 — coming from a different generation and warming up to that," she says. "I love that."

Taking care of herself has allowed Yendry to be even more vulnerable and personal in her music, which is partly how "La Puerta" came together. After opening up one day in the studio to producer Fede Vindver, the song magically came together.

"We were taking a break, and Fede Vindver was playing some chords on the guitar, and it always happens like this . . . He's like, 'How do you feel right now?' And I was like, 'I would love to have a window or a door where I can just teleport myself somewhere and just give [my grandfather] a hug and then come back,'" she remembers. "And Fede goes, 'OK,' and starts writing the song."

The two worked together all day to write the song's lyrics after developing a ballad-like melody. Yendry was intentional about keeping the lyrics very open, so that it could be relatable to anyone who has experienced any kind of loss. "I cried when I recorded it. I never had to record the vocals again, because the first time we made it, that was it. The emotion was there. All those feelings were in those vocals," she shares. "It was definitely a therapy session."

Sebastián Saldarriaga

Yendry has so far performed the song a few times, including at a festival in Mallorca and at the Isle of Light Festival in the Dominican Republic back in March. She says that every time she performs it, she's taken over by the emotions of it; sometimes she'll cry on stage. She cried while she filmed the video for it, too.

"There's a picture of [me tearing up], and those are real tears. I was not expecting it," she says. "Music just brings back feelings. It happened during the video, and I think it's going to happen when I sing it live [again]."

Performing now often serves as a form of therapy for Yendry, especially when she's going through hard times. It's become her way of letting go when she's no longer in control of a situation or circumstance. On her way to Mexico to perform at Corona Capital Festival in November of 2021, Yendry received a call from a family member letting her know that her brother had a terrible accident that left him in a coma. Their family didn't know whether he'd make it out of the coma.

"When I landed in Mexico, there were no more flights that day, and I had the concert . . . I was just devastated, and I remember I was just like, 'Let's do this concert. I'm going to sing.' I got onstage and I was like, 'Guys, I may not be 100 percent. This is what's happening. My brother had an accident. I can't go back right now, but I'm here with you. I'm singing my soul out — let's do this.' And it was one of my best concerts ever," Yendry says.

Thankfully, her brother is OK now. But the performance revealed something important to her: "Going through that process for me — I could have just stayed in my room and cried all day. But I dried my tears. I put my makeup on, and I was like, let's go. Because that's what I know. That's how I know to approach life, and that works for me. It was therapeutic."

And while it's been difficult not always being around her loved ones while she's focused on her career, these experiences have also inspired her upcoming debut album that's set to release later this year.

"The album is really going to be about traveling and struggling to find your home because that's how I've been feeling for the past two years while I was working on it."

"The album is really going to be about traveling and struggling to find your home because that's how I've been feeling for the past two years while I was working on it," she says. Yendry emphasizes that the main theme behind the album is the experience of struggling to find a home and struggling to fit in. It's an experience she knew all too well even before becoming a music artist. Being a young Dominican girl living in Italy with caramel-colored skin and curly hair who spoke Spanish, English, and Italian meant never really feeling part of any community. It's an experience she talks a lot about — she believes it has become one of her biggest strengths both as a person and as an artist.

"When I go back to DR, it feels like home, but I also can't live there anymore. When I go back to Italy, I don't feel at home anymore. It's just a place where I grew up," she explains. "I'm always traveling as well, so I'm constantly in this limbo like a lot of people from my generation or new immigrant generations. They can relate to coming from different backgrounds where you never feel like you ever fit in any type of community or society."

It's an ongoing journey for Yendry. "I'm trying to build my own communities," she shares. "I know when I go to Miami, I have my friends. In New York, I have my family and friends, and in LA and DR as well. It's just adapting to this new [life], and eventually, I have to find a base. But in the meantime, I'm trying to find myself at home in different cities."

Traveling has also allowed Yendry to express herself through fashion more — and she's recently been receiving recognition for that. In the past year she has sat front row at numerous Fashion Week shows in New York, Milan, and Paris, with Kenzo, Acne Studios, and Balmain being just a few of them. And has managed to effortlessly fit in alongside recognizable celebs like Pharrell and Tyler the Creator. Yendry says she intentionally wears some of her favorite designers to red carpet events or award shows as a way to honor their work.

Part of Yendry's signature style is also her long, gorgeous curly hair, which she cares for using mostly natural Dominican hair remedies. She says it's difficult to travel with expensive products, so she instead turns to "natural stuff."

"Sometimes instead of curl cream, I'll just use coconut butter. It works, and sometimes, I'll make a mask with avocados and a little bit of olive oil and just put it in," she says. "Sometimes we think we have to spend money for it to be healthy, but in DR, you can just get avocados or papaya and we have good coconut oil and coconut butter. We're the best at hair care."

Yendry explains that her aunts have a salon in DR where they make their own products. "There's an oil they used to make with rosemary oil, ginger, and cinnamon and now the whole rosemary thing went viral on TikTok, but I've been using it for years because they make it," she explains, adding that she even sees herself eventually starting her own natural and sustainable curly hair line.

In everything she does, Yendry is extremely proud to be representing the Dominican community — and she wants to collaborate with more Dominican artists in the future. On August 12, she's scheduled to perform at the Orgullo Dominicano event at Summerstage in Central Park with fellow Dominican artists Prince Royce and Vicente García.

"I'm kind of old school, so I would love to work with Juan Luis Guerra. We can make something cool that's modern and old school," she says. "I feel like there's a new wave of Dominican artists. There's something going on there."

Yendry herself is undeniably part of that new wave, and in large part, because she always thinks about representation. She remembers back to her 2020 single, "Nena – A Colors Show" and the significance of wearing her curls in the music video.

"I did not expect people to feel represented by me because I was wearing my curls or because I was wearing something different. It's just a consequence of [what happens] when you do things you believe in with intention," she says. "I really take this seriously. The fact that I'm still listening to Ella Fitzgerald's music even if she's not here, that's crazy to me. This means that when I leave, my music is going to stay and that's why I take it so seriously . . . I'm just putting a part of myself into the world and putting it here in case I leave earlier than expected."

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