Press Lives Matter: Ashley Natareno, Publicist + South Florida Tastemaker
Written by Greg Harris
Press Lives Matter has been a platform that has given light to the creative individuals behind the scenes and the ones who are leading the culture in a positive direction. Out of all these individuals, we go back to the beachy waves of South Florida where we meet with one of the strongest tastemakers in the Miami scene, Ashley Natareno.
Ash Nat has played an instrumental role into the emerging music scene in Miami with representing the likes of Twelve'len, Native Youth, J.K The Reaper, Trianglxs, and more. Being such a profound publicist in the area has not only given her the voice to put on new artists but also point them in a direction of popularity in a different direction. Her scope on the scene there has given her an oppourtuntity to also have a show, "GRL PWR" on Stationhead, an emerging online radio platform that has recently been merged with Apple Music. Given her track record in South Beach, Florida certainly has a tastemaker on their hands and it's only right that Modern Life gave her time to tell her story.
We recently chatted with Ash about her upbringing, South Florida's scene, why she started to Public Relations, the importance of Miami, and more.
Read the interview below.
How's Your Modern Life?
My modern life is developing…
What are three things you have to do when you first wake up in the morning?
Check my phone & answer any texts/emails I received while I was asleep.
Blast my ‘ASHNAT’ playlist & actually get out of bed.
The usual routine of taking meds, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, & heading out.
Growing up in South Florida, how would you describe your upbringing?
I was raised by a single mom who always worked her hardest to make sure we would live a comfortable life & that I would get a solid education. Dade County is pretty spread out though, so we moved quite a bit, but I remember never living near my schools. I would complain a lot as a kid, but now that I’m older I’m very appreciative of everything my mom has done & continues to do for me- I owe her a lot & I’m still not sure how I can properly show my gratitude. Maybe she’ll read this & be proud- hi mom!
Growing up & attending some of the best schools in Miami exposed me to so many cultures from all around the world. I used to get in trouble when I was younger for making long-distance calls to Greece because my best friend would spend her summers with her dad in Cyprus. I was born in Florida, but I have Guatemalan blood, so I’m also really lucky to have been raised in a city with a thriving Latin culture so I can keep connected to my roots.
In what ways, why do you think Miami is special and how does it set the tone for the Sunshine State?
I went to FSU & Tallahassee is exactly how it’s portrayed. The capital is home to rowdy college students & relentless politicians. I can’t speak on the rest of the state because I haven’t actually lived in the other cities, but Miami isn’t anything like the rest of Florida. It’s a unique city & I wish it could be better portrayed in the media because it’s more than just South Beach.
I think the people make Miami special. It’s weird because the people here may not be the friendliest, but they’re definitely accepting. Miami is full of people that are always hustling. I don’t feel the same sense of unification or motivation anywhere else except in New York. Miami is the popular kid that others cities hate on while secretly wanting to be the exact same. They see what we have to offer & who we attract.
When you were younger, what were defining moments for you when you fell in love with music?
One of my earliest music memories is watching the movie ‘Selena.’ I grew obsessed (I lowkey still am, which is why J.Lo movies are my guilty pleasure). I would watch the movie every chance I could to listen to her music as a kid. Embarrassingly enough, my first concert was Aaron Carter when I was probably 8 years old. My mom would play Frank Sinatra all the time when I was younger & it drove me crazy, but I grew to appreciate & love his music. I just bought a CD of his greatest hits the other day- yes, I still buy albums. Another CD I’m pretty attached to is 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ I grew up during peak Aftermath & Shady Records era, so I have Dre, Jimmy, & Em to thank for my affinity of rap music. But I owe my life to Kid Cudi. In high school, he’s the only artist I remember having a real connection to. To this day, Cudi is my number one. There’s a Cudi song for each one of my moods (and there are a lot).
Living in the South Florida scene, the music scene has always been prolific and it’s been interesting characters that has set the tone for the “Neon City”. Who were some local legends that you think left a lasting effect on the music + culture oozing out of Miami today?
I think there are two main genres that are synonymous with Miami: Latin and hip-hop. On the Latin end, we have Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine & Pitbull to thank. I also want to include Marc Anthony because even though he’s a Nuyorican, he lives in Miami now & formed Magnus Media here to sign new talent. I was one of the first interns at Magnus & my experience there is why I decided to pursue a career in music. On the hip-hop end, we have Uncle Luke, Trick Daddy, Trina, Rick Ross. Denzel Curry is quickly building his legacy, it’s really exciting.
But I can’t talk about Miami’s music & culture without mentioning the local DJs, tastemakers, & event producers. They’re the ones who are truly responsible for putting Miami on the map. Thank you: The Love Below boys, the Peachfuzz crew, RnBae team, plus everyone else bridging gaps & building their own lanes.
"I want to be remembered the same way I’m thought of as right now. If you dislike me & talk shit about me, continue to do so when I’m gone- don’t be fake. If you think highly of me, I hope I don’t let you down. But, if you feel some type of way about me, tell me while you still can. It'd be cool if hearing the name ASHNAT brings a smile to people's faces though."
Speaking on the culture of the music in Miami, it’s a large presence of Bass + Fast Paced music that’s presented. How do you feel like that aspect of music down there has influenced the nature of Miami?
Bass + Fast Paced is enough said. That’s Miami’s nature in three words.
Moving from the love and essence of what SoFlo music means, what drew you to start working in music, especially in the area of PR?
Before I chose to follow the music path, I wanted to be a writer. I studied Editing, Writing, and Media in college and I became heavily involved with Swatch- FSU’s fashion and lifestyle magazine. I started as a writer and worked my way to being Co-Editor-in-Chief. I loved working on the magazine so I thought a job at a publication like Complex would be perfect. I got an internship writing for Gearbottle.com- a now-defunct streetwear media site. It was a lot of fun, I got to attend Agenda Tradeshow at Javits back when they still held it in NYC. I then started applying to other internships in the media industry. I earned a spot in Magnus’ internship program and I ended up loving working for Marc Anthony.
Right after that, a friend mentioned to me that an artist was looking for a PR & she had brought up my name. Even though I hadn’t studied Public Relations specifically, I learned a lot about the music industry at Magnus & I knew I had the writing & communication skills to take it on. The artist was Twelve’Len. We met & hit off & I was lucky enough that he decided to take a chance on me because we’re still working together to this day. I loved handling PR but throughout the past couple of years, my role has extended to more than that. I really just try to do anything I can to help him.
You also have a certain style of the clients you’ve picked up along the way with the likes of Twelve’Len, Native Youth, Trianglxs, and more. You focus more on the soul/melodic scene of Miami, rather than hip-hop per say. What inspired you to give representation for these type of artists in South Florida?
Honestly, I wasn’t looking to work with additional artists for quite a while. Native Youth & Triangles were the only other artists that I truly handled PR for. The three of them definitely have their own special sound, but I wasn’t searching for anything specific. Their uniqueness is why I was more attracted to the soul side than the hip-hop side. They actually stood out. This is the sort of talent I wish to rep Miami; I don’t know how I feel about the direction hip-hop is headed in right now… I have also worked with other artists, not all of them from South Florida, but just on a project-to-project basis. Some campaigns were successful, others not so much. We’re all really just learning as we go. Hip-hop wise, I recently helped J.K. The Reaper with his release of Digital Tears. I also recently worked with Atlanta-based rapper AJ Bank$y.
J.K. The Reaper
Along with your presence of being a well-noted publicist, you’ve also had the opportunity to start your own show as well, “GRL PWR”. What inspired the show and how do you feel like the reception of the show is going so far?
Before I get into my inspiration, I have to thank the STATIONHEAD family. Shoutout to RSTAR and JACE for creating it & shoutout to MAX for introducing it to me. I wouldn’t have found my perfect outlet if it weren’t for them.
I was inspired by this wave of amazing women producing their own TV shows. Issa Rae and Frankie Shaw were really who sparked my idea. Issa and Frankie are such intelligent storytellers and creators. Issa’s Insecure and Frankie’s SMILF are incredible shows with perfect soundtracks. I had to talk about it and Stationhead was the perfect platform. I now host the show “GRL PWR” on my station, ASHNAT, every Tuesday night to discuss women’s accomplishments & struggles through the lens of music. I’ve been running it for almost 5 months and have had the privilege of getting some talented guests to join the conversation. Tuesday, May 1st, will actually mark the 20th episode and Kate Loesch will be the show’s special guest. I’m really excited for that episode; we’re both curating a special playlist for it & I can’t wait to pick her brain. In the past, I’ve had rapper J.K. The Reaper, Chef from Florida music blog Citrus Rap, Seoul-based singer CHAI, and other beautiful souls on the show.
I’m very flattered with the reception actually. It’s going better than I ever thought it could. Listeners seem to truly enjoy the different themes I discuss and the music I put them on to. I’m committed to the show and to Stationhead, so I know “GRL PWR” will be sticking around.
Being in a business that’s heavily dominated by men, how do you feel like you try differentiate yourself as a woman and being your own boss in the industry?
I’m not attempting to differentiate myself. I’m just making sure I get treated equally. Doing this interview is a really bittersweet moment for me. I’m happy to be featured alongside another hard working woman like Kate, but I’m also featured alongside a man I know to have abused his “power” to take advantage of people. However, being my own boss reminds me that I’m doing all of this because I want to; I’m not doing it for anybody else, so I’m not gonna take shit from anybody.
Being one of the gatekeepers of the Miami scene, what do you feel like your responsibility is when it comes to the progression of the Miami sound and culture?
Wow, that’s a lot of pressure… honestly, I just want to make sure my friends get the recognition they deserve. There’s so much talent to be appreciated and discovered here.
What are some goals of yours you want to accomplish this year?
Just to keep working on myself. We can all be & do better.
I don’t like to set any specific goals. Shit happens and things don’t always go as planned, so I just want to be able to handle everything thrown my way in the best way I can. I can be really hard on myself so I guess my goal is to just make myself proud.
When it’s all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered the same way I’m thought of as right now. If you dislike me & talk shit about me, continue to do so when I’m gone- don’t be fake. If you think highly of me, I hope I don’t let you down. But, if you feel some type of way about me, tell me while you still can. It'd be cool if hearing the name ASHNAT brings a smile to people's faces though.