Singer Mila J has released her new EP, MILA: Made In L.A., and she’s understandably ecstatic. Big sister to pop star Jhené Aiko, Mila J, with more than a decade of hard work and perseverance in an industry that sometimes rewards neither, is finally presenting her EP. She’s not taking anything for granted. And she doesn’t take anything she’s done lightly.
“It’s been a long time coming, I’m just excited more than anything,” Mila shares. “It took a long time to get here. I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin. Before I was afraid to be myself. Now I’m just comfortable and confident in who I am. Lyrically, I’m more devoted this time around — I’m not just singing just to sing. I learned to be more comfortable with myself. And I learned some patience, too!”
Mila began her career as part of the group Gyrl, which disbanded after several personnel changes. She then joined Dame Four, but that, too, proved to be short-lived. She eventually decided to forge ahead as a solo artist, re-christening herself “Japollonia” in 2010 and releasing music via DatPiff. After signing with Motown and re-emerging as Mila J, she’s finally exactly where she wants to be.
“It’s weird to say who you are — I’m just me and I’m just doing me,” she says of her persona and history. “That’s not to say I don’t care what people think — I’m just comfortable in my skin; one day I could be one way and another day I could be another. But I’m comfortable with myself.”
With so many various incarnations, it would be easy to assume that Mila J’s early career was defined by uncertainty. While not entirely dismissing that notion, the singer says that her experiences were indicative of what many artists go through while trying to navigate their burgeoning careers.
“I started off young and when you’re younger, you have a little less control,” Mila explains. “Or when you’re just coming into the industry, even if you’re not a younger age, people will always try to control who you should be. So in that sense, when you don’t know who you are, you do tend to just go with the flow. It’s not that you disagree with what’s going on, in as much as you just don’t know any better. Now, I’m more in control.”
Her family has been an important factor, and with her sister’s stardom and her own career in full swing, Mila J hasn’t forgotten how much she owes to those early days, making music at home and being encouraged by their parents.
“We’ve grown up in the industry, my father was a musician so our family has always supported us,” she says. “I never had parents that were trying to make us take another route. They were always taking us to auditions and studio sessions and photo shoots and stuff. Our garage was a full studio so we always had access to music and it just developed from there.”
And young Mila and Jhené were prepared for what stardom could bring. Due to their background, they had a bit of a crash course on the entertainment industry long before they became pros.
“We kind of already knew what to expect as far as ups and downs,” says Mila. “Being in entertainment and being from L.A., you kind of know the baggage to expect or whatever. We both support each other. I started in a group and she started out singing at a young age. She’s always been there.”