Manu Manzo

Just a Girl, from a City Named Doral, Pursuing Her Big Dreams 

By Alona Abbady Martinez
Photos: Raul Ospina
Editor-in-Chief & Production: Francesca Cruz  |  Stylist: Denise del Pino, Bendito Closet Style  |  Makeup & Hair: Virginia Mendez  |  Photographer Assistant:Gabriel Reyes |  Location:Cafe La Trova

Manu Manzo may only be in her twenties but she has a rich voice laden with a worldly sound. The singer/songwriter was born in Venezuela to a family steeped in the arts. Her mother, an acclaimed Venezuelan actress and her father, television director Luis Manzo, supported her creative spirit from the start. “My whole life I sang and danced and acted, but it was kind of the norm,” Manzo reflects. The family lived in Spain and in Mexico for a bit before settling in Doral in 2004 when Manzo was 11. “I moved here in October so I started midyear and I didn’t know any English whatsoever,” she confides in fluent American English. 

She had her sights on becoming an actor, taking acting classes, doing theater, and lots of musicals along the way. At the same time, she joined the Doral-based youth singing group, CB Music Lab, which put on shows in local malls. It was in this group that she learned about a summer music program in prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. She applied, got in, and came back to Florida with a new plan. “That’s where it clicked. I was like, ‘Wow, these are totally my people,” she says.

Manzo returned to Berklee for college upon graduation, but left after two years to begin working on her career. She’d connected with Juan Carlos Pérez Soto while in CB Music Lab and Soto, sensing an up-and-coming talent, stayed in touch. In 2015, he produced her first album, Como Soy, a collaboration with renowned artists Alex Ubago, Tommy Torres, Luis Enrique, Elsten Torres, and Cris Zalles. While her songs were initially in English, she embraced her Latina self and switched to writing and singing in Spanish early on. “I started reading a lot of poetry in Spanish and fell in love with it because it is such a beautiful language.”

That first album garnered her the nomination for “Best New Artist” in the Latin Grammy Awards, catapulting her straight into the spotlight, a far cry from her first singing performance booked by her mom in House of Rock, a karaoke place near El Arepazo in Doral. Since then, she’s focused on developing her career, working on a second album, and is thrilled to be a Hispanic artist in this time. “I’m proud and glad that I can sing in Spanish because we’re all becoming very global. Now we have artists from Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela – from everywhere, that are colliding into mainstream. It’s amazing!”

She admits that her process has not changed much, explaining she draws from personal events that have happened to her or those she loves when writing her songs. “Somehow I try to always find the positive side of things. I think I’ve written maybe one sad song and the rest are very empowering. I don’t really want to sing about despecho all the time!” It’s hard to put a label on her music, while it has been categorized as urban pop, Manzo describes it as “a combination of the sounds of my whole life,” referring to an eclectic variety from Venezuelan gaitas to Reggaeton to jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. And diversity is what keeps driving and inspiring her. Just take a peek at her playlist and you’ll see a wide range of artists: James Blake, Ariana Grande, and Rosalía are just some. 

Things have moved quickly since the nomination, but Manzo would not have it any other way. She admits it’s a lot of work, but is quick to clarify to readers that if you find something you are passionate about, like she has, it won’t feel like work at all. Her other piece of advice comes from her abuela, who taught her to always take your makeup off before going to bed, and always use sunblock on your face, neck, and hands. “Apply it upward so you don’t get wrinkles, it’s a great tip!”As for Doral, Manzo says it’s a place near and dear to her heart, a spot with great schools, secure neighborhoods, and, with Downtown Doral, burgeoning restaurants. Her sister now lives in her childhood home with her husband and her kids, so Manzo returns a lot.

“It’s always great because it’s a little piece of back home. We have arepas and you can go to the “chula bomba” de gasolina and get un tequeño, you know?! These things keep you very, very, close to home.” 



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