When you ask Doris Muñoz how she’s feeling, expect a long-winded, multi-layered answer.

“Everything is moving at lightning speed,” she says during our animated conversation via Zoom. “I’m feeling the full range of emotions from excitement to all the wondrous possibilities that this is going to open up my life to. I know this is setting the tone of like my career. I think I’ve come to terms with like how high the stakes are.”

In these past three months alone, Muñoz — an L.A.-based creative who made a splash in the industry as a young manager to emerging acts such as Cuco and La Doña — has in the past year made some life-altering moves.

During the pandemic, Muñoz made the executive decision to leave her management days behind, transitioning her Mija Mgmt company to Casa Mija – a space for music mentorship – and take up a “life-changing” fellowship at USC that she says, “allowed me to reconnect with creating as just a place of expression with no expectation.”

Post-fellowship, her next move was still up in the air when she received an offer to work a full-time job in the music industry. “I was put at a very big crossroads,” explains Muñoz, who also founded Solidarity for Sanctuary, a non-profit that amplifies voices of immigrant communities through music, advocacy and the arts. “But last summer when I went to Mexico with my parents for the first time, I was already sitting on a few demos of music that I just I made throughout the course of the pandemic.”

While in Mexico, she met up with artist and producer Camilo Lara. What was supposed to be a meeting to “catch up” turned into a pivotal conversation that led Muñoz to turn down the full-time position and launch her own career as an artist. With the help of Lara, her first single — “Que Sufras,” a heartbreak bolero — was born.

“This was never really part of my plan,” she says about releasing her own music. “I grew up performing and, when I was in college, I was writing music. But all the doors opening for me to work in the music industry were behind the scenes; I was booking shows, I started doing merch and tour managing. I was like, ‘Oh, the universe is telling me to do this. And my upbringing as an artist is helping me do this.’ Then the pandemic was like, ‘Just kidding.’ It’s now very clear that the universe is shouting at me to finally put myself first for once, and help myself the way I’ve helped others for years.”

Launching herself as an artist was just the beginning of the “wildest rollercoaster” she’s been on. In January, the groundbreaking documentary Mija, which is an ode to daughters of immigrants and is based on Muñoz’s life, premiered at Sundance. Directed by Isabel Castro, the story follows Muñoz — who is hustling to create opportunities for her indie-pop clients, while also carrying a lot of weight on her shoulders as the first U.S.-born member for undocumented family.

“It was a long process. And being vulnerable about not just my career dynamics that were in flux but also the big question mark over my family’s immigration status and what was happening there,” Muñoz, who’s in her late 20s, says. “The film really catches that in real time; the parallels of like how as immigrant daughters, we have to hold space for that and continuously think, ‘Oh my God, my career is doing X, Y and Z and will I lose a gig and fall on my face. But then also, what’s going to happen for my family? I need to succeed for my family. I can’t let my family down.’ It paints a very clear picture of that.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that Disney Original Documentary had acquired worldwide rights to Mija and, as part of the deal, FX would retain the rights to develop scripted content based on the film. “I wish I would’ve recorded my reaction when the team told me, because it was epic,” she says. “It’s a dream come true and a pleasant surprise. I mean, Disney wasn’t even in my periphery.”

Below, Billboard talks with Muñoz about the meaning of landing a Disney deal, and what’s next for her.

It’s been a busy 2022 for you with Sundance, going on tour with Silvana Estrada, the release of your first single — and you were just at SXSW. How have you been processing all of this?

In my life and my career, I’m taking it day by day. The news of the Sundance premiere really set the tone of the year. I had the butterflies, the excitement, but also allowing myself to be nervous because there was a huge question mark over what this year will bring. I understand the grandeur of all of this. But at the same time, I’m like, “Oh my God, can I handle all of this?” It’s like the Inside Out characters and they’re all like talking to each other in my head right now.

You stopped managing acts in 2020 during the pandemic and now have officially launched your career as a singers-songwriter. How was your first single born?

When I met up with Camilo Lara, he asked me if I was writing my own stuff and I said yes so he asked me if I could play something for him. I played a demo of “Que Sufras” it was just guitar and vocals and he was like, ‘Can I contribute to this?’ And I was like this is your song now, dude. Do whatever you want with it. Camilo is one of my favorite producers, musicians, composers of all time — and all of a sudden, I’m sitting on his couch and he wants to contribute to my music. A week later he turned it around, and brought the song to the universe that I always wanted to live in.

How has your experience as a manager played out in your own career as an artist?

It’s a blessing and a curse, I will say. My left and right brain are competing with each other at all times. And I’m really in this process trying to get them to just groove together. In my era of management from 2017 to 2020, everything that happened, I was able to see the groundwork that is laid down for things to happen in the next year and the next year. It’s kind of like this gift that you have to tap into, of seeing into the future. And so now that I’m here in this place and I’m seeing all these things develop the way that they are… It’s like, “Oh s–t, I can see what this is leading into.” As scary as it is, it’s giving me the perspective now, like I know exactly what I want.

And Mija Mgmt transitioned into Casa Mija.

The first pivot for me after management was to launch that mentorship program that I started hosting last year on a monthly basis. I did it so that way we can create partnerships and just be super intentional with the programming throughout the year, but still holding space for people to connect and develop and be mentored. Because initially, I was like, “I don’t want to leave management” — because I need to still contribute to the movement. Then I thought I can still contribute by planting seeds into the people that I do want to go and work directly with, the artists who want their own change in their communities.

How did the opportunity to create a documentary like Mija come about?

I was first approached by Isabel in January 2019 because she wanted to talk about an initial idea that didn’t really pan out. But she was very persistent, and that summer, I heard back from her. She wanted to make a feature surrounding this movement that happened with Latin indie, how it’s reflective of first-generation kids and tying in the ethos of like the really complex experience it is to try to navigate this country and that extra layer of pursuing creative dreams. Her original idea was to put it through the lens of someone else — but now she was coming to me and being like, “Wait a second, this is you.”

Every fear rushed in for me. I thought, “Am I ready for this? Am I in the right headspace?” I’m super busy. We were about to do Selena for sanctuary in Central Park. We’re touring the rest of 2020. Then I met her for the first time in New York days before the Selena for Sanctuary concert, and it was like as if I knew her forever. We clicked just, and in my gut it was just like an immediate yes.

I just knew that this was going to be bigger than me and that I had to set aside any fears that I had surrounding myself, because it was beyond just my experience.

What was your reaction to Disney acquiring the rights to the film? And what impact do you hope the film will have when it reaches a global audience?

I was home and they called me into a zoom meeting. When they said Disney, I was like, ‘Say that again.” My mom was in her room and I was like “Ama, ven pa’ aca,” she was so surprised. We grew up poor, and my mom would save up every single year no matter what to take me to Disney for my birthday, just us two. My core memories are surrounding the Disneyverse — so to hear that, I was floored. I never thought Disney would back a film about an undocumented family but times are changing. This is what the global audience of Disney needs to see.

That was my thing, whoever distributed the film I just wanted this to be accessible to Latin America. I not only wanted folks in the States who are dealing with a mixed status family to connect with the film, but also people who have to go back home in Latin America. I wanted that bridge to happen. Landing Disney is a shock to the system and a consistent reminder to continue to dream bigger and bigger. I was thinking small compared to what happened. I wanted to be a Disney channel star as a child, and it came true, but in a different way. When I heard Disney, my mind went to: “Hi my name is Doris, and you’re watching Mija on Disney.”

Knowing that this will impact so many young folks that grew up like me or adults like me that are still healing from a similar experience. That’s my biggest takeaway of the impact this will create. I needed to see an artist like myself growing up. I was a little rockera, I was the girl at the emo show. How life-changing it would’ve been to see a plus-size Latina onstage making music that doesn’t just sit in a box of what I thought I needed to be. Growing up, either I had to super assimilate or super dive into the cultura. As an adult I now understand that it’s a spectrum, and I can honor whatever I want.

Are you working on any new music right now?

There will be more music, for sure. This first single was really to see how people would receive it and then we’d go from there. I’m planning on releasing an EP and it’s going to be like a two-part series of music that I’m putting out this year. The project will be called Aprendiendo Por Las Malas (Learning the Hard Way) because sometimes it be like that. In the Spring, it’ll be an EP of originals leading into an EP of the classics in the fall that will be paired with a short film that we made in Mexico City last year. It honors music from my ancestors, boleros, románticas. The music will go hand in hand with the film Mija, which will be hitting the film festival circuit until the end of summer, then theatrical run in the Fall and Disney+ to follow.

Doris Muñoz

Doris Muñoz

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