Meet La Cruz, the Rising Latin Star Bringing Gay Reggaeton to the Forefront

During Pride Month 2023, La Cruz went from an independent artist trying to make his mark to an empowering gay voice in reggaeton music. The rising Venezuelan star went viral among the online LGBTQ+ community thanks to his sexy music video “Quítate La Ropa,” which showed guys perreando, or twerking, for him in a locker room. La Cruz has since manifested that gay fantasy into a blossoming music career with co-signs from giants in the genre like Karol G, Young Miko and Danny Ocean.

“I feel [Pride Month] is necessary to see how far we’ve come and where we can go next,” La Cruz tells Billboard over Zoom. “Honestly, I’m proud of who I am all year long. I talk openly about my sexuality all year long because for me that’s normal.”

Puerto Rican trap artist Kevin Fret pioneered representation for gay men in música urbana before his murder in January 2019. Since then, there has been a notable increase of LGBTQ people in reggaeton, with women like Young Miko and Villano Antillano leading the way. Now, La Cruz is becoming a leading gay artist in reggaeton. Growing up as Alfonso La Cruz in La Guaira, Venezuela, he listened to the music of reggaeton pioneers like Ivy Queen and Arcángel. La Cruz sings a bit of the latter’s love song “Mujer Maravillosa” while noting the lack of gay perspective in the genre back then.

“That song is for a woman but when I was in love with my first boyfriend and I listened to it, I felt I could relate,” he says. “I would have loved to hear a song that expressed exactly how I felt. Within a genre that I’ve listened to all my life, I had never heard a song where I could say, ‘Wow! I experienced what happened in that song.’”

Due to the ongoing economic crisis in Venezuela, La Cruz decided to move to Madrid to pursue his dreams of a music career. In 2018, he became known throughout Spain for competing on the reality singing competition Operación Triunfo. After the show, La Cruz was courted by a few record labels. One was ready to sign him under the condition that he would not mention gender in his songs. La Cruz instead went the independent route and rounded up a small team who believed in his vision.

“I didn’t sign any contract that would make me unhappy or that I couldn’t relate with,” he recalls. “I’ve had obstacles in my career, and they’ve been more on the industry level musically speaking with A&Rs, labels and music streaming platforms. I’ve seen myself in uncomfortable situations, but I’ve taken all that as a sign to keep going.”

In 2022, La Cruz started pushing the boundaries of reggaeton with his music videos for “Desnudx,” “Boulevard,” and “Te Conocí Bailando,” which showed him in love with (or lusting after) other men. Throughout his debut album Hawaira, which is named after his Venezuelan hometown, his objects of affections are clearly identified with male pronouns. The album’s songs have collectively registered 2.5 million official on-demand U.S. streams, per Luminate.

“Sometimes as gay people we limit ourselves a lot from achieving our dreams because we believe they won’t happen on the basis of being gay,” he says. “That’s something that we need to get out of our heads. I love being a reference for those kids who want to make music but don’t do it because they’re afraid. The fear only stops you. You have to go for it.”

In June 2023, La Cruz made the jump into international stardom thanks to his follow-up single “Quítate La Ropa.” In the sultry reggaeton romp, he sang about wanting to lose his clothes with a lover. In the music video, La Cruz was surrounded by hunky, shirtless men that were perreando in a gym locker room. The song went viral on TikTok during Pride Month with gay men embracing a reggaeton anthem they could twerk to in videos of their own.

“The idea for the ‘Quítate La Ropa’ video came to me in a gym,” he says with a laugh. “I knew it had to involve some twerking. It’s something that a gay boy sometimes imagines in a locker room. That was me showing the world that other things exist. That song basically changed my life.”

La Cruz’s “regayton,” which is what his fans playfully call his music, has caught the attention of artists like Omar Apollo, Young Miko, Villano Antillano and Venezuela’s top reggaeton artist Danny Ocean. The latter recently featured La Cruz in his music video for “Cero Condiciones,” which talks about “coming out of the closet” to live a free and truthful life. After DMing for several months with Colombian superstar Karol G on Instagram, she invited La Cruz to meet her at her concert in Caracas last March.

“I told her I was very nervous because I’m a big fan of hers,” he recalls. “She told me, ‘No! I’m also a big fan of yours!’ That was a beautiful moment because she’s one of my idols. Knowing that she listens to me and likes what I do, that’s incredible. She supports my message and my concept and told me, ‘Keep it up.’ I feel like I made a spiritual connection with her.”

La Cruz’s recent singles such as “Easy Boy,” his reggaeton ode to casual sex, are being distributed by Sony Music Entertainment España. He is also hard at work on his second album. With a bigger team and the support of the LGBTQ+ community, La Cruz wants to continue to break down barriers for queer artists like himself.

“To have a community of people that identify with my music and they can relate to those experiences, that’s the most beautiful thing,” he says. “With my music, I want to give visibility and normalize a lot of things on a social level that are looked down upon. It’s the people consuming my music who are making things happen [for me] and I’m having a great time with them.”

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