Diary Of A New York Cool Girl: Liana Bank$

Photo: Aysia Marotta

Photo: Aysia Marotta

In New York City, it's not rare to connect with someone you just met. Happens all the time. But to connect with someone who's a rising star and rocks green hair like a modern Beatriz Bonilla da Costa, that's special.

Sitting in a Lower East Side Mexican restaurant, Liana Bank$ sipped a blackberry-infused cocktail and waxed poetic about music, cooking, dating and growing up in the city that never sleeps.

We had a ball. We got a little tipsy too. But more importantly the world is getting a gem of a person and talent combined in one girl-boss package.

What's you relationship with music in the context of growing up in New York?

"Because it's so culturally diverse and I moved a lot, I was aware of so many kinds of music and genres. It taught me diversity in taste. If it's good, I fuck with it. Also growing up in New York —being raw, gritty and fast-paced— it made me align with artists with stories and struggles. I didn't like anybody who was cookie cutter. Artists who take chances and risks, that's what I groove to. Because walking out the house is a risk. Walking up the street is a risk. Hoping you don't hit by a cab is a risk. I have a balance from running around the city like crazy but then having a more chill vibe in Queens— and I've written songs from just watching people interact on the trains. So New York is that place for me, it's so inspiring."

When was the moment you knew you wanted to sing?

"Honestly, I knew from when I was a little girl that this was all I wanted to do. But as I got older I knew I needed something that was going to put money in my pocket. I wanted to be logical. I thought of other career avenues, but every time I failed, I'd write a song about it. [chuckles] When I had my first job at 14 (Cold Stone Creamery) I was working up until I went to Laguardia Community College for two years— I was really good at school. But I just wasn't focused. So I quit school and the job I had as a waitress at the time. And I've been doing music ever since."

 

"It's music. Either you get it or you don't." 

 

How did writing music affect your life journey?

"My whole family sings, so that was always natural and organic. I wrote my first song at 8 years old— I still remember that song to this day. It was super inappropriate. Like why was I eight, singing this?! But it was a way of expression for me because I was shy. It was a way I could speak. The writing became a continuous thing, knocking them out in notebooks. Eventually I realized I had to put them to use. When I got to college, that's when I realized. It was like, OK, I'm paying for school out of my own pocket... I didn't go to the college of my choice, because I was afraid of being in debt. But once I wasn't paying attention, I had to make the decision. I got in the studio and fell in love."

At what point did you become a dancer?

"I never went to school for dance. It was a natural thing. In after school programs, music would come on and I'd just be that kid... this skinny kid just going out. I auditioned for my high school dance program and got in in. Having been in that, I had some connections and they invited me to audition for Chris Brown. I was 16 and didn't think I would make it. But I did. Especially as a person who wasn't trained, I was really proud of myself. I couldn't afford to do some of the things the other girls did, but I'm still here. That's always been my mentality. I know I don't always have the means, but I'm going to make the means happen."

Where does your disciplined work ethic come from?

"Being in a single parent household, with just my mom and three girls. Seeing how hard it was and knowing what I wanted. And I don't like to settle. I was really into fashion as a way of expressing myself. So I was like, my mom can't get me these shoes or the clothes I want, so I'm going to get it myself. I'm going to pay for it— that's really why I got my first job. Also being the eldest child made me feel like I had to set and example and help. I was super squeaky clean growing up, meanwhile my sisters were doing every possible thing they could do. [chuckles] And now, I'm finally living my life a little bit. And that's another thing about being a New Yorker. You gotta get it, how you get it. That hustle mentality really kicks in here. The late nights at the studio, riding the train home from school and getting robbed... if I can survive this, I'm good."

How calculated are you about your look?

"I'm super free. It's all about how I'm feeling that day. I'll wake up and be like I feel like Grace Jones today. Coming into the studio, my manager will look at me like I'm crazy, but it's just my mood. Growing up my mother would try to pick out my outfits. And I was a good child, but the one thing I wouldn'd stand for was her picking out my clothes. I would cry. I've always known how I want to express myself and I don't want anyone to dictate that for me. I know who I am. I love faux furs and big, weird sunglasses. Like Joanne the Scammer. I tell everyone that's my idol."

 

"Categorizes are for people to favor you for being a certain thing. Why don't you love me as a human first?"

 

Do you feel a connection with the Motherland and if so, in what way?

"I definitely do. Fashion wise, I connect with the clothing and jewelry. It's so regal to me and I draw inspiration from it. I bring that into who I am and how girls should be— carrying themselves as queens and hold themselves high. I'm totally a feminist. I grew up with a woman who raised three girls by herself. Which affects me, relationship wise— guys are like, do you have a penis? I can be a lot. But I feel like the women in Africa, even though they're not always treated how they should be, are the most regal women I've ever seen. There's a triumph there."

When did you realize you were a black girl?

"I hated people asking me what I was mixed with, growing up. Granted, my family is mixed and we have people from all over. But I grew up as a black girl in a black community with black friends. That's what I relate to. So overtime I'm asked because my hair is curly, what I'm mixed with, it irks me. I always say, 'I'm human.' It puts you in a box. I went to a Dominican hair salon and my father is part Dominican. And they were talking about me and didn't realize I spoke a bit of Spanish. I turned around and was like, 'You do know I understand you, right?!' And they were like, 'No, no. Mami, mami!' [chuckles]. So the next time I came in they favored me, because I have that ancestry. And that's fucked up. Because when you thought I was a black girl, they weren't favoring me. My sister has dark, beautiful skin and I envied her growing up.  One day we got in an argument. And she said, 'You think you're this and that, because you're light skinned. Mind you... I had never thought that. And I hurt me that she thought of herself as beneath me because of her complexion. Meanwhile I'm wishing, trying to get a tan, to look like her. It hurt me so much. It's crazy how we.. you don't see how someone else is feeling because you're not in their skin. Like.. she's beautiful. Drop dead gorgeous. I'm getting emotional.. I had to tell her she's beautiful. And don't let anyone tell you you're not. So just seeing the differences, how boys treat her or put lighter girls on a pedestal, it hurt. It's my duty to let people know all shades are beautiful."

Liana Bank$ new mixtape Insubordinate drops Nov 4 and keep up with her, here


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