By Brian Ives
One thing that you might not expect to discuss with Niykee Heaton is Bob Dylan, and how his recent albums of Frank Sinatra songs hold up with the rest of his catalog. So, excuse the cliche, but don’t judge a book by it’s cover, especially if you’re only seeing the cover on Instagram.
Heaton’s social media presence has made her something of a star: she’s often on Instagram, mostly posting photos of herself, often scantily clad, but she got a following by posting acoustic performances on her YouTube page (notably, a cover of Chief Keef’s NSFW “Love Sosa.”)
It takes a certain amount of confidence to put yourself out there on YouTube, but she tells Radio.com that she hasn’t always been so comfortable in her own skin. “It’s something that has been a long journey. I feel like people look at my Instagram and the general consensus is ‘She’s so full of herself,’ ‘Is she a model?’ ‘Is she a porn star?'”
So, she gives a bit of context: “One: I live in Florida and it’s very, very hot. And that’s why I’m always naked.”
“And, two: I grew up in an environment where I was taught to hate myself and hate the way I looked and I was bullied and I was tortured, and I thought I was so ugly and I thought I was a monster.”
Happily, that changed: “The moment I graduated high school, I left and I started my career with my manager and for the first time, I felt beautiful. For me, it was a journey of self-acceptance and self-love. So that’s why I don’t see it as ‘sinful’ or ‘sexual,’ but for the first time ever, I don’t hate myself when I look in the mirror.”
“[But I’m glad] I went through the pain and hardship that I went through, or else I wouldn’t have pushed to come this far.”
She created her own persona and brand on YouTube, but don’t call her a “YouTube star.”
“I never wanted to be categorized as a ‘YouTube artist,’ I thought it was corny. I’m very very grateful for YouTube, because obviously that’s how I got to where I am. But after I started to get more of a following, we were approached [by YouTube], and they were like, ‘Do you want to do a professional ? We can get you a green screen, a really good camera…’ All these other YouTube artists were doing it.”
She stuck with a more lo-fi approach: “I always wanted to be very authentic and original so I kept doing it on my iPhone. I felt like that was organic and that was very authentic, and I feel that my fans connected to it. It was me, and I didn’t change since I was sixteen, I kept doing the exact same thing, so they stuck with me. I didn’t get all ‘bougie’ on them and use a green screen.”
She claims that she never kept a close eye on her YouTube numbers. “Honestly, I never paid that much attention to the views on YouTube, I just kind of hoped that people would gravitate towards who I was as a real musician, and that’s why I never wanted to label myself as a ‘YouTube musician,’ because then they would always label me that way. I always kind of made it clear that I just love music. And this was the only platform that I had, I didn’t have a studio, I didn’t have Logic to make beats back then, so this was my way of doing something fun and something musical. My fans were so excited when I finally put out music that was really, really me. And thank God I have that core following that believe in me and were hungry for it. And I think I got very, very lucky that I have such a cult following.”
Heaton is currently on her Centerfold tour: check out her tour schedule at Eventful.