Erica Mena may only be 24 years old but she's been involved with the music industry for over a decade. After winning a Jennifer Lopez look-a-like contest sponsored by MTV, Mena caught the eye of record label executives and landed a number of roles in hip-hop music videos including Chris Brown's "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" and Fabolous' "Breathe." Mena went on to pursue modeling but shortly thereafter, gave birth to her son who is now five-years-old.
The Bronx native helped launch the DASH store in Miami, run by the Kardashians, and was featured in episodes of Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami. But most recently, VH1's Love and Hip Hop 2 brought Mena into the mix halfway through the second season. While she gained notoriety for her on-air fights with fellow model and Juelz Santana's lady, Kimbella, Mena says she's ready to show viewers the real her on the upcoming season.
Complex spoke with Mena on her start in the industry, its challenges, her future career as a music artist, and what to expect on the next season of Love and Hip Hop.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
What’s new with you?
I’m in the process of shooting the next season, season three of Love and Hip Hop. It’s been quite busy on this end for me, no complaints though. Everything is going well, it’s definitely a different scenario this time around being that now I get to finally let the world know who I am and really focus on the work stuff, everything that I wanted to focus on in the beginning and the original intention of doing the show last year. The next season is definitely coming soon.
You definitely get different stereotypes and I’ve worked so hard, especially in the beginning, proving not that I was just more than a video girl but that you can do more than people expect you can and carry yourself a certain way and have some type of integrity or credibility.
Speaking of the show, you were introduced halfway through the second season of Love and Hip Hop 2 and you weren’t happy with the way VH1 portrayed you. How did you get involved with the show?
The producers came to me. I’ve been in the industry so long, I have been in this world for quite some time. In a way, you can say that I grew up in it. My story is definitely familiar and the producers came to me and wanted to introduce me with the different dynamic of how I did things coming up, especially in the urban modeling world. A lot of times we get a lot of slack because of how sometimes you have to expose yourself more than most modeling. You definitely get different stereotypes and I’ve worked so hard, especially in the beginning, proving not that I was just more than a video girl but that you can do more than people expect you can and carry yourself a certain way and have some type of integrity or credibility.
That was the point of doing the show originally, and I wasn’t too happy with the way things unfolded, but like with anything in life, things happen, you get tested. It’s just a matter of how you handle it and it’s unfortunate as far as the whole Kimbella situation. I’m definitely apologetic for my behavior but not my thoughts. As grown women, we have kids and we should be able to sit down and discuss issues without getting violent and having to cross someone’s territory. I felt that I should have handled it different but in hindsight, vision is 20/20. We all grow from mistakes.
How is everything going between you and Kimbella going into the new season?
I can’t really give too much of that but let me say this, I don’t really have to deal with Kimbella at all, which is good. We have a lot of the original cast members coming back, but a lot of the original members like Chrissy and Emily aren’t coming back. It’s definitely going to be a new dynamic. We got some new folks so it’s definitely going to be interesting.
I’m definitely apologetic for my behavior but not my thoughts. As grown women we have kids and we should be able to sit down and discuss issues without getting violent and having to cross someone’s territory.
You started in the industry at 14. What were some of the projects you were getting involved in?
I was doing catalog work for a while at 14 and eventually, it was one of those days I was just moving around New York City and I got stopped by an MTV scout and I ended up doing a Jennifer Lopez look-a-like contest and I won that. I had to perform and give a full-on impersonation of J.Lo. It was a great experience because I learned so much about the industry in that short period of time. Ever since then, I’ve been on the move.
How did you get your start in music videos?
Someone from Roc-A-Fella’s label saw the J.Lo contest and reached out to one of the casting people at MTV and they tracked me down that way. That’s how I got my first video with Young Gunz “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. Then after that I was in videos for Fabolous, and everything lined up behind it. Everything happened really quickly. I got a lot done in a short time at a young age. I was in the “Excuse Me Miss” video for Chris Brown, which was a really fun video. That’s where I’m lucky because most girls that get the opportunity to do videos don’t really get a chance to role play. It’s definitely been a blessing of how things have come my way because it’s definitely not easy.