Name: Sofia Valdes
Profession: Singer
Nationality: Panamanian
Zodiac sign: Sagittarius
Instagram: @sofia.valdes

On May 2nd, amidst rain and breeze, CHANEL presented its Cruise 2024/25 collection at MAMO, Centre d’art de la Cité Radieuse in Marseille, France. Among the guests in attendance was Panamanian singer Sofía Valdés, a first time attendee at the brand’s runway show. We sat down with her afterwards for coffee to discuss the start of her career, her concept of beauty and the relationship she has built with the French maison.

LATINNESS: Sofia, is it true that you come from a family of artists?

SOFIA: Yes, my mom has always sung, and my dad was a drummer. My great-grandparents were also singers, as well as my grandfather, who achieved great recognition in Cuba. His name was Miguelito Valdés. My grandmother sang Panamanian folklore and was also a drummer; her name was Silvia de Graz.

So, yes, I was born and raised in a family of musicians. Music has always been present in me, so it wasn’t strange to say “I’m going to become a singer,” because it was obvious.

LATINNESS: My family is also from Cuba. My dad was born there and came to Panama when he was three or four years old. So, we have something else in common there.

SOFIA: They probably know each other.

LATINNESS: Surely, it’s an expat community. However, in my own experience, in Panama, I never felt Cuban. I felt very Panamanian. In contrast, my partner Kelly felt Cuban in Miami. In Panama, we just blended in, I would say. I don’t know if that’s your feeling.


LATINNESS: In a conservative country like ours, what led you to pursue a career in music? What did they tell you at school or in your family, and how did you overcome the fear?

SOFIA: Strangely, I never had fear; nor did I doubt it, nor did I think much about it. It was very obvious.

My mom was also in the media, so she always supported me since I was young. If I said, “I want to be an ice skater,” she would have responded, “yes,” and if I had wanted to sell snow cones, she would have said, “Let’s go!” Everything seemed wonderful to her.

That’s why when I started talking to her about music, neither she nor anyone else dared to say, “No, don’t do that, no, you can’t.”

However, with my friends and their moms, it was a bit more complicated because they thought, “What is this girl doing?”

LATINNESS: They would probably say, “But you’ll starve to death…”

SOFIA: I remember once in school, we were all asked: “What do you want to be when you graduate?” and I replied, “I’m going to be a singer.” We wrote it on a piece of paper, and then they took me out of the classroom and said, “You can’t be saying that or playing around with those things.” I was in eighth grade and already had a written life plan. Everything I wrote down happened exactly as planned.

Things were a bit different back then, and they still are. I would love to go back to school and help the girls or boys so they can pursue what they really want.

LATINNESS: Do you believe in luck? What role did the encounter you had, which changed your plans of leaving university and returning to Panama at one point, play in your professional trajectory?

SOFIA: 100%. I believe in luck, although while I do believe in luck, I also believe that when the moment came, I was prepared because I had my songs written, recorded, and produced. I had done it all by myself— I even played all the instruments.

I had a SoundCloud link filled with my songs. Inside there were about 30. So when that person came into my life and asked, “Do you have music?” I said, “Yes, here it is.” In fact, I was doing photoshoots for my album cover. I had everything ready until the moment came.

LATINNESS: That’s a good lesson for young people…

SOFIA: Yes. Because the moment does come, and it has happened to me several times in my life. But it’s not just about being ready; it’s also about believing in it. I still don’t believe it.

LATINNESS: What inspires you when composing your songs?

SOFIA: My life or those things I sometimes think about and can’t get out of my head, as well as recurring feelings. From there, usually, the song just comes naturally.

I prefer to express feelings in sounds. Sometimes, in certain songs, the focus is more on the lyrics, while in others, it’s more on the melodies. I feel like I have those two facets.

LATINNESS: The entertainment world can be lonely, especially for expats like yourself living away from home. How do you take care of your mental health?

SOFIA: Yes, even though my mom is my cheerleader, she is far away, and I can hardly ever be with her. For example, over the last two years, I only saw her twice for a total of two weeks each time. So, in two years, I only saw her for one month. 

Sometimes I think I have everything under control, and suddenly I realize that I don’t when something happens or the moment arrives and things don’t unfold as I wanted. 

Often, when something happens in my personal or work life, I might not suffer it in person, meaning, you will never see me crying or saying, “What? Why?” nor yelling at life. Never. Yet, out of nowhere, I’ll go to my room and start crying, thinking it’s the end of the world because a glass falls. 

I am still discovering the best way to deal with it. I think exercising helps a lot, but it’s not something I do often. Having a psychologist helps a lot too; however, right now, I don’t have one. I have had one at certain times, and truthfully it always helps. 

LATINNESS: Sometimes, in moments of pain, sadness, or anxiety, good songwriting emerges. How do you think the power of music can impact and transform lives?

SOFIA: When I listened to music as a child, I felt like she was a friend. She and I knew what was happening, and no one else did. So, I’ve always been a superfan. In fact, I used to draw my favorite singer every day.

LATINNESS: Who was your favorite singer?

SOFIA: It changed over time. When I was 11, it was Zendaya. At that time, she was one of the stars of Disney Channel’s “Shake it Up”. Then it was Zella Day, and later I became obsessed with rock from the eighties and nineties. I don’t know, I just got really obsessed with artists because I felt a very strong connection with them.

LATINNESS: Did they transform your life?

SOFIA: Yes, and it was something I also wanted to do for other people. I feel that if you see it as a form of service, it’s easier to be in this career.

Because if you see it as, “I want to be this or I want to be that,” sometimes it doesn’t fulfill you as much. Instead, if you think of it as “I can do something for someone else,” it gives it meaning. This is not for me, this is for other people.

LATINNESS: You’ve performed on stages like Lollapalooza, and recently, in your city at Calle Funky. How did it feel to perform in Panama?

SOFIA: Panama is the place that makes me the most nervous because I know a lot of people. Yet, I still love singing in Panama because I feel like I’m giving back.

LATINNESS: To those classmates and teachers who maybe didn’t believe in you…

SOFIA: There are a lot of people who actually listen to my music and who didn’t know me before. In fact, it’s strange to see Panamanians singing my music because I spent a long time there trying to make it, and it was impossible. I only sang in bars.

LATINNESS: They say no one is a prophet in their own land.

SOFIA: Exactly, of course. It’s easier for me to sing elsewhere, but I also love doing it in Panama, even if it’s hard and challenging.

LATINNESS: You looked stunning at your last concert, and you were dressed by Chanel. Apart from music, you have a significant connection with fashion. Tell us a bit about this relationship. Has it existed your whole life?

SOFIA: It’s something I’ve had all my life. When I was little, I used to play dress-up every day. Then, when I turned 13 or 14, I would say, “my style now is like this.” So, I would put on the strangest things… I always saw it as a way to express myself.

As a young girl, I would watch Chanel shows and loved all fashion shows. As I grew up, I suppose my taste has been refined.

Of course, entering the world of Chanel has opened my eyes to other things, other styles, and other ways of seeing clothes. Sometimes they tell me to try on a garment that I might have never thought of wearing, but when I do, it looks spectacular on.

In my day-to-day life, I’ve learned ways to use different garments.

LATINNESS: What is a typical day like for you now that you’ve returned to Los Angeles?

SOFIA: If I’m recording, the morning is always free because in music everything starts later. In this world, people start working between 11 AM and 1 PM, especially creative individuals.

I go to the studio and stay there until the evening, or sometimes I’m even in the studio until the next day… It happened to me with this album I’m working on. Many days I would start at 10 AM and finish at 2 AM because you find yourself in such an important moment that you can’t stop, afraid that the magic will fade away.

LATINNESS: Well, here we are together at the Chanel show, something you saw as a child, and that has now become a reality for both of us. Did any of the looks from the Cruise 2025 collection resonate with your personal style? 

SOFIA: There was one that was platinum, like chrome– it was a skirt and a zip-up hoodie. I want to wear that every day. It would  be my uniform.

LATINNESS: I love how you carry your effortless style. I would say, nowadays, it’s more French than Panamanian.  Casual, natural beauty. Do you identify with that?

SOFIA: Yes, 100%. For me, that’s like the ultimate beauty and fashion. I feel it’s perfect, because it’s very natural. It’s comfortable. I like that I always have my hair natural with minimal makeup. Natural beauty.

I’ve never seen anyone with that style and thought they looked bad. I think natural beauty or what the same person can actually show through is spectacular.

LATINNESS: When I go to a wedding in Panama, for example, my mom tells me, “I’ve already made you an appointment at the hair salon”, and I reply, “Mom, I have keratin treatment; I don’t need to go to the hair salon. Plus, I do my makeup myself, don’t worry.” I’ll spend time having coffee with a friend. But yes, there are societies where people invest more time in beauty, and it’s not that they don’t look beautiful, but simply I prefer to save time.

SOFIA: Yes, I really like comfort. I love having pieces that are very good, like a really good pair of jeans. I’ll buy one or two, and find a really good white t-shirt. I really like vintage. In fact, I collect it.

LATINNESS: How do you stay connected with your Latin roots while abroad?

SOFIA: I feel like it’s easy for me because we live in a world of social media. Anyone from anywhere can follow you. In the United States, there are many latins, so I see it as a market I want to connect with more.

Many people who follow me are in Panama, but also in Mexico, Colombia, Spain… And in Asia, which I find interesting. People just find me on Instagram and we connect. In general, I try to respond to most of the people who write to me.

Images courtesy of CHANEL and Sofia Valdes.