A New York Pop-R&B artist’s journey with her Latinidad, self-esteem, and NBC’s The Voice

Kaitlyn Velez, a 21-year-old from Long Island appeared on this past season of NBC’s The Voice and made a lasting impression on the judges, her peers, the audience, and even herself. Her passion for music was born during her childhood, and it carried her throughout many years grappling with self confidence and purpose.

She was raised in Ronkonkoma, an hour from Queens, to a Dominican mother and a Puerto Rican father. Her family was always musically inclined and her first experiences performing were at church. From a young age she gravitated to music and became involved in musical programs at her school.,

Velez’s mother, Aris,explained, “I always knew she loved music, but it became apparent when she got to middle school and joined chorus and show choir at the same time. She loved being a part of all things music!”

Velez grew up and attended school in an area where there was a very small population of people of color, and because of this, she was hyper aware of being different. Her brown skin, curly hair, and afro-latina features stuck out, and she did not know many who understood her experience.

“I honestly suffered many insecurities as a child,” explained Velez, “I grew up in a white neighborhood where nobody looked like me or shared my experience, I didn’t have anyone who understood what I felt, I stuck out like a sore thumb, and because of that, I felt burdened by my differences instead of embracing my heritage.”

Velez always found safety and purpose in music. “Music was my safe space, where I didn’t doubt myself, where I felt so strong, and so confident in who I was.”

Her journey on The Voice started in 2019 when a casting director reached out to her, encouraging her to audition. She did and got a call back, but then she did not make it to the blind auditions on TV.  

Fast forward to October 2020. A casting director reached out to her again after seeing Velez’s Instagram feed, asking her to audition again. This time around, Velez did not give it much thought. She agreed to submit a video audition and forgot about it. She was busy writing and recording music, so didn’t send in the tape. That January 2021, she remembered and reached out to the casting director asking if it was too late to submit. They responded immediately, saying no.

They were particularly impressed by her Instagram, and in March 2021 selected her to go to Los Angeles for the blind auditions. In May 2021, she was off.

“Following your dreams is not easy, and it comes with doubt and anxiety. If I’m being honest.” said Velez, “I struggled with that while I was there. But, I held onto the fact that I WAS there, I wanted to be present and experience it all, I didn’t let my fear and anxiety take away from my experience.”

Velez became exposed to all kinds of people from all parts of the country and all walks of life in n LA,. In this place where her dreams were coming to fruition she even found people like herself. She found comfort, support, and even friendship in the people around her on The Voice.

Manny Hernandez, another contestant on The Voice, from Miami, has nothing but warm sentiment towards Velez.  “Kaitlyn always struck me as being wise beyond her years,” said Hernandez,“During our time on the show she was always so focused and didn’t seem to be bothered by the stress or pressure of the show…She is is very secure in herself, she may be small in stature, but she is a force!”

Velez also found deep fulfillment in being able to share her story of loneliness as a girl of color in her community on live television before her audition. It was a full circle moment for her, being able to represent the underrepresented, and tell all the little hispanic girls at home that they can embrace who they are and do whatever lights their souls on fire.

“Sharing my story helped heal my inner child,” Velez recounted.

Velez made a lasting impression on her coach Blake Sheldon, and many others throughout her time on the show. She did not win the competition but she counts the experience and knowledge she gained as one of her greatest accomplishments.

Being there to represent her heritage, in spite of her childhood insecurities, all those who made her feel less than for the color of her skin…she counted it all as a victory.

She attributes everything to her faith in God and his plans for her life. She’s grown her platform and is using it to share her story, and along the way she has written and released music that authentically represents her journey, such as her #1 song FOMO, where she talks about doubt in relationships, and her fear of missing out. People have fallen in love with her transparency and style.

It’s only the beginning for her…

Jalynne Medina is a New York native and college junior majoring in Digital Broadcasting and minoring in Spanish Language and Culture. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a career as a Bilingual Journalist to bridge the gap between the mainstream American media and the Latino community.