Dia Maté Channels It Girls Through the Decades
On a Wednesday morning, the hump day feels a little slow-paced, and with the pandemic to boot, it doesn't help this predicament. When dia maté arrives sporting a simple crop top and shorts combo with an iced latté on hand, she cuts through the air and commands the room like no other. With the way she carries herself, I would've pegged her as a longtime artist who's used to all the photo shoots and interviews. When, in reality, it hasn't been that long in her career.
On dia: Butterfly Crochet top from @gantsilyo.by.jes, Custom nails by @paintnstyle, Accessories from @firstname.lastname@example.org___
At 19 years old, dia had just made her first foray into the music scene through the recent release of her EP, don't quote me. Though up-and-coming as she may, there's just something about her. She's an "it girl" who's still forging her path, but once you put her on your radar, you're not taking your eyes away.
But dia is not all striking features and confident strides; her bubbly and easy-going personality shines just as much. She's the type of person that speaks with substance while also not taking herself too seriously. She's completely and utterly herself as she chats away to people she's just met and cracks jokes at some of her editorial outfits that, behind the scenes, are bundled up in the back to fit her. At one point, she brings out a bunch of lifts and weights to exercise, which—to my surprise—she's apparently used to handling as a weightlifting fairy herself.
On dia: Butterfly Crochet top email@example.com,Custom nails by @paintnstyle, Accessories from @firstname.lastname@example.org___, Pants by Samantha Pants @girlsreligion
Like others, I can be anxious in new and unfamiliar environments. But dia is the complete opposite. In fact, she thrives in it. The shoot lasted an entire day, yet she wears that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed energy like a badge. And she seems to carry this through everything.
On Her Musical Journey
Starting with her path to being an artist, dia attributes her parents as her biggest influence on getting into music. With their varying tastes in genres, she grew up just loving music in all its forms. "My dad showed me different kinds of music like Miguel or Dave Matthews. He's why I fell in love with rock, R&B, and also 90s hip hop like Biggie Smalls, Tupac, and all that. And then my mom—I like to tell this story to everyone—when I was 4 or 5, I couldn't go to sleep without listening to Norah Jones' 'Don't Know Why' or 'Come Away with Me' so that's why I love that type of jazz sound," she fondly reminisces.
On dia: Ribbed top from @alamodeph, Bra top from @xyqd.ph, Custom Nails @paintnstyle, Body suit @anabeza.ph, Earrings from @le.charme___,Candy Corn Rings from @elskaatelier.
Singing and playing instruments came naturally as she grew up playing piano, taking voice lessons, and jamming in family reunions. These interests later came to SoundCloud in 2016, where she posted her first original song called Puppet's Strings, to which she funnily groaned when I mentioned it. While dia might've cringed at her 15-year-old self, the sad heartbreak song with the juxtaposition of an upbeat ukulele background surprisingly holds up. The witty lyrics alluding to 'knots' and 'strings' keeping her from being able to 'fly' only add to its charm.
As high school rolled around, dia took the IB (International Baccalaureate) program in her school, where she had the chance to choose music for her subjects. These subjects fueled her creativity as she learned both theory and practice through lessons on world music, composition, and songwriting. But learning the creative aspect wasn't enough; she wanted to know the business aspect. And as self-assured on her path as she's always been, this led her to MCA Music, where she interned for a month in high school and continued on for her gap year before college. She shares tales of round table interviews, research, and meetings and events with other musicians that piqued her passion and inspired her to where she is now. "That's what really got me into being in the music industry, whether or not it be as an artist or behind-the-scenes," she notes.
Somewhere along the way, she joined an online competition between her internship, which got the attention of heads from MCA Music. Their discovery of her singing, composing, and producing talents led her to sign with their new branch, Island Records Philippines. An incredible feat to reach, if you ask me. dia herself is still admittedly shell shocked: "It was pretty crazy. I remember thinking it was insane because I never thought I'd get this opportunity. And, in terms of the internship, I didn't go in thinking I'm going to get signed. Even to this day, I can't believe it."
Being Unapologetically Vulnerable
With all the Olivia Rodrigo's and Billie Eilish's dominating the charts, the recent years have shown us the evolution of the young girl in music. From a once-overlooked populace, we're seeing a femme-forward phenomenon that's having a moment in culture. And the greatest thing of it all? They're unapologetically themselves.
On dia: inner, vest, and pants from @thefu.tureisu, Vintage bangles from @le.charme___, Funky Rings & earrings from @elskaatelier, Nyree Matanguihan of @NYEcety, Custom Nails @paintnstyle
When talking to dia about her music, it's like a light switched on. She's most in her element when she talks about the "raw, relatable, and real" feelings she brings to her craft. Growing up, she says she's always been called emotional by her parents, but she isn't embarrassed in the slightest. All things considered, she's proud of being tethered to her emotions. And I agree. Too often, we think emotions are a sign of weakness, but for people like dia, it's their strength and the reason they create. As a 'lowercase girl' with many all-caps feelings, there's a power to the way dia embraces an often associated 'feminine weakness' and reclaims the narrative to make it her own.
On dia: Silver Headpiece & Hand embellished mini dress by @nericbeltran, Custom Nails @paintnstyle
In Bong Joon-Ho's acceptance speech in the Academy Awards 2020, he quoted Martin Scorsese for saying, "the most personal is the most creative," which served as a vehicle for his films. Listening to dia talk about making her vulnerabilities into her strength made me think of that quote. "Music is my therapy," she says with reverence. In every song she makes, they manifest from the emotions and experiences she's felt at the time—only at the time. "I'm at my best while I have intense emotions," she points out when asked about mixing her personal experiences with her music. And anyone who's listened to don't quote me can see this. The EP is chock full of emotionally charged songs that act as an ode to past feelings and letters to people she's been with.
When dia makes her music, it is hers in every way. She makes it for herself to express, to feel, to take the load off. She creates the personal, but when it materializes into a song? It's no longer hers. "It's 100% yours when you're making it, but at most, it's maybe 1-2% mine when I put it out," she says. This mantra she took from one of the sessions she hosted in her internship, and to this day, she takes it with her. Once it's out there, she only hopes it connects with people. As her music is her diary entries, it's up to the audience to fill in the rest of the pages and bring it back to their lives. "I can't bottle everything and keep it in because that's gonna harm me. So, in a sense, emotionally, I think I'm in a good place. Sometimes, I can make mistakes, but it's fine. I'll grow from it, and I can always look back and go: 'I learned that lesson. I'm okay. And I'm a better person.' And I still have more to learn as I go on," she imparts by the end of our talk. A mature outlook as she journeys on.
With that in mind, what does it mean to be an It girl now? Society has shown us the Dua Lipa's, Rihanna's, and Jennie's of the world. We've seen all the 'girl next door's,' 'cool girl's,' and the 'not like other girls' stereotypes. But beyond beauty and glamour, today's women have a greater sense of empowerment. A woman self-assured with who she is and passionate about what she does, these are traits I'd describe dia—an It-girl in the making.
Words by Marielle Filoteo (@isthatmarielle)
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin (@rxandy)
Art Direction & Art by Joe Andy (@heyjoeandy)
Fashion film by Ian Francisco (@ianfranciscoph)
Sittings Editor Philip Vargas (@plipfilms)
Makeup by Janica Cleto (@janicleto_)
Hair by Aldrin Jalandoni (@aldrinjalandoni)
In Partnership with Island Records Philippines & MCA Music (Universal Music PH)
Special thanks to GNN Entertainment Production