Nuevo Culture

Ana Bárbara

Ana Bárbara Celebrates 30 Years: How La Reina Grupera Continues to Shape Mexican Music

In a world where seasons change but legends remain, Ana Bárbara has positioned herself as an unforgettable icon in regional Mexican music and Latin pop.

Celebrating three decades of a spectacular career, Ana Bárbara has excelled as the defining female voice of the grupero genre, with a blend of rhythms that has enchanted millions. Over these years, the San Luis Potosí native has not only won hearts with her extensive discography—including 11 studio albums and 18 compilations—but has also shaped the regional musical style. Since her debut with an eponymous album in 1994, Altagracia Ugalde Motta (her real name) has released a succession of hits that resonate with a unique energy. Two decades ago, she delivered one of her biggest and most influential songs, “Lo Busqué”. “It was the first to bridge pop and country,” Ana Bárbara says, proudly noting how it started a trend that now influences artists like Carín León and Chiquis.

Throughout her career, she has collaborated with legendary figures such as Vicente Fernández, Bronco, and Paquita la del Barrio, and has been a key supporter of rising stars like Christian Nodal and, more recently, Majo Aguilar and Adriana Ríos. Her career reflects her dominance of the stage and the Billboard charts. Hits such as “Me Asusta Pero Me Gusta,” “La Trampa”, “Ya No Te Creo Nada,” and “No Lloraré” reached the top 10 of Hot Latin Songs, while albums like Ay Amor (1996) and Yo Soy La Mujer (2014) solidified her presence on Regional Mexican Albums charts. Ana Bárbara will be honored with the Music Lifetime Achievement Award at Billboard Latin Women in Music 2024. In this intimate dialogue, The Queen of Grupera opens up about her achievements, challenges, and the passion that continues to fuel her impressive musical legacy.

This year marks 30 years of your musical career, and you will celebrate it soon with the La Reina Grupera Tour.

Cómo han pasado los años (how the years have gone by), as the song by Rocío Dúrcal says — and it’s been incredible. With so many things happening in life, to have life is a miracle. It’s a blessing to be celebrating with music and a tour! It’s a triple blessing. The tour is a surge of nostalgia, history, feelings, and ups and downs of emotions. In 30 years, how many stories have been written? How many are part of my songs? I can’t express enough thanks for the gratitude my heart feels, without a doubt.

You sing, you compose, you dance. Is there an area you enjoy the most in your career, whether it’s recording, composing, or performing live?

They all have their magic. But the songwriting part is very exciting. It’s like, “Oh my God, I came up with this! Where did it come from? What part of the universe? Where was my soul?” When I start producing, I see if I want guitar here or trumpet there. The creative process is like an adrenaline rush. You know that a feeling crystallized. Just talking about it gets me excited. Right now I’m finishing a song I’m crazy about, and listening to it makes me think, “How did I come up with this?” It’s really cool. That’s an indescribable feeling.

I was listening to your most recent track, “Así bailé.” You have a fun way of telling stories that make you smile.

If you listened to it and say, “I laughed, I smiled, it put me in a good mood,” then I have done my job. That song talks about the experience of meeting someone, and it doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be 17, 18, 40, 50, or 60 years old, be single, and feel butterflies in your stomach again. Why not? That’s what I love about that song.

You use norteño elements like the accordion, but it also sounds a bit country. How do you approach incorporating diverse styles into your music?

That’s something organic — that word is in style. “Lo Busqué” is going to be 20 years old, and I was lucky enough to be with Carín León at StageCoach Festival on April 27, where he mentioned that for him, that song was the first to bridge pop and country. It is a song that marked him, and it marked me too when I wrote it.

When I wrote it, I had a lot of problems with the record label — because they told me: “Your song is neither grupera, ranchera, ballad, nor country.” And I told them, “You know why it is nothing? Because it’s everything.” These songs come naturally to me. I think it’s the impact of cultures — of traveling, of listening to all kinds of music — that makes me write that way.

Thirty years ago, when you were starting your career, regional Mexican music was even more male-dominated than it is today. What was it like to stand out and make your way as a female leader in the music scene, and what challenges did you have to overcome?

The first challenge? Insecurity. It’s absolutely a man’s market. I still believe that. It’s misogynistic, and I say that with the authority of years of being in this. A record executive once said, “We have five singles to release, and Ana’s is going to be the fifth.” The first one is almost always male-focused. It’s insane! These career challenges can deflate your spirits.

But you keep going because of “orgullo de mujer cuando está herido” (a woman’s pride when it’s wounded) — as my song “Loca” (2004) says. Even if they make you let your guard down and say, “She’s probably going to get married or have children,” or “Oh, she’s not going to have the body she once had.” No! If you get married, you get married; if you have a child, you bless them and move on. I have been a victim of these kinds of comments that can discourage any human being, any woman. Don’t let them make you let your guard down — you keep going, you keep fighting. If it impacts you, you have to know how to channel it. I have channeled it with my songs, through dance, concerts, and it has worked very well for me.

You proved it in February during your performance at Premio Lo Nuestro, with your medley of hits, the numerous costume changes, the choreography, and then you did a split! How do you prepare for that kind of gymnastics on stage? What’s your diet and routine like?

The worst thing that can happen to an artist, in my humble opinion, is that what they need the most is discipline or the routine to get in physical condition — to get on stage, sing and dance at the same time; daily exercise. We artists are always flying, traveling, going up, going down, all the time, and the only thing we don’t have is a routine. However, not having a constant of waking up in the same place — within that disorder you have to have an order.

I try to do sports at least three, four times a week. I do try to do them intensely — because imagine, singing, dancing, performing, and changing costumes is a physical demand on your feet, arms, and legs. Besides, you can’t become a fitness guru because you don’t have the time. One of the limitations is finding time without a routine, whether it’s in the evening, morning, or at the crack of dawn. Do yoga, aerobics, things that give you the physical condition for that kind of performance.