Colombian music icon and style superstar J Balvin is finding harmony as the multihyphenate expands his impressive range to include everything from sneakers to mental health.
Dolce & Gabbana ensemble, us.dolcegabbana.com
With 25 of his major hits each having reached over 500 million global streams (nearly all unprecedentedly soaring past a billion streams), José Álvaro Osorio Balvín—the reggaeton singer known professionally as J Balvin—crossed into the rarefied air of global superstardom long ago after his hit “Bonita” reached the 500 million mark on Spotify. Born in Medellín, Colombia, the 37-year-old is known for his international collaborations including recent mashups like “Voodoo,” a trilingual anthem (Hindi, Spanish, English) with Indian superstar Badshah and producer/artist Tainy; “Nivel de Perreo,” featuring emerging Colombian artist Ryan Castro; and the Murda Beatz summer hit “No Más,” featuring Quavo, Anitta and Pharrell.
In addition to what has already been a successful year filled with chart-topping new music, record-breaking collaborations, and headliner performances at the world’s most popular music festivals, Balvin recently announced his highly anticipated Latin American tour which is set to kick off this October. “I try to exercise every day… meditation. I’m always around this small circle of friends—basically the ones that have been there since I started being a person, not an artist. One of my closest friends has been with me since I was 4 years old. We haven’t lost touch, and we keep it real… and that helps me to keep grounded.”
Also celebrated for his distinctive style and his bold use of jewelry, hats and other accessories, Balvin was honored with the Global Style Icon Award at the Accessories Council’s Annual ACE Awards this summer. “I love fashion. I love every little detail that comes with it—from the jewelry to the stitch or a purse, hat, sunglasses. I think of how to elevate with little details,” he explains. Balvin has been one of the first Latinx people to forge partnerships with notable brands across lucrative categories. In 2019, he became the first male Latinx lead with a GUESS campaign. In May, he dropped his second collaboration with GUESS, called Amor, which was created with the goal of bringing attention to the important mental health discussion that he’s always kept as a priority throughout his career. This fall, he also has his very own Monopoly board. “It’s really cool you can connect with people in different ways. Music is the power that gives us the levers to be in these different types of worlds—like sneakers, like gaming… in this case, Monopoly.”
Louis Vuitton ensemble, us.louisvuitton.com
“Of course, I love sneakers, I’m a sneaker head. And I wanted to be the first Latino artist ever to make part of the Jordan family and create a legacy through sneakers.” In 2020, he became the first Latinx artist to have an official collaboration with the iconic Jordan Brand when he announced their first collection: J Balvin x Air Jordan 1. “I always knew that I was going to do something with fashion because I like to dress myself. I’m not scared of wearing anything as long as I feel comfortable. And it’s really dope because it’s not just about me, it’s about how to elevate our Latino culture,” he says. “It was always one of my biggest dreams to collaborate with Jordan—which has always been my favorite brand—but also elevate [and] empower the Latino culture that we can fit in any place,” he says. “I put a lot of colors, a lot of vibes on it,” he says of the first Jordan collaboration. “It sold out in 25 seconds.”
Louis Vuitton ensemble, us.louisvuitton.com
The highly anticipated second collaboration is slated to release globally on Sept. 15 and centers on an increasingly important topic that has become a personal passion for Balvin. “This one is about mental health and wellness. You press the bottom and the LED light goes on. And it’s like how you can work through the darkness—just jump into light. So it has, of course, a story of how everybody has their struggles. And we just want to make them feel like they can overcome anything,” he says.
Louis Vuitton ensemble, us.louisvuitton.com; all accessories Balvin’s own.
Mental health awareness is a major focus for the musician. Earlier this month, Balvin was honored with the coveted Agente de Cambio (Agent of Change) Award for his mental health advocacy and creative innovation at the 2022 Premios Juventud in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On September 20th, Balvin will also launch his mental wellness app, OYE. Balvin co-founded the bilingual, interactive wellness app with happiness activist and ed-tech executive Mario Chamorro, global creative and social impact executive Patrick Dowd, and journalist and media executive Isaac Lee. The superstar has committed to producing content with Latinx wellness creators on the app across different disciplines—artists, musicians and practitioners who can make wellness content that is innovative and engaging for Latinx communities for generations to come. “This app is about wellness—how to guide people to have a better lifestyle when it comes to their body, mindset and everything. It’s made by Latinos, so it’s really special that we’re giving our community a lot of tools to feel better.” He explains there is a void in the market when it comes to bilingual wellness apps. “And so it’s really a great opportunity to help the world.”
Always beautifully in tune with what the world needs to hear now, Balvin has once again listened and provided something we all need to hear now more than ever. “Something that’s really the biggest pandemic around the world is mental health,” he says. “So I think it’s really important to talk about it because it’s OK not to be OK.”
Photography by: Photographed by Nolan Zangas; Styled by Sita Abellán; Styling assistants: Afan O’Donovan, Steven Gillman; Hair by Christian Restrepo; Makeup by Tatiana Nader; Executive producer: The Canvas Agency and Ice Studios; Producer: Hannah Kinlaw; Shot on location at 135 W. 52nd St., PH5, available through Michelle Griffith at Douglas Elliman