Who Is Maluma?
Maluma is a Latin musician, known for Latin pop, urban, reggaeton and salsa. He’s been a mainstay on the Billboard charts since his first track hit the Latin airplay and Hot Latin Songs charts in 2014 and has also crossed over with hits on Billboard 100. A social media sensation, Maluma was the first male Latino artist to have more than 10 million followers on Instagram in 2016.
Among Maluma’s best-known songs are “Felices Los 4,” “HP,” “Hawái” (with The Weeknd) and “Corazon” (with Nego do Borel), all of which hit the Billboard Hot 100. He’s also known for collaborating with music’s biggest names including Shakira on “Chantaje” in 2016 and “Clandestino” in 2018 and Madonna on “Medellín” in 2019.
Maluma has released six studio albums: "Magia" in 2012; "Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy" in 2015; "F.A.M.E." in 2018; "11:11" in 2019; "Papi Juancho" in 2020; and "The Love & Sex Tape" in 2022. He was nominated for a Latin Grammy for best new artist in 2012 and won the Latin Grammy for best contemporary pop vocal album for 2018’s "F.A.M.E." He also received a best Latin pop album Grammy nomination for 11:11 in 2020.
He has also added movie actor to his resume, voicing the character of Mariano in Disney’s animated favorite Encanto in 2021 and starring as Bastian alongside Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in Marry Me in 2022.
What Does Maluma Mean?
Maluma's stage name is an ode to his family, with the first two letters taken from each of his family members: his mom Marlii, his dad Luis, and his older sister Manuela.
Early Life and Soccer
Maluma was born Juan Luis Londoño Arias on January 28, 1994, in the Medellín, Colombia, neighborhood of Envigado. Growing up in a working-class Colombian family, his father worked at a logistics company and his mother was a homemaker.
“Since I was a kid, I would perform in front of everybody,” he told VMan. “I’d sing all of these mariachi songs to my mom, and that was something that my father couldn’t believe...that I was so young but still wanted to do these performances in front of everyone.”
Music wasn’t his only hobby. Maluma also fell for the country's favorite sport, soccer, when he was just 7 years old. “There’s a team in Colombia that is called Atlético Nacional—one of the biggest soccer teams in Colombia,” he said. “I had the opportunity to play in that team. Not quite the professional team, but almost there.”
On top of those extracurriculars, he started helping support his family at a young age by selling sandwiches and sweets at school when his dad’s business failed. But it was his parents’ divorce that had the most profound effect on him. “I was the man of the house at 10 years old. I had to comfort my mother and my sister,” he said in the 2019 YouTube Original documentary, Lo Que Era, Lo Que Soy, Lo Que Seré. “It was a time of chaos, the family was in a kind of fog.”
But it was also that time that taught him an essential lesson. “It’s what made me realize I had to work super hard so my family could have food and a house to live in,” he told Elle.
That drive propelled him toward a firm goal at age 15: either becoming Colombia’s greatest soccer star or its biggest pop sensation. “I always told him he was going to fill stadiums, whether through soccer or through music,” his sister said in the documentary.
Teenage Dreams and Finding Music
By his 16th birthday, Maluma made a major decision: he quit the soccer team. “I'm still a huge fan of sports,” he told Paper magazine. “I love exercising, and that's something that soccer gave me: discipline, constancy, perseverance, character, the ability to make decisions."
Instead, he asked his aunt to pay for studio time so he could record his first song. “I went to the studio and fell in love with the music I was doing,” he told VMan. He discovered that it was more than a hobby, but a calling, telling British GQ: “I realized that the only way I could live a happy life was making music.”
Proud of his original music, he shared it with his friends. ”They started laughing, but then they started dancing,” Maluma told Elle. “I was so confused, because I was like, 'Are they joking or do they really like the songs?' At the end, they were like, ‘Bro, you know what? We are laughing because you are talented and you are going to make it happen.’”
Though he started performing anywhere he could, including singing at quinceaneras and schools, his eyes were always set on a bigger stage. “I always wanted to be a global star,” he told L'Officiel. “[My family members] were kind of afraid I wouldn’t make it. Then I started working, and I had a lot of discipline.”
Even at the time, he knew how to promote himself. “I think that was the key, working hard and sharing my music,” he told VMan. “Social media helped me a lot. When I started my career, there were a lot of things that were getting ready to make my dream come true.” He used Twitter to spread the word and by 2010, he was lining up gigs.
“I went to so many different high schools and sang the two songs that I had at that time,” he added. “I also did the radio station, concerts and had to work very hard every day to be known in different places in Colombia and Latin America. I put my whole life to my career.”
Early Career and 'Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy'
In 2012, Maluma released his first album Magia on Sony Music Latin, which earned a gold certification in Colombia and scored him the Latin Grammy nomination for best new artist. Two years later, he made it onto the Latin pop charts with the song “La Curiosidad.”
But it was his second album, Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy, released in 2015, that propelled him to fame, debuting at number one on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums and staying on the chart for 178 weeks. According to his official biography, it combined two distinct styles—soft ballads as part of the “pretty boy” persona and reggaeton for the “dirty boy” side, which includes urban collaborations with artists like Arcangel, Farruko, Cosculluela and Alex & Fido.
Much of Maluma's early music and accompanying videos were seen as racy and sexy, but it was "Cuatro Babys” that sparked a Change.org petition for being “demeaning to women” in 2016.
Maluma's 2018 album F.A.M.E., anchored by the single “Marinero,” scored him the Latin Grammy for best contemporary pop vocal album and was his first to debut on the Billboard 200 album chart, where it remained for six weeks, peaking at No. 37. His 2019 album 11:11—known for its collaborations with everyone from Ricky Martin and Ty Dolla Sign to Madonna—was on the chart for five weeks, hitting No. 30, while 2020’s Papi Juancho (recorded during the pandemic) peaked at No. 34, but held on for 24 weeks.
On his 27th birthday in 2021, Maluma dropped the EP #7DJ (7 Días en Jamaica), as an ode to a week he spent on the island before the pandemic. He followed up in 2022 with a surprise album, The Love & Sex Tape.
Collaborations with Shakira and Madonna
Around the time Maluma released his second album, Shakira was looking for music for her new album, and Sony Music Latin chief Afo Verde suggested she team up with her labelmate and fellow Colombian. She told Billboard that her partnership with Maluma was “absolute chemistry” and “the moment the creative energy started to flow, it never stopped.”
They eventually collaborated on “Chantaje,” “Cladestino” and “Trap,” as Shakira later raved to Billboard: “Maluma is one of the most talented people I’ve met. He has this mental agility to write lyrics, melodies and the best thing is, we always agree.”
The MTV Video Music Awards in 2018 also turned into a networking event when Maluma performed “Felices los 4,” and his and Madonna’s managers arranged for them to meet in her dressing room.
“We spoke for a couple of minutes. It was a beautiful moment: I gave her a huge kiss, I took her hand, I thanked her for having made music history, I looked into her eyes and told her I was charmed to meet her,” he told Billboard. “She has a very special look in her eyes. And then I ran out to perform. Afterward, her management team called [my manager] and told him she wanted to do a song with me.”
Madonna’s song proposal bore the name of Maluma's hometown, “Medellín.” “I almost had a heart attack,” Maluma continued. “Maybe when she wrote it she had me in mind—I don’t know. I had the opportunity to write one of the main choruses and all my verses.”
Film Career: ‘Encanto’ and ‘Marry Me’
Maluma made the jump to the silver screen by voicing the character Mariano Guzmán in the 2021 Disney animated hit movie, Encanto. He loved being part of the Colombia-set film to help steer the stereotype of his country in a more positive direction. “It was amazing! It feels great when you fly to other countries and they don't talk about Pablo Escobar anymore. They don't talk about violence and drugs,” he told Allure. “For me, that's beautiful. They talk about Encanto.”
He then stepped in front of the cameras, making his on-screen movie debut in the 2022 romantic comedy Marry Me starring Hollywood heavy-hitters Lopez and Wilson, in which he played Lopez’s fiancé. When he admitted to Lopez that he was nervous on set the first day, she gave him some blunt advice. “She was like, ‘Don’t be stupid. Just be you. You know how to do it: it’s the same as when you’re on stage. He is your character,’” Maluma told British GQ, adding that the best advice she gave him was not to “overact.” “It worked, actually,” he said.
For her part, Lopez was thrilled to have Maluma in the role. “I’ve been doing movies for 25 years now, and I’ve done 40-something movies,” she told Billboard. “There have been three to four movies in my entire career where I’ve had Latino costars. So with my production company, one of the things we wanted to do with this film was have an international star who could be right there with me to make an album that was bilingual. That was a big deal for us.”
Ever since he was a kid, Maluma had a flair for style and wanted to dress himself. “When I was eight, my mom wouldn’t let me, because I’d wear hats and boots with, like, boxers and a tank top,” he told Elle. “But I’ve always wanted to select my outfits.”
In the early days of his career, he recognized how much fashion went hand-in-hand with his music. “When I started my career, I saw that there were Colombian brands that wanted to work with me,” he told L’Officiel. “They wanted to send me clothing, and I really felt like people were not only looking at me as a singer, but as a fashion icon.”
He credits his parents for always dressing well, but believes style was always inherent in his life. Maluma soon became a fashion scene regular, posing for iconic brands like Calvin Klein for its 2020 campaign (where he only wore the brand’s briefs with tube socks), sitting front row at fashion week shows, and attending the Met Gala (in custom Versace in 2021).
“He’s a man who’s bold enough to experiment and play with his style, and I find this almost as engaging as his music,” Donatella Versace told The New York Times. “He always has a very strong instinct for what he wants.”
In 2022, he debuted his first ready-to-wear fashion line Royalty by Maluma, a collaboration between Macy’s and Reunited Clothing.
Recognizing how music gave his life direction, in 2016, Maluma started a foundation, El Arte de Los Sueños, which means The Art of Dreams, to help at-risk youth connect with the arts with programs like dancing and singing lessons. Based in Medellín, his sister Manuela Londoño serves as the organization's president.
“When I started my career, I wanted to help the people who were helping me, and the people helping me were these kids from the hood—they were listening to my music, they were my fans. But they were also selling drugs, carrying guns,” he told Elle. Determined to provide opportunities to steer his community’s youth away from the dangers, he hopes to foster more creativity.
“There is a new generation with a lot of talent, and I want all of them to know that dreams do come true as I am achieving mine,” he told Billboard. “The Art of Dreams is the perfect trampoline to help young people in Colombia who can’t afford to develop their dreams.”
After all, he knows firsthand how life-changing a boost can be. “I always say that music saved my life, saved my family’s life. For me, music is everything,” he told Elle.
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