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How rising musician Niko finds strength in her Latin American heritage

To celebrate Dr Martens’ ‘Made Strong’ campaign, the California-based singer-songwriter talks to us about her background and finding inspiration

At some point in most teenagers’ lives, they own, or at the very least desire, a pair of Dr Martens. Ten years ago, musician Niko Rubio was one of those kids but unlike most of her peers, the now-22-year-old wore her first pair of Dr Martens for her debut appearance on television. Wearing a pair of 1460 boots on La Voz Kids, the Spanish version of The Voice Kids, the moment marked the start of the Californian native’s career in music.

Now, in a full circle moment Niko is one of the grunge shoewear brand’s 14 ambassadors for its latest ‘Made Strong’ campaign. Celebrating a new generation of Dr Martens wearers who embody the rebellion in self-expression each ambassador uses their craft to redefine vulnerability and methods of manifesting one’s strength.

Singing in both Spanish and English, Niko is determined to not let her musical journey be dictated by an attempt to fit into any preconceived mould. Instead, her music allows room for an exploration of her identity. “I wanted to be part of a new generation of Latin women that is so strong right now,” she explained. Just doing whatever they want. Not so concerned with traditions and making mom and dad proud, but making themselves proud.”

Below Niko tells us about herself, finding strength and the importance of embracing her culture.

Could you give us a bit of background on how you first got involved in music? 

Niko: I first got involved with music when I was ten or so because my grandpa wanted me to sing on a dancing horse (Joan Sebastian-style FYKYK) for his 50th birthday party. I said yes. That day I fell in love with performing but I never sang on horseback again because... well that was hard. I fell in love with Mexican Norteño and banda and went on La Voz Kids when I was 12 and never stopped performing and writing. I’ve been involved with music ever since.

What does strength mean to you?

Niko: Strength to me is being true to who you are. If you’re changing, evolving, and growing, then you’re strong as hell.

Where do you get your strength from?

Niko: I get my strength from my family. My mom and grandparents raised me to chase my dreams and never questioned them. they taught me to never take a no as an answer and to always push for what I want.

You speak passionately about your heritage and culture, how has it helped you find your voice?

Niko: My heritage and culture are a huge reason I found my voice. I’m a proud Latina, Mexican and Salvadorian. I grew up speaking Spanish, I loved helping my grandma and grandpa cook Mexican food from scratch and riding horses with my grandpa. I started singing because of my grandparents' love for music. Once they figured out, I could sing they didn’t let me shut up. I barely knew how to speak Spanish, so they taught me, and they taught me about Norteños, Banda and Mariachi. If there was a mariachi at the restaurant, you better believe my grandma made me go up on stage and sing with them. It was so hard for me, but it helped me become who I am today, fearless.

How do you approach your personal style with the same fearlessness as your music?

Niko: I approach my personal style fearlessly by just being okay with making mistakes! I love a crazy risk just as much as a classic look. I guess it’s all about the vibe of the day. If I’m feeling ugly, I’ll try twice as hard to do my hair and make-up and get into something sexy to remind myself I’m that girl.

What has working with Dr Martens been like for you?

Niko: Working with Dr Martens has been a blessing because they’ve been a part of my life since I was a kid. I wore my first docs on La Voz Kids when I was 12 (I styled myself too, I was very proud) with a pink and burgundy striped sweater dress with a pink free people slip-under and my beat-up floral docs. It was all the talk in seventh grade, I know little me would be so proud of 22-year-old Niko.

Watch her campaign video below.