Erica Mena’s a wild card. We know that, she knows that. Then there’s the other side: a NY born hustler–something even Rich and his mom admit to in a joint interview together. But why does Erica always seem so angry? “It’s coming from a good place,” she insists. And like most hustlers, she’s had a hard-knock life. Her Underneath It All book delves more into the nitty gritty details, but we caught up with the fresh-faced beauty while in hair and makeup at the Love and Hip Hop reunion. There was no animosity, to animation. Just a sweet, “Move that luggage so she can sit down,” she said with a smile as wide as a kid at the candy shop.
VH1: Tell me what’s going on with the music?
Erica: “Where Do I Go” dropped on iTunes a few weeks back and it’s been doing pretty well. People are pretty surprised by it and they’re liking it. I got a lot of haters trying to dim it down with the whole autotune thing, but I’m also getting ready to release my single which is a club song so I’m really excited about that. This second song is bigger because I kind of did everything on my own and I think when people hear the second song they’re going to be even more surprised than the first time around.
VH1: What direction are you trying to go with the music?
Erica: I’ve always been an uptempo artist, I love house music and hip-hop. It just so happened “Where Do I Go” came to me and it felt right and as an artist you kind of have to go with what feels right even if it’s opposite of what you are intending to do. Overall the goal I think is to be the ultimate performer because that’s really what I want to be. I want to sing, act, I want to be able to do it all.
VH1: Are you looking for new management right now?
Erica: I don’t really think I need it, I think I was really smart to stick with my gut. For whatever reason I just didn’t feel right signing. I never felt comfortable to sign with Rich from jump street, never felt completely comfortable to give him the control of my career that he was asking of me. So management right now isn’t really something I’m doing a worldwide search for. If it comes my way absolutely, but I think I’m doing pretty well in the sense of making my own ruckus and noise and I don’t mind being the manager and the talent at the same time. It’s a different dynamic and people aren’t use to having to be that way so maybe we can start a new trend.
VH1: Are you and Rich still talking? Are you guy’s friends?
Erica: No, we’re not. I’m actually really happy that we’re not together; I think it’s a good decision. He wasn’t the right one for me so it ended up working out perfect. No contract and once I was done with him I could move on and don’t have to worry about initial ties or attachments.
VH1: Would you be willing to still work with him?
Erica: I don’t really think it’s healthy for us to work together. I don’t really trust him anymore and I think you could only really hurt and betray somebody so much. I don’t want to be the girl that’s always looked at as having to fight, or that is always hurt or lashing out. Clearly my relationship with Rich has been a huge rollercoaster from jump street and even though my heart was in it, I kind of had to walk away and learn a real important lesson and I think its time for me to be single for a while and enjoy life.
VH1: How do you think you’re portrayed on the show?
Erica: You guys don’t get to see every minute of the six months that we film and I do react off emotion a lot and I think that’s what comes across on camera. People think it’s crazy but I can’t help it in that moment I’m being extremely passionate and not taking no sh– and whatever it is that’s super aggressive. I get that its intimidating for people but you don’t always get to see what happened and what made me say that or what happened before that scene before the cameras came on. I know I’m definitely considered being a wild card and this and that. I think even during the craziness the intentions come from a good place.
VH1: Do you think and Lore’l could rekindle your friendship?
Erica: No, I think it was good when it was, but I think she’s definitely crossed many lines. Regardless of what she feels, talking about my son, personal things or my scenario with abuse of my son’s father. If there was any respect or I could let it go I don’t care to now.
VH1: What about Liv? It seems like there was no real problem between you two, but she was caught between you and Rich’s drama.
Erica: I think now, especially how I’m seeing things play out, Rich definitely played us both and I’m sure he probably was feeding Liv this whole scenario of him being this guy in love with this girl and I’m just this hot head. Then with me he’s like, he can’t do much with Liv. So he kind of played two roles in the sense. I can tell just by the way she reacts, Liv would never say half of that sh– to my face so he’s definitely putting some type of battery in her back and making her feel or have some type of real feelings towards me that are harsh. He’s your manager, he’s never been your man so why would you even care who he’s with and why would you think whatever happens in his personal life would affect your career which isn’t moving anyway?
VH1: When you see her today is there going to be a problem?
Erica: Well let’s just put it like this: If I don’t give them a reaction Liv is just going to be part of the stage. There’s nothing there. I can’t really breathe anymore life and I don’t have the power to bring back the dead so there’s no real thing to say to her.
VH1: What’s next for you?
Erica: Tomorrow I’m shooting my first straight-to-DVD movie. I’m working with the director who did 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying on this particular project because we’re actually going to start putting together the movie about my life, which is going to come from the book Underneath It All. The second single is coming out, we have my lipstick line “Pretty in Pink” which is doing extremely well. I’m also going to be dropping two videos and we got the t-shirt line too, the Erica Mena (muffled) shirt collaboration, that’s doing extremely well. I start the book tour on April–doing two book tours in each major city.
VH1: Tell me about the book?
Erica: The book is not a tell all. What I did was take old journals and put together my life. I’ve been through so much and I’m only 25 and I have been in this industry for 10 years. A huge part of my life hasn’t been told yet. A lot of people see me as this girl that just popped up randomly two years ago on Love and Hip Hop, but when I start to break it down all the videos I’ve done and how long I’ve really been in this game, there a lot more to it. So it gives a better understanding and it fills in the blanks for people who are watching the show and intrigued by me and still want to know more. I’m always having to defend myself when im just being myself, so now I can say, ’Here’s the book, this is who I am, read it.’ You can read how I was born, my upbringing, my childhood and how I left home at 14 modeling my first video at 16. My experiences with my son’s father, the abuse and the relationship that came after, which ended up being this affair I didn’t know I was involved in. These things just give a better understanding of who I am. It’s time I kind of let people into my world. It bothered me that people who love me always had to defend me. I’m not fazed by what people think of me, but those people who love me are. I was like, let me write a book so that this way people can understand and those that love me can say, “Well read her book,” and keep it moving. That was important to me.
VH1: If you come back next season, do you think you would do anything different?
Erica: Yes, I definitely would do things a lot more different in the sense of I would be a little bit more eye opened and maybe not react so much off of emotion sometimes, not always letting the world know how I’m feeling. At the end of the day, I’m me and I’m going to be me no matter what. I get it. People are bothered by it. It’s not common for a pretty girl to be blunt and bold and not take no s– like the way I do, but it’s take it or leave it.
VH1: Is there anything you want to let people know that they probably didn’t get to see on the show or clear up any misconceptions?
Erica: People are going to have their perception and their thoughts and I want them to and I don’t mind being the one that’s not hated because if everybody likes me I’m clearly not standing for something and I’m not being myself. I don’t mind going against the grain, I don’t mind being different, but what I want people to know is that regardless of the craziness, it does comes from a good place. I just don’t know how to sometimes properly react to the feelings that I have. I’m learning. My mistakes just so happen to be in front of the camera unlike everybody else that watches me every Monday and judges me throughout the week.
[Photos: Jennine Cusimano]