How Kat De Jesus Overcame Imposter Syndrome To Push Our Music at TikTok

Trusting your intuition is key. That’s part of Katherine “Kat” De Jesus’ philosophy, whose faith guided her to where she is today in the music industry.

Although De Jesus is only 24 years old, she doesn’t let her imposter syndrome or young age stop her from taking a seat at the table. At such a young age, the Miami native has already worked through major labels such as Sony Music (2019-2022) and Warner Records (2022), where she learned the ropes of digital marketing, social media, and fan engagement. Now, the Dominicana is working as part of TikTok’s US Latin Artist & Label Partnerships team in Los Angeles, CA, where she primarily helps independent artists and labels through music distribution and marketing – and she isn’t slowing down for anyone, not even her inner insecurity.

The reason behind her success? Having faith in herself.

Though her career timeline mirrors a perfect resume, her inner work deserves equal recognition. Despite exploring various career opportunities — and even moving across the country — in the last five years, her faith is what remains consistent and part of the motor that guides her to jump to new opportunities. De Jesus strongly believes she’s in these major music spaces for a reason – and envisions an endgame of championing others to feel the same way, especially Afro-Latinas. She strives to make it easier for girls who look like her to succeed in the music industry – and by already being a trailblazer at one of today’s most popular digital apps, she’s proving that she’s got the drive to do it.

To commemorate her fruitful career thus far—and as one of the women on Remezcla’s sophomore Major Mujeres list—we talked to De Jesus about her journey, overcoming imposter syndrome, and the legacy she is currently creating to help the next generation of Afro-Latinas.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

When was that one moment or turning point in which you felt you were in the right space?

There was never an exact moment or point. I grew up listening to Latin music: Monchy & Alexandra, Romeo Santos, Marc Anthony, [and] Prince Royce. It was in the shuffle and the hustle of just working. You sit down with yourself and realize, shoot, I am playing a part in bringing the music I grew up on into the world. And that, to me, is so rewarding. Even when it gets difficult, I remember it, and that’s when it dawned on me. It’s like, “Kat, you’re pushing your culture; you’re pushing the music that you grew up on, that you grew up dancing to and singing in the shower to.” Knowing that I play even the smallest role in doing that is the “I made it moment.” Almost like, “OK, this is the path for me.” 

So often, we see people advancing in their careers or making “big moves” on social media, but it’s rare we hear or see those introspective moments in which a person considers quitting or transitioning — did you ever have a moment like that (if so, please explain) and how did you overcome it?

I have these moments often. The music industry is complex, and going back to the last question, whenever it gets hard, I remind myself that I’m playing an important part in bringing the music I grew up on that brings people together into the world. That’s what I ground myself in. I’ve thought about quitting multiple times. I’ve vocalized to people [that] the music industry isn’t for me. But I, again, ground myself in knowing that we work in music. How fun is that? Everyone loves music. Music makes the world go round – and Latin music at that. It is a privilege to be able to bring joy to people through music. 

[And] the most challenging part is that at the end of the day, I’m only 24, and I feel like I am sometimes sitting in a seat that I don’t belong in or that other people don’t see, it’s like “how’d she get there?” But many people I admire in my life have told me we’re called to live an unexplainable life. And through my career, it is a little bit unexplainable. Again, I’m 24. I’ve moved through places that I never thought I’d move through, but I think I’m very much someone of faith that if a door opens and it stays open, I trust and know that I’m supposed to be there and I’m supposed to walk through that door – and that’s how I approach things and pick myself up when things get hard: You’re here for a reason, you’re doing something fun. Just go for it, learn, grow, and enjoy the process.

Were there any mentors or other women who inspired or helped you get to where you are now?

So many. I feel so blessed and lucky to have the women I’ve had in my corner. When you’re a beginner, it’s so important to have people connect you with others, provide you with knowledge, and just believe in you. Besides the wonderful women I’ve met in the industry, my mom is my biggest cheerleader. She is the absolute best person in the world and has sacrificed so much. So, just having her in my corner means the world to me. But then to also have women in the industry who won’t get territorial, who will pour into you, give you knowledge – who will just believe in you – that to me has been incredible. 

I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for the women who pushed me, taught me, said my name in rooms, and believed in me. Not only that, I’ve been very lucky to have other young females like me, who were like my vent buddies whom I can talk to openly, and we trauma bond and things like that. So that’s also been great for me to have wonderful women, whether they are older, more experienced, or at my level — to have that community to talk to and pour into each other.

I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for the women who pushed me, taught me, said my name in rooms.

What’s one of the biggest hardships you’ve faced as a woman — or even as a Latina — in the music industry?

Being a young Afro-Latina in a predominantly white Latino male space has been difficult. You often have to put in that extra effort or be that louder voice so that people hear you and listen to you. Women have made it much farther than we were in the industry years ago. But I want to see more women who look like me – que tenga el pelo rizado, que tengan piel morena, que hablen español – in higher spaces of leadership and the industry overall so that I feel more comfortable so that I feel seen. I feel heard in the same way that other women who look like me want to feel seen and heard as well.

We always have to put in that extra effort, sound even more eloquent, or go the extra mile just to prove that our experience and what we’re saying are invaluable. Oftentimes, a battle that I have to fight within myself is one in which I offer a different perspective. It’s not a weak perspective, but a different one. That’s been the biggest challenge. It’s navigating that space where you don’t see people who look like you or maybe share that same experience and find a level to relate to. It’s a self-battle more than anything. Like, Kat, you belong here. You belong here. Say what you need to say. Communicate your ideas even though you’re the only young woman in the room or the only young Black woman in the room.

I need to share my experience so that other women who look like me and young women who want to make it to the space can feel encouraged to do so. I have to put my challenge and inner insecurity or battle off to the side and be that bigger person to inspire others to join the ride.

What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?

I feel like I’m a beginner all over again – and that took a lot for me to come to peace with. I’m now in a role at TikTok, where there are many new things. I come from a major record label background. So when you come from that into somewhere so fast-moving – a tech company like TikTok – you’re constantly on your toes, learning a lot, being stretched, being challenged, and it’s in the best way. What excites me is that I’m learning so much at such an accelerated pace that I’m truly excited to see the kind of professional I will be in the next year, in the next five years, coming out of this. It’s molding me. It’s making me a better professional. It’s making me a better music industry leader. It’s a cool space to be in. I’m doing things I’ve never done before. I’m taking on projects and tasks that 18-year-old Kat would’ve never thought she would’ve done.

We’re seeing more and more women artists and music creatives speak out about how their work went unprotected or their trust was abused in the industry — what has been your perspective on this, if any? Is this something you’ve seen happen?

We have to be willing to question the norm and challenge the norm. I had this conversation with someone [saying] it’s incredible to see trailblazers like Karol G changing the industry. And you see Anitta as well where they have years and years of relationships, and all of a sudden, they’re breaking away to do their own thing: own their masters – and it’s women doing that. 

That is an indicator that women are recognizing our value and our rights, understanding the industry, and having the confidence to challenge it. It makes me proud as a woman. Seeing women setting that precedent, educating artists, and not taking anything less than they deserve is super inspiring.

What can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?  

We need more women in leadership positions. You often see women in leadership positions in digital marketing, social media, or PR, but we need to take up spaces that men typically take up. We need more women negotiating record deals. We need more women engineers, producers, and product managers. We need more women calling the shots and in leadership positions so that the next generation of women knows that it’s not only these spaces that [they] can take up. [They] can slip into any space that [they] desire and want to. Having women in those positions is going to encourage everyone else and all the women who come after us that they could have a seat anywhere they want.

We need more women negotiating record deals. We need more women engineers, producers, and product managers.

But it’s not just men; women can also affect each other’s journey or success. Can you explain why a crabs in a barrel mentality — “If I can’t have it, neither can you” — is harmful to women?

When women become successful per se, there are two ways they can approach it. They can operate from either a place of gratitude or entitlement. When you operate from a place of entitlement, it’s almost like, “Oh, I have to work. I have to work so hard to be here. I have to go through all this to get to where I am today. I have to fight through with so many people to get to where I am,” and you make it a lot about yourself. Versus when you’re coming from a place of gratitude, you’re saying: “I’m grateful for the people who have brought me to where I am today, who have connected me to other people who have pushed me, who have allowed me to learn.”

You’re focusing more on the “we” than the “I.” When it comes to that crab-in-a-barrel mentality, we need more women to operate from a place of gratitude, knowing that how we’ve made it so far is because other women are grateful for where they’re at, and using that gratitude and level of influence to bring other women along with them.

A crab-in-a-barrel mentality doesn’t elevate us, empower us, or keep us moving forward. It doesn’t allow women to say other women’s names in important rooms or in front of people of influence. It makes you very closed off and independent. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat. We all have our struggles. We all have the things that we need to get through.

What do you hope to personally change about the music industry, especially for the next generation of women in this space?

I want to be a light in the music industry. I want to lead with a lot of kindness. I want to lead with a lot of humility. Not just so that women see it, but so that men and women alike can see, it’s like, “Hey, you can succeed in this without, and make it somewhere in this industry, per se, without being cutthroat, without being transactional, without being unforgiving.” You can have authority and still be teachable. You can be humble. You can be serving; you can be a 20-something-year-old girl and still have a lot of unique insight and wisdom.

As women, we can love hair and makeup and still be intelligent in the same way that other people and women have helped me in my career. I want to be that person for other women. I want to be that person to help women get the job faster, get to that leadership role faster, and get into spaces where we typically aren’t quicker. If I’ve made it where I am today this way, I want to make sure that other women can make it even easier, and [they] make that path even easier for everyone.