Introducing Byrdie Boy: our series here to break outdated perceptions of men and beauty. We'll be highlighting the routines, product picks, and musings of cool guys with a unique POV, so our male and man-aligned readers can learn about skincare, makeup, and hair from a trusted, inclusive source. Next up: J Balvin, Medellín-born musician, and Chief Dream Officer and Co-Founder of OYE.
You may know Grammy-nominated J Balvin from his jaw-dropping and ever-changing red carpet hairdos (like a neon green geometric buzz cut for the 2022 Met Gala), or from his hits like La Canción or Mi Gente that everyone from TikTok teens to nightclub-goers love. Either way, he’s an icon through and through. Sure, life may seem easy-going for a person in his position, but J Balvin is honest about how much blood, sweat, and tears go into creative work, and has publicly discussed his struggles with mental health.
On September 22, Balvin adds “Chief Dream Officer” and Co-Founder to his resume with OYE—which means "listen" in Spanish—a bilingual wellness app that aims to transform emotions into creative actions for its users. The app provides serviceable content that ranges from emotional check-ins to goal-setting exercises, in an attempt to help its members use "creative wellness" so that they can live out their aspirations, no matter how big or small. And the best part? The Latinx-founded app offers content in both English and Spanish, broadening accessibility to both wellness and creativity.
Below, Balvin opens up about the importance of emotional language, how he connects his emotions to his creativity, and, of course, the one beauty product he can’t live without.
Tell me about your upbringing in Medellín, Colombia. How did it inspire you to delve into creativity at the start of your career?
"Medellín is an incredible city and has been a huge source of inspiration for me. It’s my home, and it’s in my DNA. To me, it represents good energy, vibes, vibrant colors, joy, and faith. Today, Medellín is widely recognized as one of the most creative, healthy cities in the world. That’s essentially the same transformation that so many people around the world today are looking to make for themselves: to move from challenges to vitality, and Medellín can be an inspiration to people everywhere."
What do you wish younger J Balvin had at his disposal to help him create while caring for his mental health?
"When I was growing up, the topic of mental health was so taboo. When you talked about your struggles, anxiety, or depression, you were [labeled as] ‘crazy.’ I wish that people would have been more open about this topic, and there would have been more ways to seek help."
"This is really what inspired me to create OYE. The app features a range of practices—from meditations to movement practices, to conversation guides—that can help people create their own worlds of wellness and make creative wellness part of their everyday lives. We don’t just feel good or bad; there are so many different feeling—and getting to know them and understand how to transform them into creative actions is so powerful. Developing emotional language, literacy, and self-knowledge early in life—really, at any stage in life—can really set you up for success."
Tell me more about OYE’s mission. Why was so important to create a bilingual app, and what does the app mean to you?
"OYE’s mission is to help the world feel better by expanding the amount of listening that people do—to themselves and others. It’s one thing to talk about mental health, but it’s another to help people find mental wellness to better themselves.
"I’ve built my career as an artist performing in Spanish, and it’s important that anything and everything I do is inclusive of my Latinx community. So, I always knew OYE had to be Spanish first. But I also wanted OYE to be inclusive of non-Spanish-speaking audiences, like my music, so that’s why we made it in English as well. From Latin America to the world, OYE is on a mission to make creative wellness part of everyday life for all the people out there who want to feel better and follow their light."
What does the link between mental health and creativity look like to you?
"For me, mental health and creativity are very linked. When you have your mind right, your creativity, and your vibe, and your surroundings are better. Our thoughts and feelings shape our experience of the world, our behaviors, and how we show up in relationships. Exploring the connection between how we feel, what we think, and what we create is one of the most amazing, incredible journeys that you can experience as a human being."
Other than making or writing music, are there any other art forms you go to when you need a mental health boost?
"Meditation and exercise are very important for my mental health boosts. Outside of that, I love exploring and using my creativity with fashion and art. I recently launched a sneaker and apparel collaboration with Nike Air Jordan that specifically celebrated creative wellness and the ups and downs of my lifelong mental and emotional health journey."
You have some of the most iconic hair—how do you use beauty as a way to express your emotions?
"Beauty is a way of self-expression. I have an amazing barber, and I like to use my hair as a canvas to express myself!"
Are there any beauty products you cannot live without?
"I really love skincare—I like to try different moisturizers. Pharrell is my friend and a huge inspiration for me in many ways, and that young skin is definitely one of them [laughs]."
What does an ideal mental health day off look like to you?
"An ideal mental health day for me would include meditation and walking outside to breathe in fresh air. Though honestly, just one day can’t be all. It's about consistency and making sure you’re taking care of your mind [every day] like any other part of your body."
What’s next for J Balvin or OYE?
"I want to keep pushing, keep dreaming and keep trying to make the world a better place. We want to get OYE into the hands of as many people as we possibly can, so from now through the end of October, we’re offering 1-month free trials to all new members. Our vision is to build one of the leading purpose-driven companies in the world, and we are just getting started."