I’ve got to make sure the following is added to my eulogy: Julee’s soaring journalism career included interviewing hip-hop icon Latto for a cover story while both women lay naked, side by side, getting a couples massage at the famed Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s in New York City.

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No cap. But let me back up: Less than 24 hours prior to this historic event, one of us (not me) was already nearly naked on the set of this very photo shoot, slipping in and out of skintight gowns, body stockings, and a stunning bespoke Chrishabana chrome breastplate with a level of “it’s givin’ bad bitch” that the world has come to crave from her. As I watched the curve-clinging clothes give way to nothing at all, I’ve got to admit, I was a little surprised.

How could this be Latto’s first time posing nude?

I think we can all strongly agree that inhibitions aren’t part of her brand. This is, after all, the same woman who raps in her 2020 hit “Muwop,” “Film him eatin’ this coochie / I swear my life is a movie,” and in 2022’s “Wheelie,” “Pretty, tight, and sticky / Fuck him once, he won’t forget me.” It’s that unapologetic bravado coupled with her slick Southern twang that keeps her at the tippity-top of the music charts. Last fall, her single “Big Energy” became the longest-charting rap song by a solo female artist in Billboard’s Hot 100 history. And lest we forget, *the* Mariah Carey hopped on the remix, giving Latto—or as the government knows her, Alyssa Michelle Stephens—the type of cosign many folks would do fucked-up things for.

The rest of the Atlanta native’s résumé reads equally bold: There was the stint as a drag racer. The first-place trophy on the inaugural season of the reality competition show The Rap Game. The multiple Grammy Award nominations. The stage name change, from Miss Mulatto to Latto, which is both short for “lottery” (to ring in a new chapter of “good fortune,” she says) and a public declaration of her pride in being a Black woman. But all of this badassery may just be background to the real power, the real genius of Latto—the boldness she makes us feel.

Jacob & Co. earrings and ring. Messika Paris double ring.

Go ahead, put on one of her songs. I’ll wait. One minute you’re an overwhelmed, full-time working mom of two (just me?), the next you’re a self-assured superhero who suffers zero fools. A sexual goddess, a take-no-shit boss, a legend who can twerk like a pro while dripping in diamonds (duh). Call it what you want—self-esteem or self-delusion—but I love it, and I know you do too. It’s the kind of magic (dare I say “empowerment”…but, like, the actual kind) that makes a person think, I mean, of course I’m going to get naked for a work assignment.

That’s not to say doubts won’t creep back in, even for Latto herself. During our massage, as I struggle to stay mentally composed between the deep-tissue kneading and kiki-ing with my confidence sage, Latto admits she has those moments too. The ones where uncertainty or anxiety momentarily take over. Her coping mechanism, her way to push through? Exactly what we’re doing right now.

How often do you schedule a good rubdown?

I do not play with my massages. I get them twice a week, if I can. When I’m in L.A., I have this guy come to the hotel. He’s super flexible with my schedule. I literally just had him come over at 1 o’clock in the morning after I landed.

Really, this came from my little sister.1 She is my rock, my everything. But I was like, “Man, I don’t want to lie there. I’ll get bored. I’ve got ADHD. My anxiety isn’t going to let me.” But I really fell in love with it. Massages are more mental than physical for me.

Respectfully, I never even acknowledged mental health before being famous. It’s not that I didn’t believe in it, it just had never crossed my mind. But being in the limelight, I’m understanding the importance of mental health, me-time, and self-care.

1. Latto’s sister, Brooklyn Nikole, has a makeup line called Beauty by Brooklyn, which makes some killer lip glosses, just FYI.

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Is this the first time you’ve gotten a couples massage with someone you’re not coupled with?

Me and my sister do it all the time. We go in there asking for a couples massage and we joke that they probably think we’re a couple.

I can tell you and your family are tight.

I say this all the time, I really don’t know what I would do without my mom and my sister.2 That’s probably my biggest fear—not having them with me. I go to them when I have any problems. I don’t trust other people. So it’s like they’re my escape—my only escape.

2. Brooklyn hits the road with Latto a lot, while Mom mostly stays in Atlanta. But Latto texts and FaceTimes her mama every single day.

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I’ve heard that you like to spoil your family and that it never feels like they’re mooching.

I don’t let them pay for nothing. I have to tell them to take my money. Like, my mom, she bought me a diamond heart necklace with our picture in it. I know she spent some money I gave her, probably for her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, something, to buy that chain.

And I’m like, “Girl, why is you spending your money that I’m giving you for you on me?” I get mad. I’m like, “I can buy this. I just want you all to be there for me.” As mad as I was, I cried like a baby when I opened that box.

St. John trench coat. Giuseppe Zanotti sandals. Messika Paris earrings. Ali Weiss rings.

She must be so proud of you. I’ve gotta say, listening to your music makes me feel so damn sexy and strong!

That’s fire, because when I’m recording, the goal is to give you confidence. To give you an escape from reality. Like, “Okay, I go to my 9-to-5, I’m bored all the time,” and it’s like, “No, put this on and loosen up a little bit.” It gives the woman the power.

preview for Latto Needed A DRINK To Calm Her Nerves Painting This Model

Did your own confidence come after fame, or did you always understand your worth?

I’ve always been more alpha than the average female. I don’t know if that’s the Capricorn in me. It’s kind of by nature and then also how I grew up. Me and my sister grew up in a two-parent household. Neither of our parents went to college. I just watched them hustle and make a way for themselves. My father was very much in my life. He raised two very secure, confident, “I know what I want” females. It gave me that confidence, like anything is possible. And then it just kind of bled over into relationships too.

And into your music—it reinforces that in a heterosexual relationship, the woman shouldn’t only be submissive or do whatever it takes to “get a man.” Your songs scream that we’re the prize.

That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. I feel like a lot of my lyrics are us being the prize and them having to conform to us versus us having to conform to the man and his ways and his rules. It’s more so like, “No, this time it’s my way or the highway, buddy.”

LaQuan Smith gown. Chrishabana breastplate from LaQuan Smith’s spring/summer 2023 collection. Uniform Object earrings. Buddha Mama ring (right). Gismondi 1754 ring (left, pointer). Ritique wrap ring (left, ring). David Yurman ring (left, pinkie).

I know you get a lot of peace from your romantic relationship. You talk about having a boyfriend3 but won’t reveal who he is. How come?

If something is special to me, I’m going to keep it close to me because everything else has to be front and center about my life.

3. The two lovebirds have known each other since Latto was a teenager.

Does he ever fly out to a show to surprise you or do that sort of thing?

Yes, that’s definitely happened before, but it’s not a consistent thing. I think we find the beauty in separation sometimes because it makes us miss each other.

For sure, but do you ever wish you looked out into the audience and he was there rocking out?

I be thinking that, but my privacy is more important. I can’t have people putting two and two together. This is the longest relationship I’ve ever been in.

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Are you the jealous type?

You know what, I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy. I let him have his time and he lets me have mine. We trust each other. When he’s at home, like now, he’s probably gambling with his friends. I let him do him. We’ve built that trust, and I think people will probably be caught off guard or shocked at who I am in a relationship versus my public persona.

How so?

Because people think I’m so tough because I’m super confident and dominant. In this relationship at least, I’m way more comfortable with taking the passenger seat and letting him lead because he lets me be myself—and I can still be my alpha self. But I respect him as a man to play the man role. And I’m really in my soft girl era.

I can see from your Instagram page that you love to cook for him.4

He loves when I make food. They be trying to crack on me online and he be dead laughing like, “What food ain’t good?” That man cleans the bone.

4. I’m obsessed with Latto’s “Soul Food Sunday” Reels. In March, she posted one of her cooking turkey wings, white rice, green beans, and creamed corn. She signed off with, “I’m starting to feel bad for you bitches. I can fuck. I can suck. I can cook. It’s not fair. What can’t I do?” Amen.

Di Petsa custom dress. D’Accori sandals. Uniform Object earrings. Tiffany & Co. bangle. Ritique spiral rings (left and right). Lionheart ring (left).

Do you want kids someday?

I want to be a mom so bad. Let me tell you, I think moms are superheroes. Man, I literally idolize motherhood. Like, with Mother’s Day, I get all my friends that have kids, my grandmas, my aunties, cousins, anyone who’s a mom around me, I send them flowers and gifts. I don’t play. I send my assistant to Chanel to get, like, 10 bags for everybody I know. I’m obsessed. My TikTok algorithm is all moms talking about their experiences and packing like, “Get ready with me.” Moms cleaning up after their kids. It’s so weird.

Sounds like you’re manifesting to me.

I’m not going to feel like I made it for real until I have my kids, I’m married, I just got my house out in the country, and I’m just ducked off with my little family.

I love that. Rihanna’s got everybody out here having baby fever too. And doing it back-to-back!

Yes. That’s why I love RiRi down. Cardi did it too. And Yung Miami. I feel like they kind of supersede the stigma that it’s over for women when you have a baby—like your career is over. They give me inspiration for real. They make me feel like I can do it too one day when the time is right, you feel me?

Totally. What was your first reaction when you heard we wanted to shoot you nude?

My label manager hit me and asked, “Are you open to doing this?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m open. It just has to be tastefully done.” That’s why during the shoot, my eyes are glued to the monitor.5 My lyrics are vulgar and explicit but tastefully done, at least in my opinion. I wanted the pictures to be as well. Not just boom-bam right in your face but more like a tease. Like you’re imagining me being fully naked and not really seeing it for real. I like the fantasy aspect to it. I felt like the prettiest girl in the world, like that’s the best I’ve ever looked.

5. We placed a screen within eyeshot for Latto so she could see exactly what the photographer was capturing.

Your body is such a major part of your brand. Especially in an industry that puts so much stock in physical appearance, for better or for worse.

I’m young right now. I don’t have real responsibilities as far as kids and a husband. I feel like it’s the right time to embrace how my body looks—and before I have kids and wrinkle up, I’m showing it off while I can, boo.

Everyone always asks what my parents think about the sexy clothes I wear. My mama is here for it. She loves it! She’s like, “Girl, do it now!” She had me at 15 years old and wishes that she could have flaunted her body before kids. And then she turned around and had my sister at 19. She’s my biggest advocate.

It’s gotta be tough having all eyes on you. But it’s your job. And you’ve invested a lot in your body—from plastic surgery to working out and eating right.

I got a BBL in 2020. I also got 360 lipo. That’s on my stomach, back, sides, and whole torso. But then you’ve got to maintain it. So I just hired a trainer. I tweeted the other day that I was almost going to get a round two of surgery and then I was like, let me just get a trainer instead. If you look on my Instagram, you’ll see I’ve always worked out—before and after the surgery. But I will leave early or not push myself as hard. Having a trainer holds you accountable.

You’ve also been very vocal about being a girls’ girl and helping younger female rappers. Have you felt like fellow female rappers—like your friends Yung Miami and Cardi—have been the same to you?

For sure. For sure. I get messages in my DMs all the time. Them telling me to stop responding to trolls, inviting me to birthday parties, album release parties. And a lot of DMs from Cardi especially like, “Stay focused. Don’t let no one trick you off your spot. I’ve been there before.” And just giving me insight from stuff that they’ve already seen and done.

But folks on the internet can be cruel. How often are you reading the comments on social media—especially the negative ones?

This is the thing, I’ll be good if I just keep working. When I’m working, I don’t even have my phone. But as soon as I get back in my bed—when my day is over with—now I’m scrolling and reading. I just got to find something else to do with my time than social media.

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Does it make you sad, mad, frustrated, or all of the above?

I get overwhelmed and overstimulated. That’s when my anxiety is at a peak. I’ll literally feel my heart beating, and I’ll be like, Relax! But I just gotta learn how to deal with it because it’s not going to get any easier. I’m just going to get more famous. If you’re not strong enough to see stuff and not respond, then you just need to get off.

When you do respond, though, it’s iconic. Like when people were accusing you of wearing the same thong over and over, when actually you just had several pairs of the same design. I love how you attempted to auction them on eBay!

You all see me with these Birkins, see me on these jets, see me post these cars, and you think I can’t afford multiple pairs of underwear? But what’s so funny is now they think that I’m trolling. I literally only wear these panties from Target. It’s the nude pair, the black pair, and the cheetah-print pair. I love them. I can afford whatever panties I want. But I like them panties from Target that are $5. Before I go on tour, I go clear the section. I’ll get all the size medium thongs from Target.

You also addressed a situation in which you were detained for carrying a firearm at the airport.6 Do you still feel like you need to protect yourself in that way?

This is the thing: I just got to the point where I have security with me, but he’s not with me 24/7. My friend was just cussing me out on FaceTime because it was 11 o’clock at night and me and my sister were going to Walmart in my orange Lamborghini to get PlayStation remote controllers. I still like to live a very regular life, so I do have to carry. That’s protection. I grew up in a protected household like that. We know that just by nature, as soon as I could carry, I carried. I still do. People gotta understand my upbringing. I think they see a pretty face and just assume they know your life.

6. The incident happened more than a year ago but recently entered the news cycle thanks to a remix of Mello Buckzz’s “Boom, Pt. 2,” on which Latto raps, “I got locked up in the airport / Goddamn forgot the gun.” Fans asked her to share more details, which she did on Twitter: “Went to LAX w a loaded glock 17 in my Birk got locked & let out in a few hours lmaooo.”

Syndical Chamber custom dress. Messika Paris earrings and hand bracelet. Ippolita rings.

Has the new album been taking over your life? After the soaring success of 777, it must be nerve-racking to drop the follow-up.

At first, I was feeling a lot of pressure and I think it was hindering my creative process. Then I got myself in the space where I’m like, You’ve been here. You’ve done it. People keep forgetting the fact that I’ve been rapping since I was 8 years old. My first moment was not “Big Energy.” That was just another moment. This now has been the best recording process thus far in my career.

Are there songs on the album that are near and dear to your heart?

I have a song about my dad on there. I’m still thinking, Do I even want to put it out? I’ll just ride around by myself at nighttime and cry to the song.

Why do you cry?

Because it’s taken so much to get to this point where I have the freedom to rap about what I want to rap about. Versus chasing a hit. I’m finally making music that’s like, I don’t give a fuck because it means something to me. Y’all are going to feel that emotion. Whether or not you can relate to it, you’re going to feel what I’m saying just because it’s so pure. The song is me being probably the most vulnerable I’ve ever been.

Are you nervous for your dad to hear it?

That’s a good question. I’m nervous for him to hear it. I hope he understands that I’m an artist. It’s never any ill intent. I love my daddy to death. I just don’t want him to take it as I’m trying to shit on him. I’m going through a situation with my dad right now and I made a song about it because that’s what’s on my heart.

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Do you hope that when he hears it, there will be a reconciliation for you both?

Yeah, I do. And the older I get, I miss my daddy. The older I get, I be like, dang, you feel that void. You really do.

When was the moment that you thought to yourself, Yo, I’ve made it?

Going to the Grammys for sure. I brought my mom and my sister. Another was going to set with Mariah Carey. She put all new lyrics on the track. That’s going to be something I’m never going to let go. Like, bitches just don’t have songs with Mariah Carey.7

7. Latto said her studio session with Mariah to record the “Big Energy” remix started at 3 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.

Let’s not forget that you didn’t only go to the Grammys—you were nominated for two Grammys.

I’m so grateful for my Grammy nominations, and I really mean this. Where I’m from, I already won. That’s why I think people put more pressure on me than I put on myself sometimes. I come from Clayton County outside Atlanta—there is nobody from ClayCo doing this shit. I’m doing it, period.

Do you have any other dreams? Beyond music.

I want to get in my acting bag, because I see myself going out like Rihanna. I don’t see myself doing music forever. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve been doing it for so long already. Sometimes you just want more. I just did my first little acting gig the other day and I fell in love with that.8 I like more serious roles.

8. Keep your eyes peeled for a Latto cameo on Freeform’s Grown-ish.

You want to cry, throw shit, and yell at someone?

Yes. Especially yell. I want to be somebody’s wife. And when they come home, I’ll be like, “Where the fuck you been at?” Yeah.

Okay, last question. What do you want your legacy to be? When everything’s said and done, when folks google “Latto,” what would you want to come up?

“She’s for the people.” I feel people don’t know my heart enough—they don’t know my Christmas and ClayCo events. I just gave back a quarter ticket last Christmas.9 It’s going to sound so corny and cliché, but it’s like I only get fulfilled when I do stuff for other people.

9. Latto launched the Win Some Give Some Foundation in 2021 to provide at-risk youth with resources and offer self-esteem support. She donated more than $250K this past holiday season to families in her hometown.

You also have your own day in Clayton County—Latto Day. How should folks celebrate?

Play the lottery. Because I’m good luck.

But are we also twerking in the streets?

We twerking in the streets. We do that every day though.

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Header image: Vex gloves. Commando thong. Windowsen boots. Jacob & Co. necklace.

Stylist: Cassie Anderson. Hair: Ashanti Lation for Opus Beauty using Kiss Colors & Care. Makeup: Melissa Ocasio for Opus Beauty using Lilly Lashes. Manicure: Marietta for Opus Beauty using Aprés. Tailoring: Susan Balcunas. Set design: Chrisean Rose Studios. Executive producer: Abbey Adkison. Senior producer: Liesl Lar. Director of photography: Janet Upadhye. Sound: Richard Buonagurio. Editor: Sarah Ng.

Headshot of Julee Wilson
Julee Wilson

Julee Wilson is Beauty Editor at Large at Cosmopolitan. Previously, Julee was Beauty Director at Cosmo and Global Beauty Director at Essence and has held various editorial positions at Huffington Post and Real Simple. She counts herself lucky AF that she gets to play with beauty products for a living and tell dope stories. And if you’re as obsessed with beauty as she is, make sure to follow her on Instagram for plenty of product recs, natural hair inspo, skincare testing, and Black girl magic shenanigans.