Born in Toronto, Jessie Reyez discovered her passion for music at a young age listening to her father's guitar. As a child of Colombian immigrants, Reyez draws often on Latin American themes in her music, blending R&B, soul, and Latin pop that makes a listener sit up and take notice.

Reyez’s unique voice has put her on a path to become one of Toronto’s music icons.

In a black and white photo, Jessie Reyez shows the peace sign with her right hand, which is held in front of her face, while backstage at the JUNO Awards. Her hair is up in a messy bun and she is wearing a baggy white sweatshirt.

Jessie Reyez at the 2018 JUNO Awards in Vancouver, British Columbia

Photo by Ryan Bolton

Colombian Roots

Colombian Inspiration

Born in 1991 to parents who immigrated to Canada from Colombia, Jessie Reyez honours her Colombian heritage throughout her music. Reyez grew up listening to Latin music. As a child, Reyez often dressed up as iconic Cuban singer Celia Cruz, singing along to her songs.

Known as "La Guaracha de Cuba", Celia Cruz was the queen of salsa music. Heard in dance halls and clubs all over the world, salsa highlights Caribbean musical experimentation.  

Beyond her Colombian heritage, Jessie looks to several styles of music to inform her writing and music. She has cited musical influences as ranging from the blues-jazz-R&B blend of Amy Winehouse, to the soul music of Otis Redding, to the reggae of Bob Marley, as well as Latin artists like Cruz and Carlos Vives. All of these influences inspire Reyez’s unique sound. 

Celia Cruz stands between two posts in a photography studio dressed in a shimmery strapless mermaid-style dress. She looks and smiles at the camera with each hand holding one of the posts. A handwritten notes on the photo reads "Con toda simpatia para Chachita un recuerdo de Celia Cruz 1957"

A 1957 portrait of Celia Cruz (1925-2003), one of the most popular Latin American artists of the 20th century and a musical influence of Jessie Reyez. Known as the "Queen of Latin Music", Cruz released 37 studio albums during her career and was awarded two Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards.

Photo by Ibrahim Arce (Narcy Studios photographer)

Remix Project
Logo for The Remix Project

Courtesy of The Remix Project

The Remix Project

While living in Toronto, Jessie Reyez participated in The Remix Project, an incubator that provides necessary resources for teens from underserved communities to advance their careers in creative industries. At the Project, Reyez met singer Daniel Daley, one half of the Canadian R&B group dvsn, who provided her with advice on song writing and helped her to develop connections in the music industry. 

Hard Earned Hit

A Hard-Earned Hit

Through The Remix Project, Reyez developed her music and worked to be discovered by a record label. Jessie also performed for donations at public spaces like Toronto's bustling Kensington Market. She made friends with DJs, exchanged mixtapes while bartending, and made as many connections to Toronto’s music scene as possible. 

Reyez's hard work paid off with her hit 2016 single “Figures”, which rose to number 58 on the Canada Hot 100 List in 2017 and was certified double platinum by Music Canada. 


Listen: Figures

I'm the bad guy 'cause I can't learn to trust
Love figures
You say sorry once and you think it's enough

— Jessie Reyez


This online exhibition uses third-party applications including Spotify and YouTube. Check with your organization’s web administrator if you are unable to access content from these channels in the exhibition.

A True Story Content

A True Story

Many of Reyez's songs have touched on difficult themes about the music industry.  

In April 2017, Reyez released a music video of her song "Gatekeeper" on YouTube. The video, titled "Gatekeeper: A True Story", depicted a scene of sexual assault that Reyez had experienced involving a music industry producer.

Toronto-based director Peter Huang helped Reyez recreate the experience for the video: a choice they both wrestled with: "We were kind of on the fence about it being like more of a surreal and abstract video," Huang said. "So we decided to actually go more toward what happened to her." At the time the video was released, Reyez hadn't revealed the identity of her assaulter.

A True Story Video

A True Story


This online exhibition uses third-party applications including Spotify and YouTube. Check with your organization’s web administrator if you are unable to access content from these channels in the exhibition.

"Gatekeeper: A True Story (The Short Film)" by Jessie Reyez. Directed by Peter Huang. Please note: This third party video does not provide closed captions.

View Transcript

I like every little girl dreams of being
something which goes up some little
girl's dream about being lawyers some
dream about being mommies and I jump a
ball being a singer
about five years ago I'd been working on
my music what I was bartending at the
time I wasn't really getting any
traction in the extent of my music was
me busking at the beach and be writing
and writing and writing on my own
then one day one of the girls that I
sabartés in with said that her friend
had invited us out to go to the studio
because some loser hang in there and it
was dudes massive label their massive
rapper other known producers and we were
out of the club anyway so I was like
yeah that's cool as soon as she said it
my eyes widened I was like fuck this is
sick this is going to be an
opportunities this is my chance to go
shake a few hands play guitar in front
of the right people sing in front of the
right people to me at that point
I kept thinking tonight's gonna be the
night that I'm making moves you know
he is so fun
I brought friends but yeah this is back
Rena and going oh my god I so good night
Jesse sexy guy all right good to meet
you nice to meet you too I never seen
you around here before
right there oh yeah what makes you think
you're invited
I'm just fuckin with ya I'm sorry I'm
just playin with y'all humor I'm sorry
I'm just going to a charmer yeah you
know okay
yeah we rapping at me okay Jeff give me
a bottle man all right all right you
first me good straight from the bottle
no question is no question yeah I am
haha everyone's standing around drinking
gin and we're talking but the whole time
is talking I'm not even listening
because I'm just trying to think of a
way that I can bring up that I'm a
singer without seeming to 30 oh did you
get three star away you know why Andy
right you know check
no way that you guys that's a picture in
my bag holy my lips war free stone up oh
you got a show yo yo yo check it out we
got a shower here folks I got yeah yeah
yeah let's do it
also free fell over that Renaissance
beat I don't want you to freestyle I
want you to think
I got stuff to like it by it's not
taking it from me but I'm gonna let them
do I got time till I get mine it I
taking it from me but I'm gonna let them
do it I taking it from me will baby
lately the bruising when sick thank you
yeah fucking me up with that key no
winners no you won't wait don't I told
her she could fuck Aziz
you killed me thank you hey that was
fuckin Joe alright thank you very much
thank you oh I know you are right thank
you so much this is crazy thank you guys
thank you I was being high as hell I
felt like I was on cloud nine
like so much like I couldn't stop
smiling I felt like a idiot so I had to
be and I had to find a spot I went to
the bathroom and I knelt down and I
started praying thanking God for letting
me be here thank you guys for letting me
have this opportunity
got what we got up top I got to know
this I've been rocking let's go to the
next spot I pull manages to do at the
next one Wow she goes in our own car
okay we got a room okay just check
through the edges of it sure
so where's this miss bus lot please
okay cool
it's over and joel coming to
Amen I saw that my girl fallenness right
now I wanna make sure that we don't
relax chill out
no matter what ticklish all of a sudden
let's relax go
beautiful night now you know that listen
I'm sorry but I thought that you wanted
me to come because you were interested
in my music not just a music now I'm
interested it's the whole package sorry
I don't understand perfect
let's act honey
I come from a Catholic family and I have
a lot of wolfs beliefs and my body is my
temple and I'm completely serious go -
right now II appreciate you into my
music can you please stop
good it's a daily bitch thinking she do
good the fuck do you know the fuck I am
yo somebody pull up my fucking bank
account tell this bitch who the fuck I
am yeah you ready even my tight I got
strippers I would love to be in your
position right now and you want to be a
singer Shh you fucking up your chairs
right now yo shut up does this bitch
know who the fuck I am
why'd you come huh now why are you still
here hey Peck stain over fuck we are
wait a day keepers yo you ain't serious
about children are you 25 because I
think back to this moment I know how you
fucked up your fucking jet you want to
keep fucking the regular niggas go ahead
and see what the fuck that gets you
bitch see what the fuck that gets you
you're not using your pussy you ain't
serious about your fucking dreams fuck
if the videos bitch thinking she too
good the fuck
I thought you knew Jessie galvans
industry have to give it up how the game
it's not true okay you're fun it's good
to all you've done it over so I'll a
shit just went down in the car and like
a dumbass after everything that has
happened I stolen inside the house even
after what happened I followed them in
because I was thinking maybe now that he
knows that I'm not down maybe I can get
him to listen to my music stupid naive
dumb shit young dumb shit
of course when we got upstairs he kept
trying and I kept saying no that didn't
change I loved but he fucked me up that
I thought about it
I thought of only because
because that's like a dream that's a
dream this little kid dreams that you
chase I've been chasing for out of a hot
many years and he knows that he's
holding it in his hands and you don't
want to keep up on yourself you don't
want to let the fucking chance slip
through your head
slip through your fingers I was this
close to selling my soul that I was this
close to breaking
fuck that vodka
by half if you want to seesaw
thirty caring people one inside cause
what is beautiful

A screenshot of a tweet from Jessie Reyez linking to a TMZ article. "One night, over 6 years ago Noel 'Detail' Fisher tried this on me. I was lucky and got out before it got to this. I didn't know what to say or who to tell. I was scared. Fear is a real thing. The girls that came out are brave as hell." The link to the article includes a picture of Noel 'Detail' Fisher's face.

Courtesy of @JessieReyez, Twitter, May 10 2018


In May 2018, an online article revealed that music producer Noel "Detail" Fisher had been accused of raping and sexually assaulting female artists. In response, Reyez tweeted a link to the article and described an experience with Fisher in 2012, when he had asked for sexual favours in exchange for advancing her musical career.

She revealed that her Gatekeeper song and music video was about the encounter. 

Gatekeeper Music

Listen: Gatekeeper

We are the gatekeepers
Spread your legs / Open up
You could be famous
You know we're holding the dreams that you're chasing
You know you're supposed to get drunk and get naked.

— Jessie Reyez


This online exhibition uses third-party applications including Spotify and YouTube. Check with your organization’s web administrator if you are unable to access content from these channels in the exhibition.

Great One

Watch: Great One

Jessie showcased her parent’s hometown of Cali, Colombia in her music video for her 2017 song, “Great One.” Reyez attributes much of her success to her parent’s support through the years, “I feel like keeping the people who know me best around me is the best mirror that I could have. They keep me grounded and authentic. They remind me of who I am and why I started.”

Jessie also featured her Colombian heritage in her music by singing her 2018 single, “Sola” in Spanish, and re-released a Spanish version of her English single “Imported.”


This online exhibition uses third-party applications including Spotify and YouTube. Check with your organization’s web administrator if you are unable to access content from these channels in the exhibition.

Courtesy of Jessie Reyez. Please note: This third party video does not provide closed captions.

View Transcript

Dreams run in my family a week before my uncle passed he dreamt of us dancing in san nicolas square together

And of my grandmother preparing his paradise for him in the afterlife when my childhood best friend passed

I also dreamt of him he told me that hell didn't exist and that heaven was beautiful

♪ I wanna be a great one
I wanna be a great one
I wanna make a million dollars
making all my days count
clowning with my day ones
before, I hid the grey sun
Louis v, don't chase none
I wanna make a billion dollars
bring it to my pops
Say, "daddy what you prayed for"
What is life? What is love?
What are lies? What is trust?
What is everything?
Everything is nothing without you. What is life? What is love? What are lies? What is trust?
What is everything?
Everything is nothing without you. Ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ♪ ♪ Everything is nothing without you ♪ ♪ ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ♪
Running, i'm running
I'm running outta patience
I wanna be a great one (wanna be great one)
And when the spirit calls me
I wanna throw my hands up
ready to be saved, yeah
And when my day's done ♪ ♪ I hope I die faded
Wanna take me way up
I hope I fly faded
What is life? What is love?
What is time? What is choice?
What is everything? ♪ ♪ everything is nothing without you
What is life? What is love?
I hope I am enough ♪ ♪ what is everything? ♪ ♪ Everything is nothing without you
♪ ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh
everything is nothing without you
♪ ooh-ooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh

Creative Collaborations

Creative Collaborations

As a talented songwriter, Reyez has been a part of many musical collaborations. Reyez worked with pop singer Dua Lipa on the single “One Kiss” that topped charts worldwide in 2017. In early 2018, she worked with DJ Calvin Harris on his hit "Hard to Love", whom she had once handed a demo mixtape while he was performing in a Toronto club where she was bartending. 

She worked with Harris again as well as with UK singer-songwriter Sam Smith on the 2018 single “Promises”, which charted internationally. She collaborated with rapper Eminem on his 2018 Kamikaze album, and in 2019, Reyez released a single “Feels Like Home” with singer-songwriter Bea Miller.

A colourful drawing of Jessie Reyez wearing a blue jacket, orange tank top, black shorts, and black and white tennis shoets. Around her neck are two necklaces, hanging away from her to give Reyez a sense of motion. In capital letters at the top of the post on the left are the words "Being Human in Public." On the right are the words "Jessie Reyez", also in capital letters. On the bottom are the words "Polaris Music Prize 2019"

The promotional poster for Jessie Reyez's 2019 Polaris Music Prize nomination for her album "Being Human in Public".

Poster concept and design by Salini Perera, courtesy of Salini Perera


Although Reyez has only been recording professionally for under a decade, her work has been recognized and celebrated at home in Canada and throughout the world.

Reyez has won numerous JUNO Awards: one in 2018 for Breakthrough Artist and another in 2019 for Best R&B/Soul Recording for her EP Being Human in Public. The album was also nominated for a 2020 Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Jessie Reyez collaborated with Puerto Rican producer and songwriter Tainy as well as Canadian rapper Tory Lanez for the hit song "Feel it Too", which won the 2020 JUNO Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. 

An album cover featuring a faded photograph of a woman staring at the camera wearing a white dress. She is sitting on a brown coffin covered with flowers.

Jessie Reyez's debut studio album, Before Love Came to Kill Us, released in March 2020. The album includes her hit song "Figures" and a collaboration with Eminem, "Coffins".

Courtesy of FMLY and Island Labels

Before Love Came To Kill Us

Before Love Came To Kill Us

Jessie Reyez had big plans for 2020.

After many years of singles and a short EP, her first full-length album, Before Love Came To Kill Us was released in March 2020.

Although interviews and tours had been planned to accompany the release, the global outbreak of COVID-19 changed everything. Reyez instead found herself debuting her first studio album while at home under lockdown. 

...the whole premise of the album was to trigger people into thinking about mortality and now it almost seems like it's a theme song to what everyone is going through.

Everybody is thinking about how to survive right now so I’m embracing it because I made the decision to go with it. I've been connecting with fans online, which has been a nice silver lining.

Jessie Reyez, Interview with Vibe Magazine, April 2020
Dive Deeper

Dive Deeper

Jessie Reyez Official Website

Dorothy Carvello. Anything for a Hit: An A&R Woman's Story of Surviving the Music Industry. Vigiliano Books, 2018.