Danna Paola leaves behind her child star past with a new chapter and new name: "Danna"

You can call her Danna.

After 28 years of being recognized as Danna Paola, the singer and former actor has rebranded, shedding part of the moniker that made her an international household name. With a rebrand to simply "Danna," the entertainer is reclaiming her identity and embarking on a bold, fresh chapter with a new album titled “Childstar,” available now.

“This is a new beginning for me,” Danna tells TODAY.com over Zoom from her home. “Changing my name, it is just 1% of this new era and this new person I’m becoming.”

Conversing back and forth in English and Spanish, Danna says the name of her seventh studio album isn't specifically about her beginnings in the entertainment industry.

“Yes, I’m a child star, but everything that I have lived and built has led me to create this album,” she says. “I found myself as an artist. I found my voice. I found the love I have with music, the relationship I have with my music. It is a spiritual connection with my art. This is who I am as Danna.”

She adds in Spanish: “Creeme que estoy muy orgullosa del resultado.” Translation: Believe me, I'm very proud of the result.

Danna's child star beginnings — and the decision to quit acting

Danna Paola (Rodrigo Varela / WireImage)
Danna Paola (Rodrigo Varela / WireImage)

Since the age of 4, Danna — born Danna Paola Riveera Munguía — has been entertaining audiences on TV screens. She first appeared on the Mexican version of “Sesame Street,” “Plaza Sésamo." At age 6, she released her debut album “Mi Globo Azaul,” before landing her 2004 breakout role in the children's telenovela “Amy, la niña de la mochila azul.”

The show starred Danna as Amy, a kind-hearted girl who lived with her fisherman father, and followed her adventures with her friends and mermaid pal. The series ran for 115 episodes.

From there came a second and third album in 2004 and 2005, followed by more leading roles in hit telenovelas like “Pablo y Andrea” and “Atrévete a soñar.” One could liken her career path to the likes of Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, who also mixed acting and singing with their projects while growing up in the public eye.

Danna only further cemented her star power when she starred as Elphaba in the first Spanish-language production of "Wicked," opposite Ceci de la Cueva, who played Glinda. The critically acclaimed production opened in Mexico City at Teatro Telcel in October 2013 and ran until January 2015.

Danna Paola (Victor Chavez / WireImage)
Danna Paola (Victor Chavez / WireImage)

At the age of 18, Danna was the youngest actor to ever portray Elphaba in a professional theater production. And throughout her time on stage, she was also releasing albums — but looking back, she says she felt she wasn't being her authentic self.

“I discovered a few years ago that I was more the singer who acts than the actress who sings,” she says, explaining that she feels that music gives her freedom.

“That’s why I left acting. It was a really hard decision, because I have my career thanks to great roles,” she says. “My last great project was ‘Elite’ and it was a role that gave me worldwide recognition.”

Danna Paola (Manuel Fernandez-Valdes / Netflix)
Danna Paola (Manuel Fernandez-Valdes / Netflix)

Danna portrayed Lucrecia “Lu” in the Netflix Spanish teen drama set in an elite private school with students from different societal backgrounds, complete with a murder mystery. She appeared in the first three seasons before leaving acting behind. Danna calls the role “really special,” but says she came to realize she felt she had been playing a character all her life and didn’t know who she was. Danna Paola, she says, was also a character she created.

“As an actress, you put yourself, your emotions, your thoughts and everything inside of you for that character and become the character,” she says. “I realized that music has helped me discover myself as a person — what I like, what I don’t like. It’s part of my self-growth.”

Growing up, she says, people would stop her on the streets or anywhere she went and call her by her characters’ names, like Amy, María Belén or Patito. She felt disconnected from herself.

“At this moment, I wouldn’t portray another character because I lost so many years of my life in fictitious stories,” she pauses in thought. “I left Danna behind and I didn’t know who I was. I just became every character that I played.”

Danna Paola (Courtesy Danna Paola)
Danna Paola (Courtesy Danna Paola)

Danna's new beginning after a 'heavy depression'

Danna says she’s been “really emo” her whole life.

She says she's always gravitated toward a darker vibe, despite projecting the opposite early on in her career.

“I mean, they’re stages, right?” she says. “But right now, I feel very comfortable in my own skin and my own thoughts and the way I live life. It’s something that empowers me.”

From that began the creation of “Childstar,” her seventh studio album, and her latest after 2021’s “K.O.”

“I did this transition after my last album,” she says. “I lost creativity, fell into a heavy depression, so I took my time to figure out who the f--- I am, who I want to be and the story I wanted to tell through my songs.”

She says that she had highs and lows when it came to believing her career was over, which caused her to fall out of love with what she was creating. “I was really tired. I never stopped working,” she says. “I said, ‘I want to live. I don’t want to waste my time doing something that I don’t love anymore.’”

In the last four years, she credits therapy, taking a forced break amid the pandemic, and her boyfriend, producer Alex Hoyer, for getting into the right headspace.

“I dedicated myself to developing a beautiful relationship with Alex, who is also my producer on this album, outside of the public eye,” she says. “We created together professionally and we created a beautiful relationship, and from there I started to have a good relationship with myself.”

Danna Paola (Johnny Louis / Getty Images)
Danna Paola (Johnny Louis / Getty Images)

Danna says that the 13 tracks on “Childstar” are autobiographical and touch on many personal topics. But rather than being straightforward in her lyrics, she prefers expressing herself through poetry and metaphors.

“People think this album is me talking about being a child star,” she says. “(I would say) it’s more about the artistic side of it and showing this is who I am now, like in a really aggressive (way) with the aesthetic, the name change.”

The opening track, “The Fall,” is an emotional spoken word ballad about the loneliness and disappointment she felt from being in the public eye. “You don’t know me/you don’t know s--- about me,” she croons in the song, saying that she’s not a shooting star.

There’s also “222,” which she says is her favorite and among the funkiest. The early 2000s-inspired Spanglish song is about meeting someone and the intensity of being together, feeling fireworks and “wanting more.”

Danna also describes the final song, “Amanecer" as “a hug for your soul.”

This album, she says, “Is a gift for me and for little Danna.”

Speaking of little Danna, she understands that some people might not be onboard with this new phase of her life and career — and she's okay with that.

She says “people live in the past.” Referencing fellow child stars like Cyrus, Gomez and Demi Lovato, Danna says, “It’s hard for people to understand that those characters they watched on TV grow up like any other human being.”

But, she adds: “I think everyone in the world, every human being has the opportunity to start again.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com