Nicki Nicole, Tainy, and Lex Borrero Talk About Finding the Next Latin Superstar on ‘La Firma’

Last week, Netflix premiered the first six episodes of La Firma, the highly anticipated series in which the biggest names in urbano — and the major executives behind them  — search for the next Latin superstar. Twelve hopeful artists from across Latin America and the U.S. have to impress a panel that includes Puerto Rican multi-hyphenate Rauw Alejandro, Yandel of the iconic reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel, Argentine singer Nicki Nicole, plus mega-producer Tainy and industry veteran Lex Borrero. The final winner signs a life-changing contract with Tainy and Borrero’s influential label Neon 16.

Already, viewers have rallied to watch the contestants show off their skills on each episode, inching closer and closer to the finale. They get hands-on experience, working closely with the judges and even recording original music in the studio with a roster of special guests. Balvin, Luny from reggaeton pioneers Luny Tunes, and are among the stars who drop by to help the aspiring artists along the way. At the end of every episode, they perform for the judges. If they don’t make the cut, their journey ends when Borrero tears up a contract right in front of them, building up the drama. 

“I wanted a TV moment like in The Voice where they push the button and the chair turns,” says Borrero, who created the show under his NTERTAIN imprint.That intensity: That’s why the ripping of the contract became the moment. We knew that was going to be an impactful moment to create tension.”

La Firma was developed with Nikki Boella, who was behind the hit series Rhythm + Flow with Cardi B on the panel. On La Firma, each song that’s recorded by the 12 contestants has been released to the public on streaming platforms, something that Tainy says was intended to offer an up-close look at what an artist experiences. 

“I want people to see a little bit into the lives of what an artist goes through,” Tainy says. “There’s a whole process and a lot of details that go into creating a complete artist.”

Guillermo Arroyo/Imagine It Media

On the day of the big finale, when the final winner will be revealed, Nicki Nicole, Tainy, and Borrero caught up with Rolling Stone and shared what their experiences as judges has been like — and what people can expect.

How would you describe the experience of being on the judging panel?
Nicole: To be part of the judging panel for the first time on a TV show, I won’t lie to you, at first I was nervous. Here, you have to apply a lot of pressure so that the contestants can give the best of themselves and you have to accompany them through this journey in the best way. Lex, even though we butted heads a lot, he knew how to teach me to apply pressure, but pressure that’s positive because it helped bring the best in each contestant. After we got to get to know each other on the judging panel and got to know the contestants, I know that we created something unique.

Tainy: I wanted to be a judge that was fair to give constructive critiques, whether they were positive or negative, knowing that everything is for the betterment of each contestant. It was difficult at times to give negative criticism, but everything we said was to help them advance. They have to grow within the span of the episodes. If we don’t see the changes that we asked for, maybe they won’t get to the next step. It was a process of learning for me. As time passed, it got easier.

Rauw Alejandro and Yandel also served as judges. What was the chemistry like among the panel?
Nicole: We laughed a lot. You can see us laughing a bit on the show, but we laughed more behind-the-scenes. There was a lot of chemistry. We connected very quickly with the contestants. It was a beautiful chemistry and I hope to keep working with this team. Lex is the bad guy of the series but sometimes he had a good heart. [Laughs]

Lex, how did you feel to be in front of the camera for the first time on the series?
Borrero: For me, it was hard. The character that you see there is not generally how I am as far as ripping someone’s contract in their face. It’s not an easy thing to do and it adds a lot of pressure. Now looking back and looking at the show, I’m glad I did it. It was awesome. Like Nicki said, the chemistry between the judges was incredible. In the last episode, I was thanking the judges and I broke down crying, which we didn’t show. That’s naturally who I am.

What are you looking for in the next urbano superstar?
Nicole: Personally, what I was looking for the most were the contestants who were being authentic. We’re in a place where what stands out is to be authentic and genuine, so that’s what I was looking for the most. I swear to you that there’s a lot of that here.

Tainy and Lex, how closely are you going to be working with the winner on your Neon16 label?
Tainy: It’s going to be a continuation of what we started on the show. Getting to know them, getting to know their style, what they want to do, and what we want them to try because we know all their strengths and the things we can do as an artist. To me it’s going to be special to just be there and see where we can take it. To see how we can level whatever we did on the show one step up. It’s going to be a cool experience, a cool journey. I’m very excited about that.

Borrero: We’re actually talking with the contestants, guiding them, and helping them pick music. Like Nicki said, we all feel very united because we were together for weeks and became friends. We believe in the talent from this show and we believe in the person who won, and we’re going to bet everything on them.


What’s next after La Firma?
Nicole: This year I’m going to release an album that’s very different for me. When we were filming La Firma in Miami, that’s where I started working with El Guincho, who is one of my producers. I’m very excited about this album.

Tainy: I’ve been working on my album [Data] since the show started. I’m finally done, so hopefully everyone gets to hear all that I’ve been working on for so long. I’m happy for that, for everything that’s to come, from La Firma, from the winner or from me usually working with amazing artists. Just trying to put more music out there to keep helping people get inspired by doing what we love.