Amina Buddafly is far more than a reality TV star, she’s a musician in her own right. Born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, the R&B singer, songwriter, and producer came up as a member of Black Buddafly, an R&B group with twin sister Jazz and older sister Sophie. Growing up in a musically-inclined household to a mom who sang and a father who played jazz, Amina has been immersed in music for damn near her entire life.
Singing in choirs and performing in musicals at a very early age, it was at 13 years old she began writing songs. Fast forward to 2020, she’s established her name in both the music and entertainment industry, partly thanks to her role on Love & Hip Hop: New York. After being married to Peter Gunz for 5 years, their relationship would end abruptly on the VH1 show, as millions of viewers tuned in to watch the drama unfold.
Amina is a proud mother to two beautiful children (her top priority), with music consistently being her end-be-all since she was a teenager. She states, “Music has always been the most important thing, it’s why I’m here and living. It’s what I’m meant to do.” To this day, she writes her own songs, produces, and even taught herself how to play piano and guitar.
Flaunt caught up with Amina to discuss her leap moving from Germany to New York, her two books, being free and independent, self-care, and more!
What was it like growing up in Germany?It was normal for me. It was interesting. I’m biracial. My dad’s African, my mom’s German. Early on, we experienced racism in Germany. Especially being black, growing up amongst mostly white people. I always felt different than everybody. As a teenager, I felt almost like an alien. “I don’t belong here.” It was really difficult. Once me and my sisters came to America, it was a breath of fresh air to see all these black people and be around everybody we watched. Because we loved the 90’s R&B music. We’re looking up to those girl groups, that’s the music we wanted to make but we were stuck in Germany where that didn’t exist. We packed up and left to New York, literally overnight.
How long ago was that?
It’s a while back now but we felt really young. It was so much more of a challenge there because everyone’s so amazing. Talented, so much more talented. It was on such a different level that we felt challenged. We realized this is where people actually get harmonies and get real singing. All that was happening at the time in Germany was techno and dance music. We weren’t into that, so we came to where the R&B music was made.
We packed up and took a big risk by flying to NY, with almost no money. I had $600, we didn’t have a place to stay. [chuckles] It was crazy. Now thinking back, it was a movie. Our older sister was 21, I was 19 and my twin sister’s also 19. The 3 of us in New York City, never been there before. Not knowing what’s going to happen. We thought we could go to a record label and just knock on the door. It wasn’t that easy. We realized “oh, you have to get an appointment. Show your ID to get in.” We were super naive, but it helped us in a good way because we were fearless. Super fearless.
A lot of crazy experiences happened in the first few months. We didn’t have a lot of money so we were forced to go back to Germany. But we kept coming, coming, coming back to NY because we felt this is the place for us. Everywhere we went, people were blown away by us singing acapella. We’re like “wow, this is really where we need to be.” Everyone in Germany called us stupid. “Oh, how are you going to keep going to America? You’re stupid, you’re never going to make it.” But we’re literally fearless. We’re super confident together, so I’m thankful for my sisters.
I know Black Buddafly was the name of the group. Are they still doing music?
Years later, we’re all going our own ways. It’s crazy you mention it because I’m working on a project with my twin sister again. This year, 2020. After years and years, we’re doing our first EP together again. I’ve been doing my solo thing for the past years. The group, we did end up getting signed to major labels. We were signed to Def Jam/J Records, but we never got that big break you expect when you get signed. We never had that big success but it taught us so much. It made me pick up my instruments and go to work on my own, teach myself how to engineer. This was supposed to be that way because now, I’m really who I was meant to be.
I’m so much better than when I was signed. So much more comfortable on stage. I feel good about the experience, even though we’re signed amongst Rihanna and Ne-Yo when nobody knew them. It was Black Buddafly, Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Chris Brown, we’re all coming up together. We’re the only ones that didn’t make it big. [laughs] I always remember and cherish that time, it was a good experience. I just never stopped. Later on, I realize I know so much who I am as an artist, especially after so many years of developing, working, learning and writing, writing, writing. I realized going indie is where I need to be. Especially nowadays where it’s so possible, there are so many opportunities. I need my freedom, you only have that when you do it on your own. But it makes it all much harder, so it has its pros and cons. My freedom is the most important thing to me. I’ve been indie for almost 10 years, putting up music on my own. Then I ended up on a reality TV show which gave me a bigger audience.
How was that experience on Love & Hip Hop?
It was crazy. It was interesting. [chuckles] Even though it came with a lot of bad, people sometimes don’t take you serious. I really don’t look at the negative. I try to focus on the good, which my fanbase did grow. I can do things I wasn’t able to do before. People are slowly but surely seeing that I’m a real artist. I’m not a reality girl who now wants to sing. I really come from music.
At the end of the day if you’re great, it doesn’t matter how you’re introduced to the world. It may be taking me longer now because I have to prove myself to those who think reality stars can’t be real artists. For myself, I feel good about who I’ve become through that. It’s one of those experiences that’s super rough, super hard, but made me so much better and stronger. I came out of all of that, those record deals that didn’t work out. The TV show that gave me all this — I learned how it feels to be hated. The way people judge you, all these experiences made me so much more of a powerful woman. Also becoming a mom.
How old are your kids now?They’re 3 and 5 now. They made me a better and stronger woman. I can do anything. I feel good about who I’ve become as a person, then as an artist. When things don’t work out and you keep going, you get better every time. All my life I’ve been doing music and I’ve never had a #1 record, but I’m still here. I’m still doing it, that means something. I see a growth. My fans who really do follow me and know me, they see the growth in each and every album I put out. At this point, I really do it for the love.
I can sense your passion, it’s dope.
Good. I love when people say that. They say that to me now all the time. I really only do it for the love of it and it shines through. I’m going to continue to be that kind of artist.
What’s one thing you want fans to get from After Dark?
I’m always truthful. I always call my music real, honest, and free. It literally is a reflection of where I’m at in my life, as my other albums were. The previous album was Mother, my growth album. After Dark is a new me coming out of all that craziness, being ready and open again for love. It took me a while, people saw me go through all my personal crazy stuff on TV. This is where I’m at now, I’m ready again. It’s a very sexy album, grown and sexy I like to say.
I don’t sit down like “okay, let’s make a song about this. This is the concept.” I listen to the music and the music makes me feel something. It always has to be that way. Whatever music I write to has to make me feel something. Whether I compose it myself on the guitar or I hear something a producer plays, the chords or the vibe of it, it has to give me a feeling. For some reason, all these musical pieces I started writing to made me feel very grown. It had this after dark nighttime vibe. This is really a nighttime album. Coming out of a dark period of my life, coming back into the light, it made sense. I wrote the song “After Dark” and knew it had to be the title. As I grow, I want my fans to grow with me and see that in my music.
Good segue into this whole disaster of the coronavirus. How are you adapting?
Oh man, I totally underestimated it at first. Really nonchalant about it. “I’m still going to do everything!” I have to get out, so I’ll now avoid places with a lot of people. My kids and I go out to the park, but we try to stay away from people. Damn, how much crazier is this going to get? I’m late, didn’t take it too serious at first.
What inspired your books Mi Dishes & More and ?
They fell into my life. I didn’t say “oh, I want to be an author. I want to make a book.” The first one is my memoir. It’s a very personal book I wrote. I journal for myself, I write things down because it’d be my therapy. One day, I read everything back. It was pages and pages I’ve written, I realized “wow this is a story.” I connected with a publisher at the time, they encouraged me to share. I decided why not? Because I felt misunderstood a lot throughout reality TV. People didn’t really see me for who I was. I wanted to put it out there for whoever cares.
I didn’t like being judged on somebody people thought I was. You can judge me, but know me first. Know the real me. I’d write music all the time, there’s a song called “The Real Me” that helped me. The book, I didn’t have to think about melody. I wrote from the heart. There’s no real structure behind it, just all realness. If you read my first book The Other Woman, you have a better idea of who I am. I talk about what I went through on TV, the love triangle I was in and how crazy it was. Being in the public eye with that.
But I also go way back to the beginning of me and my sisters coming to America. Growing up in Germany being a biracial kid, people understand why I am the way I am. Why I make the decisions that I make. I’m proud of that book. I can’t read my own book without getting emotional. It’s crazy sometimes I really want to look into this book, but then I’ll start crying. I already know. It’s my real life story up until when I gave birth to my youngest, who’s now 3. When she was just born, 2 months old, I wrote my last chapter. I moved to Cali by myself. Finally I gained the strength to leave a toxic relationship. People always used to call me weak. I admit I was weak for someone, but I’m not a weak woman. That’s the conclusion of the book, a good way to end it. A lot of people ask me if I’m going to do a second one, but I don’t know.
Was writing hard for you at all?
Not hard at all, so easy. What was hard was to make it into an actual book, with the chapters and the structure of it. I just wrote. I had the help from my publisher, they structured it and put it into parts and chapters. Told me which one should be first, so I was thankful for that. Now the second one is completely different. I spelled it “Mi” because of my name, Amina. Mi Dishes & More started because I started sharing my life, which included a lot of cooking at home. On social media, people would be so crazy interested in it.
Born and raised in Germany, I eat a little bit different than the typical American. My mom made certain dishes, things I grew up on. It started as a recipe book. My good friend Nicole wrote an amazing book called Everything a Band-Aid Can’t Fix, it’s for the youth. She’s an amazing author, I sat down with her and she’s giving me advice. She said “you should include all the other elements you do for your lifestyle, that are in your life everyday.” I’m like “hmm, good idea.” These recipes were so hard to write, I had to do measurements and all these things. It ended up becoming a lifestyle book for women with all of what I do, not just my food I eat. People seem interested in my lifestyle, in my working out, little regimens I do everyday.
How often are you in the gym? How important is self-care to you?
It’s hard to get in the gym, I have 2 little ones. Maybe 2 or 3 times a week tops. I do a lot of other activities in the book. I do a lot of outdoor workouts. I do a lot of workouts that include my kids. I do workouts at home. I switch it up. When you can’t get into the gym I understand because I can’t always get there, but there’s other ways. Life is hard and stressful, especially for single moms. Even as a woman, it gets overwhelming. Things to give you the energy to be motivated again. It’s 280 pages, it’s so big. It has a lot of visuals because I realized people get motivated by looking at things. Definitely a lot of photoshoots with my kids. A very happy, positive book. But I talk about my struggles because I know so many do. Even though I make it look so easy on the Gram, it’s not. I talk about all that women struggle with because they’re not alone. I want them to feel they can do what I do. & More! Hence the title.
With 1.8M on IG, how do you plan to be a role model to the youth?
By sharing my life. I’m all about positivity, we need more positive stuff. I try to put that out there, people really get inspired by looking at my life and what I do. The pictures I take with my kids, being around them all the time. They wonder “how do you do all this?” Another reason why the book came about, we need to put positivity out there in all this craziness.
What inspired “All Grown Up”?
Good one! “All Grown Up,” I finally feel all grown up. People always told me when I was letting guys play me, especially on TV: “you need to grow up!” That stuck in my head. At the time, I felt “I am! I’m a grown woman.” I guess I wasn’t acting that way. Coming out of all that and overcoming that heartbreak, I’m finally all grown up. It has a lot to do with being able to say “no” to people.
This happened in my 30’s, I learned how to say no and not feel bad. This song relates to the fact I was in a relationship, I was able to say “stop, this is enough. No, no more.” But it also relates to life. People take advantage of you a lot. I had to learn how to say no when people ask me to do stuff for them. You don’t always have to feel bad if you can’t. You’re not a bad person when you say no. You can still have a good heart, but you can’t do everything. It took a while. When you’re 25, you feel you’re all grown up. In my 30’s, I’m finally there.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point?
I want to reach more people, but I don’t want to sacrifice myself or compromise my art for that. I want to continue being me. I’d love to get more exposure, get in front of more people. Perform more, get on more stages. Hopefully find a great manager who can help with that because I’m management-less for the longest. Really continuing doing what I’m doing because I feel really good about where I’m at. Every year, I get better. Inspiring more people with my music.