Baby Ariel Grows Up in Self-Directed ‘Wildside’ Video: ‘I’ve Never Felt More Like Myself’

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“It’s a journey of self-exploration and being confident enough to share yourself with the world,” the former Musical.ly standout says of her just-released single.

“Maybe I’m crazy, I’m young, I’m lost / Maybe that’s alright,” Baby Ariel sings on her new song “Wildside,” released alongside its music video today (Oct. 10). The 18-year-old Internet star has put a modern twist on Lou Reed’s 1972 hit “Walk on the Wild Side,” using Reed’s titular phrase as a means of telling her young listeners to embrace their inner selves.

“The song and video tell the story of two kids — and me in general — who are learning to accept themselves for who they are,” the singer (real name: Ariel Martin) tells Billboard. The video follows Baby Ariel and a boy: both look somber and defeated, until they begin to physically transform. The boy goes from wearing a dull suit and tie into a stunning gown, and Ariel trades her hot pink dress and matching lipstick for darker makeup and an edgier look.

Naturally, they appear to grow increasingly happier as the metamorphosis continues. “It’s a journey of self-exploration and being confident enough to share yourself with the world,” Ariel adds. “What I think is so special about [Reed’s] version is he talks about these real people who are just so beautiful and colorful and fearless with who they were. They were so accepting of themselves, and such an inspiration for other people.”

Self-love is a topic that Baby Ariel, a former Musical.ly breakthrough who has mostly sung about loving others (“Aww,” “Perf,” “I Heart You”), has been wanting to explore for the last few years. “Because I started social media at a young age, I’ve always felt this pressure to be a certain way, and talk about certain things,” she explains. “I’ve gotten to the point where if I continue letting other people’s opinions affect me, I’m going to explode.”

The video for “Wildside” also marks Ariel’s official directorial debut; she helmed the lyric video for “I Heart You” but doesn’t count it since it was “just me and my friend walking around with a camera.” While Ariel has already notched several accomplishments — publishing her own book, unveiling a lipstick line, scoring roles in multiple film projects — she says that she’s crossing a huge dream off her list with the directing credit.

“I’ve been obsessed with movies my entire life, and one of my big goals is to direct movies one day,” she says. “To be able to get in there and create characters and write a story… to color the video, choose how I want every little thing to look, the way I want the camera to be set up, the way I want the world to look… It was just a dream for me.”

Yet the singer also reveals that the process was overwhelming at first. “I was so scared, to be honest — this was the first thing I was doing with a whole crew and makeup people and hair people and lighting and sound people,” she says. “But after speaking to my family every day and expressing my nerves, they kept reminding me that I know what I want, I know my vision, and I know the story that I want to tell inside and out. That’s all that matters.”

With a new self-love anthem and self-directed video, Ariel is embracing this next creative chapter of her career — and says that, right now, she’s happier than she’s ever been. “I’ve spent a lot of time with myself and I’ve learned how to be happy on my own,” Ariel says. “I’ve learned how to ask questions and check in with my emotional health and be more free with who I am. I’ve never felt more like myself. I just feel happy in this period of my life. I feel like me.”

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