Jen Mana, a promising, up-and-coming singer, is carving out her place in the music scene as she makes waves online. The R&B-pop artist’s journey to recognition flourished through years of going viral on TikTok for her voice, gaining over four million likes on the platform. Mana’s song “situationship” acquired over 21,000 streams on Spotify, following its popularity on TikTok. The momentum pushed the 20-year-old to audition for season 21 of American Idol, where she successfully advanced to the second round of Hollywood Week. Jen Mana hopped on a Zoom call with EnVi to discuss her songwriting, her experience on American Idol, and her latest single “you still.”  

On the Rise

Growing up, Mana’s aspirations stretched far beyond the bounds of the many local talent shows she participated in as a child. She reminisced on her lifelong passion for singing, her voice tinged with nostalgia, “It had to be one of those [local talent show] performances where I walked off and was like, ‘You know, I want to be more than just a kid in a talent show, and try to do my own thing.’” Her ambitions, rooted in childhood dreams of stardom, blossomed. “I was always the girl that was like, ‘I want to be a pop star. I just want to sing anywhere.’ If I wanted to be a nurse, I wanted to be a singing nurse,” Mana shared. 

From those early aspirations sprouted a journey of self-discovery and musical exploration. Mana took the reins, learning how to play the piano at a young age through formal lessons and YouTube tutorials. While she also dabbled in guitar, she said it was the ukulele that captured her heart. 

Despite the buzz she is creating as a rising, independent artist, Mana remains humble, acknowledging the long road ahead in her pursuit of becoming the pop star she’s always dreamed of. “At the point where I am now, I think the biggest step that I [took] from singing alone in my room or just around the house was getting myself out there in terms of performances and making those connections,” Mana said. 

Like many emerging artists, Mana found a stage for her talents on social media. Amidst the 2020 pandemic, she became active on TikTok and mesmerized viewers with song covers. From covers of “Rain” by SWV to “I See Red” by Everybody Loves an Outlaw, and even participating in a challenge mirroring Beyoncé’s live performance of “Ego,” Mana’s follower count skyrocketed — a testament to the power of digital platforms in shaping modern entertainment.

“Social media has so much power in this world. I would post videos that were less than a minute, and a few of those got traction,” Mana shared with EnVi. “I think that was what really helped me get to this point, or at least in front of the opportunities that I’ve gotten with entertainment and the music scene.”

Mana’s pivotal breakthrough with her original music arrived when her single “situationship” gained traction on TikTok in 2021, where it gained 80 thousand likes for a post with a raw voice recording of the track. The R&B song was officially released on streaming platforms a year later, to the delight of hundreds of fans on TikTok. “situationship” resonated with audiences worldwide, the lyrics striking a chord of familiarity for many, as Mana sang about being in a complicated relationship. “I like the fact that a lot of people found ‘situationship’ relatable,” Mana reflected. “I think that was something — a comment — that I heard and was just very satisfied with. I was like, ‘I reached somebody,’ you know, ‘I’m screaming with somebody in the car.’”


this is all raw audio so its rough, but i really think i might do something with this 😗 for all my baddies in a situationship HAHA #original #fyp hmm

♬ original sound – jen mana

Her subsequent release, “leave it at that,” delved deeper into the R&B-pop realm, showcasing Mana’s range as an artist. Drawing inspiration from iconic figures like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, she infuses her music with soulful melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Mana is also inspired by modern R&B artists such as Jazmine Sullivan, H.E.R, Summer Walker, and SZA. She believes that “a big part of making music is listening to it.”

For Mana, storytelling lies at the core of her musical identity. “I think the more and more originals that I put out, I would like to set the tone of a storyteller or just somebody who can make people feel things,” the 20-year old revealed. 

“you still” 

Jen Mana proves herself as a storyteller with her latest release “you still,” drawing inspiration from a friend of her’s experiences in modern relationships. With lyrics that capture the relatable uncertainty of love in today’s world, where mixed signals and conflicting emotions prevail, Mana shapes a narrative that resonates with listeners. 

“you still” stemmed from a fortuitous collaboration with producer Nick Pedraza, known by his alias napbass, who sent Mana a beat that reignited her creative spark. Mana found herself effortlessly weaving together lyrics for the track, while escaping from writer’s block. The single’s infectious beats, catchy hook, and dash of ’80s nostalgia reveal Mana’s sheer joy when making music. 

Despite typically gravitating towards R&B, Mana embraced the opportunity to explore new artistic territory with napbass, dipping her toes into ’80s synth-pop. Their shared passion for retro vibes led to the creation of a track that not only grooves but also begs to be performed live — a factor that Mana had in mind when working on the song. “It’s not what I typically write or put out,” Mana said. “It’s just working with napbass — he kind of helped me experiment a little bit and I think that everyone should do that. It’s good to have a niche and have a genre that you’re very passionate about. But it’s always okay to have fun with music.”

Venturing into more uncharted territory, Mana embarked on her first music video production. She collaborated with a talented team led by director Melissa Tipiani and brought her vision to life, complementing the song’s upbeat energy with visuals that capture the essence of youthful enthusiasm and solidarity. The video follows Mana and her friends on a spirited girls’ night, attempting to distract her from a recent fight or breakup with her significant other. Despite their efforts to erase him from her mind, Mana finds herself unable to resist the allure of his presence. Culminating in a humorous yet relatable ending that speaks to the complexities of modern dating, she ultimately chooses to ditch her friends and hop into the boy’s car.

“When [Tipiani] pitched that ending to me, we just kind of laughed for a couple minutes. We just thought it was very funny and very [representative] of the dating in this generation,” Mana laughed. “It’s just what happens typically after complaining like that. It’s an embarrassing situation that people go through but it happens. It happens to the best of us.”

An American Idol

In the world of reality television, few experiences rival the intensity and excitement of competing on a talent show. For emerging talent Jen Mana, her journey on the iconic singing competition American Idol proved to be a rollercoaster of emotions, challenges and invaluable lessons. 

Recalling her nerve-wracking audition, Mana candidly admits, “I was so nervous that during the audition in front of the judges, I just froze.” She continued, clarifying, “Not necessarily froze, but it kind of felt like a dream. And I know that sounds very corny, but that’s exactly what it felt like.” The sheer magnitude of the moment, standing before industry giants such as Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, left her feeling both exhilarated and apprehensive. Despite the overwhelming nerves, Mana drew strength from the adrenaline coursing through her veins, pushing her forward in pursuit of her dreams. 

Through the whirlwind of emotions, Mana found solace in the words of the judges. During a heartfelt interaction, Perry pointed out Mana’s nervous demeanor, finding it surprising given the rising star’s exceptional vocal talent. Mana expressed gratitude for being recognized as more than just her nerves, emphasizing the significance of receiving such validation, especially from Perry. She continued, “I left the room, and I was like, ‘I think something needs to change. I think I need to get in front of more stages because, ultimately, she was right. I feel like a lot of my performances are held back because of me — not really because of anyone else. Because the nerves are very much still there, I still have my insecurities when it comes to performing. But at the end of the day, I’m doing it because I love it, not because I need the validation for it, or the approval.”

Mana holding the golden ticket. Photo courtesy of Jen Mana.

Through triumphs and tribulations alike, Mana discovered the true extent of her resilience and inner strengths. She shared that the hardest part of her experience on American Idol was leaving. “I think with the hardest parts of anything, it teaches you the most, and it nails the really hard lessons through to you,” Mana said. “Regardless of [how] it was, it was fun. And it was just a way to dip my toes into what the industry is like, or at least just be in front of the cameras.”

As Mana continues to pursue her musical aspirations, her American Idol journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of perseverance, courage, and self-belief. 

Connecting with Fans

For Jen Mana, the thrill of performing isn’t just about taking the stage; it’s about the intimate connection forged with her audience. Recalling the electrifying experience of having fans sing her lyrics back to her, she enthused, “It’s so cool to perform in front of a crowd that just knows who you are, knows what you’re about to do.” Her journey into the spotlight began with humble performances at small campus events. It was there that Mana first tasted the magic of having her audience join in, turning her lyrics into a shared anthem. While dreaming of bigger stages and broader audiences, she cherishes these moments as stepping stones toward her aspirations.

Yet, Mana’s relationship with performing hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “Performing was not always easy for me,” she admits, acknowledging her struggles with confidence. As a child, performing just meant singing in front of family and friends, lacking the weight and significance it holds today. Over time, Mana’s perspective shifted and performing became a profound expression of her artistry. Despite the lingering nerves and occasional bouts of self-doubt, Mana embraces each performance with a heart full of gratitude. “It’s still in-process,” she acknowledged, recognizing that growth takes time. Now, each performance highlights her progress and resilience.

Central to Mana’s character is her deep appreciation for her fans. Each performance is not just an opportunity to showcase her talent, but a chance to reciprocate the love and enthusiasm of those who have supported her along the way. Their unwavering support serves as a source of inspiration and motivation, driving her to new heights in her artistic endeavors.

What’s Next?

As Mana gears up for the release of her upcoming song “every part” with napbass on April 19, she left us with some inspiring words. Reflecting on her own journey and the challenges of breaking into the industry, she offered a message of encouragement to aspiring musicians everywhere. “The most important thing is just deciding, ‘Okay, this is what I want to do’ and the rest will follow through from there,” Mana said. “So, I believe that if you’re a college student or if you’re in high school or you’re only comfortable with singing in the shower, if you really love it and you want to get there, there is definitely a possibility for you.”

Jen Mana’s message is clear: Follow your dreams, embrace your passion, and take that first step.

To keep up with Jen Mana, follow her on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and X! Don’t forget to check out her music on Spotify and Apple Music.

Interested in discovering more up-and-coming artists like Jen Mana? Check out our interview with Sion Jung here!