ILEANA MERCEDES CABRA JOGLAR (born April 28, 1989), aka “PG-13” and “iLe,” is a Puerto Rican singer, songwriter and vocalist. She began her career in her teens as the sole female singer of Calle 13, a group she took part in for ten years alongside her brothers René Pérez Joglar (Residente) and Eduardo Cabra Martínez (Visitante).
Her first solo production, iLevitable, was launched in June 2016 and won a Grammy in the Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album category in 2017. Also, iLe received a Latin Grammy as “Best New Artist.”
Ile is the daughter of Flor Joglar de Gracia, an actress who formed and was part of the theatre group Teatro del Sesenta. Her father, José Cabra González is a creative advertiser and musician. From a very young age, Ileana showed a passion for music. She sang while still learning to speak, phonetically imitating the voices of famous singers and movie soundtracks and at private parties and family gatherings.
While attending Josefita Monserrate de Sellés elementary school, Ileana joined the School Choir and the Handbell Choir headed by Evangeline Oliver. She also studied piano at El Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico for eight years. Ileana inherited her voice from her mother and grandmother, Flor Amelia de Gracia, a teacher and composer featured on the back cover of Calle 13’s self-titled debut album. At sixteen, as a second-year high school student, her brother Residente asked her to sing “La Aguacatona,” a song he had written for a demo he was working on with her brother Visitante. Shortly after, she took private singing lessons with renowned Puerto Rican soprano Hilda Ramos and additional vocal studies with Cuban singer Gema Corredera, member of the group Gema y Pavel.
Later, she began collaborating as a vocalist for her brothers’ new musical project. “La Aguacatona,” which caught the attention of White Lion Records. After recording a second song, “La Tribu,” she was nicknamed “PG-13” by her cousin Ian Marcel Cardozo Joglar since she was under-aged when she joined the group, and PG-13 is the category used to classify movies that require parental guidance for children under thirteen.
In 2005, she was active in late-night shows and presentations in various venues throughout the island, which gave form and structure to what was to become Calle 13. At sixteen, she sang in front of thousands at the Colise de Puerto Rico Jose Miguel Agrelot as part of Calle 13’s first concert. On that occasion, she interpreted “Puro Teatro,” a song previously recorded by La Lupe, one of her favorite artists. Ileana continued traveling with Calle 13 during her junior year of high school. Also, she visited other countries and shared the stage with Gustavo Santaolalla, Kevin Johansen, and Susana Baca.
At eighteen, PG-13 sang at the 8th Annual Latin Grammy Awards presentation at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas as part of Calle 13’s interpretation of “Pa’l Norte,” which opened with PG-13 performing a sola acappella.
In November 2011, Calle 13 opened at the 12th edition of the Latin Grammy Awards with the theme “Latinoamerica,” performed with a symphony orchestra. Latino Fox News said, “PG-13’s high notes left everyone in silence.”
In 2012, Ileana participated in the Banco Popular Christmas Special titled “Hecho con Sabor a Puerto .” El Diario newspaper described Ileana’s interpretation of the song “La Pared” as “superb.” The same year, boxing champion Miguel Cotto chose Joglar to sing the Puerto Rican National Anthem during the introduction ceremony before his fight against Floyd Mayweather. Her interpretation was widely acclaimed, including by the legendary Bob Dylan, who in 2015 mentioned her in his MusicCares Person of the Year speech: “I was at a boxing match a few years ago watching Floyd Mayweather fight a boxer from Puerto Rico, and someone sang the Puerto Rican national anthem. And it was beautiful; it was heartfelt, it was moving”.
In 2014, iLe collaborated with Gustavo Cordera on the “Estoy Real” theme for the “Cordera Vivo” production, recorded at La Trastienda Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One year later, in 2015, she was invited by Jorge Drexler to sing the song “Olas y Arena” by Puerto Rican composer Sylvia Rexach during Drexler’s concert in Puerto Rico as part of the Uruguayan singer’s tour.
In 2017, Ileana appeared as a guest on “Hijos del Canãveral,” the closing track of her brother’s debut o album. In March 2022, Adrian Quesada featured her on a single called “Mentiras con Cariño.”
In August 2015, Ileana announced she was changing her artistic name to “iLe” and working on her first solo album.
In May 2016, iLevitable was released to the praise of critics and peers. According to NPR, “the album established her immediately as a first-class interpreter of the classic sounds that flow through Latin America.” Also, Jon Pareles of the New York Times described it as “a knowingly retro survey of Latin music’s past, full of romance and longing that can turn despondent. She sings richly orchestrated boleros, delicate ballads, percussive boogaloo, and mambo, without hinting of irony or naïveté.”
Some of Puerto Rico’s most prominent musicians collaborated on the album, including Piro Rodríguez, Charlie Sepulveda, Bayrex Jiménez, Eduardo Cabra, Fofé Abreu from Circo, Louis García, the late Cheo Feliciano in one of his last recordings.
The first single released was “Caníbal,” accompanied by a dramatic video directed by Argentinian Juan Manuel Costa. The video was described as an “animated Frida Kahlo painting.” Her second single and video, “Te Quiero Con Bugalú,” was released on July 7.
Also, in July 2016, Ile embarked on her first tour with her new band, performing the songs from iLevitable. On July 7, she performed at the Highline Ballroom as part of the Latin Alternative Music Conference’s Official Showcase. On July 8 iLe performed her first solo show outside Puerto Rico at S.O.B.’s in New York.
In September 2016, The Recording Academy nominated iLe for her first Latin Grammy as Best New Artist. In February 2017, iLevitable won a Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album.
On May 20, 2019, iLe released her sophomore album, Almadura, a title that translates to “strong soul” and a play on words of the Spanish word for “armor” (“armadura”). The album contains modern and electronic takes on Puerto Rican and other Caribbean musical styles and folklore, referencing traditional musical genres like bomba and featuring artists like pianist and N.E.A. Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri.
Almadura reflects not only on Puerto Rico’s cultural roots but also on its present and future, notably in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The video for the lead single, “Odio,” reenacts the Cerro Maravilla murders as a message of empowerment and solidarity in response to the storm’s aftermath.
Ile’s third album, Nacarile, a sprawling 11-song project, was released in 2022. It is her most ambitious and experimental work to date and fuses pop music with bolero, hip-hop, protest music, Caribbean folk rhythms, and psychedelia. Featured guests include Flor de Tolache, Ivy Queen, Trueno, Natalia Lafourcade and Rodrigo Cueva. ILe channels her emotions and illustrates her deep commitment to social justice, desire for personal fulfillment, and love.
Nicarile’s centerpiece, “Donde Nadie Más Respira,” focuses on iLe’s activism. The song calls out the violent consequences of Puerto Rico’s enduring colonization by the United States. Released ahead of the island’s gubernatorial elections in 2020 — the first to take place since island-wide demonstrations, which iLe participated in, led to Governor Ricardo Rossello’s resignation in 2019. It hit even closer to home in September, when Hurricane Fiona made landfall and left the island without power, exposing the continued effects of colonial mismanagement and neglect.
ILE wears her feelings and her music on her sleeve. Her recordings paint an intimate picture of a Puerto Rican woman and artist whose music is a tool to make her listeners question their relationship with government nd a bridge to connect others with different views and opinions. And even though she feels misunderstood because she supports independence for Puerto Rico, iLe believes it is possible to live in harmony in times of hardship.