It’s 3pm at Baumgart’s in Englewood. The lunch crowd is long gone and the restaurant’s age shows—the kitsch retro vibe giving way to the image of an old school diner whose seats have seen many asses—both literally and figuratively. Never knowing whether to order a milkshake or sushi, I wait for Heather to arrive.
In she walks, a minute or two late, but parking is impossible in that town. She’s a scene out of LA. Petite and pretty, her clothes are so well coordinated and minimally chic that you’re not sure if it’s an outfit she laid out the night before or threw on in a scramble before she stepped out the door of her parents’ Cresskill home. As she walks into the restaurant, the staff stops and stares. I could’ve sworn a wind blew through her hair as she approached. Was I in her music video?
Heather lives in LA full-time now, attending USC when she isn’t pursuing her real passion, singing. She’s good, too. Just listen to her songs on YouTube, where one video has racked up over 100,000 views, and others aren’t far behind. Public opinion suggests she must be doing something right.
I’m not sure what Heather will be like, but I’ve done my best not to form any premature opinions. Young attractive girl with amazing parents who probably gave her everything she could ever ask for, living in beautiful Bergen County. It might be easy to make stupid assumptions.
When she sits down, she smiles, her pearly whites making the surrounding restaurant look even duller. She orders sashimi. Teenagers never eat sashimi.
Heather is 19, but carries herself with the wisdom and kindness of someone much older. It fits the story. Always with her eye on the prize, Heather attended Dwight Englewood, graduating early and shipping off to LA to chase her dream. The dream she’s had since she was just four years old.
“I lived for Mommy & Me classes,” reminisces a wide-eyed Heather. Her stage was anywhere she was, and her audience anyone who would listen. “I sang Doe a Deer at a recital and I guess I nailed it,” she recalls. “That’s when this snowball effect of where I am now began.”
While in her elementary school days, Heather was frequently in the city, performing in The People Garden, an Off-Broadway act teaching kids the virtues of life: honesty, respect, caring and acceptance. By second grade Heather had an agent and was making short appearances in Law & Order SVU, auditioning for commercials and attending performing arts camps, honing her craft while most kids her age played with Legos.
As Heather grew up, she realized singing was what she loved most. Equipped with her purple acoustic guitar, she continued learning and practicing, perfecting Hey Jude by the Beatles before moving on to covering other songs and learning to write her own.
Fast forward to this past April, and Heather, enrolled in the Visual & Performing Arts program at USC, just put out her newest album, Diamonds in the Dirt, a five-song EP that introduces the world to the artist, Heather Braverman.
“Every song represents a piece of me,” Heather says of Diamonds in the Dirt. “It really solidifies who I am as an artist.”
While Heather admits she only writes her songs in the bathtub, her songs aren’t as bubbly as you’d expect. “My songs are sassy and empowering,” she says. “I’m not a victim of anyone. I have a lot of personality, and it’s uncensored and unapologetic. Sing my song in the shower and you’ll sound like a badass.”
Heather’s first single off the new album, Take It Off, is nothing like the title suggests. Instead, it empowers listeners while offering surprisingly not-tacky rap from Heather about three minutes in. If you want to hear her softer side, just listen to Shy, which helps showcase the wide range and impeccable talent of the teen from Cresskill. That isn’t to say that LA hasn’t helped be the inspiration for her songs.
“Life just happens in front of you here. It gives you so much to write about,” Heather says, that sweet California demeanor masking her unapologetic Jersey attitude.
While Heather trusts the advisers she has around her—her manager, producers, other artists—there aren’t many whose opinions she trusts more than those of her younger sister, Jules. Jules, a great singer in her own right, just graduated from Dwight Englewood in May, but already has an experienced voice that helps Heather tune hers. “Jules is super smart, and she’s great at arranging music, so she’s always helping me,” Heather says.
Although Heather jokes that her parents aren’t too musically inclined, they have been wholly supportive through every step of Heather’s journey, from taking her to auditions in New York to helping her move out to LA as she seeks to fulfill her dreams. “I couldn’t do it all without them. They are such great role models for my sister and I, and my mom’s like my best friend,” Heather says sincerely.
But that’s not the only way family has helped shape Heather’s career. Her great grandmother, a pianist, and her grandmother, a tap dancer, clearly passed down their talents to the young Braverman sisters.
When Heather isn’t doing everything in her power to promote her new album, she can be found teaching spin in LA, working on new cover songs or even speaking at teen summits for the non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), in which her family is very involved.
While most of Heather’s life is in LA now, she does frequently visit her old stomping grounds. You might spot her at the Tenafly Diner or Farmhouse in Cresskill having some avocado toast or attending the Body Burn class at Retro Fitness. If you’re fortunate like me, you might even get to have a milkshake or sushi with her at Baumgart’s. Shining bright in an otherwise dull place, Heather Braverman truly is a diamond in the dirt.
Brandon Goldstein is associate publisher of BC THE MAG.