Priscilla: Creating a Pop-Star
By Bridget Brady
I do not believe there could have been a more perfect way to meet a new up-and-coming pop artist as the setting in which I met Priscilla. Navigating through the busy night-time Hollywood streets, I arrived at the International Dance Academy. As I walked up the flights of metal stairs, the smell of pot, sweat and young ambition filled the air.There was a dance audition at the studio that night, so the halls swarmed with hundreds of young dancers that were none too thrilled to let me pass as they waited for their chance to get in the door. It was here that I met the fresh-off-the-boat, new aspiring pop singer, Priscilla. She was tucked away in a back room, preparing for her rehearsal of a new music video. Surrounded by her Public Relations Manager, protective and loving sister, famed choreographer (Andre Fuentes) and a couple of dancers, we settled in to start the interview. Priscilla was very sweet, and complimented my hair and shoes before we started. Her evident youth made it hard to believe she was already in her 20's, and easy to believe that this was her first year in the US.
I sit down with both Priscilla and Andre Fuentes to discover the secret sauce of young pop-star dreams.
You left Brazil at the age of 17 and moved to Portugal to get your degree in Clinical Psychology. You then moved to Los Angeles when you were 22, and have been here for just one year...Welcome to Los Angeles! Let's start with why you do what you do, why you are passionate about music, and why you came here to pursue your dream?
I love the arts, and since I was six years old I've been dancing; it's very cultural in Brazil. Dance is more cultural than singing in Brazil. I've been doing ballet and jazz since I was little. I've always been involved in this process, and my mother said, "Oh, you're going to be a dancer!" I thought, ok, I like to dance, but I didn't know if I wanted to only be a dancer. I've always been singing at home and at school, but it wasn't taken very seriously. Brazil is more about acting, and telenovelas, and dancing samba and Carnivale, but that's it. Then you go study and get a degree. And this is what I did. It was a very good experience that I don't regret, but it wasn't my passion. THIS was my passion since I was little...dancing, singing, and being involved in performing. I've always been performing. In Brazil we do dance shows in theatres with lots of people. I was the youngest one, and everyone in Brazil, in my home town knows about me. Singing became more serious when I was a teenager, and when I was getting my psychology degree. While I was getting my degree, I was working on my songs. Europe is very quiet, especially Portugal. There weren't a lot of people around, and I didn't have a lot of friends. I just had my sister and my mother. There's a lot of trees and nature, and I'd always go there and write songs. Nature was my inspiration, and I could sing because nobody could hear it. It was very peaceful.
Do you write all your own music, or do you also have writers you work with?
I have writers, but "See You on the Dance Floor" (my first single) I wrote on my own.
Do you play any instruments?
No, but I would say that I know how to use a keyboard for the basics.
What's your primary genre? Dance music?
Pop music. It could be dance music…or even sad music. I wanted to start with more fun, and with dance music. "See You on the Dance Floor" is sexy and happy. I didn't want to start as a new artist with a sad song. I wouldn't say I'm rock 'n roll, but I like pop, dance, electronic and even ballads...all of it.
What's your dream...the big one?
Oh...my dream?? I would say my dream is happening right now. This is what I've thought about my whole life. I was not happy in Brazil; I was not doing what I loved to do. I finished my degree and said, "Mom, here's my degree, so don't worry, if anything goes wrong I can be a psychologist." In Brazil everyone wants their children to have a degree. My mother and father didn't have a degree. They wanted to make sure our future was okay.
I think that's the same in America.
But I think America is more open to the arts. In school you can have singing classes. In Brazil there's no way to have singing classes. I was going to have acting classes for very first time when I was 17.
So have you studied voice?
Just here. I'm still studying.
Is your family supportive of you being here?
Oh yes, my older sister is my manager...and assistant. She makes sure I'm doing everything correctly; she has her eyes on me.
What about your parents, are they still back in Brazil?
Yes, they are coming here this year for sure. But we are not alone; we first came to Boston where my cousins live. And my aunt and uncle have been here since I was little. My aunt made sure that we knew the basics about America, the culture and the people. I'm from a big city in Brazil where there's a lot of traffic, and a lot people, so we weren't afraid.
What's your favorite thing about being here in Los Angeles?
I feel like if you really want to pursue your dreams, I think Los Angeles will embrace you. Of course it's not that easy, but I feel like there are a lot of opportunities...for everybody, not just the music industry. You can see people from everywhere, and people aren't judged because of the country they're from. Even if your English isn't good, you can speak Spanish...there's no way to get lost here.
That's interesting...when I first moved here I felt like there were a lot of ways to get lost...Is there anything you don't like about L.A.?
The traffic...even though I'm from a place that has traffic, the traffic here is terrible! You lose so much time in traffic. And sometimes people don't drive well...it's hard to drive here. It's way different than Brazil. And, it's important to know the right people. Because this is the "land of the dreams," a lot of people can approach you and say, "I can make you a star, I am somebody" and sometimes a person is just trying to take advantage of you. Luckily this didn't happen with me, with two brains working (me and my sister) and my mom calling everyday; fortunately we didn't have a bad experience.
What are you rehearsing tonight?
Rehearsing for my next music video. It's different from my first video, but it's still sexy. The concept of the video is very different.
Is this a song you wrote?
Someone co-wrote this with me. It’s called, "Bouncing."
Do you have an album, or are you just releasing singles right now?
I'm releasing singles first. There are a lot of things going on right now; a lot of people are involved. It's better than my first music video...that was me and my sister and we had a very good choreographer, but it's getting more serious. Now we have Britney Spear's choreographer, the person who wrote the song is involved in Jay-Z and Chris Brown projects; this song is more pop and less dance.
What's it like working with Andre, Britney Spear's choreographer?
He's a very clever person. He's fun, he knows your body, and he knows what makes your body look good dancing. He makes sure that every step he does, you look good on camera. He thinks about every detail. His choreography is very sexy, but very classy at the same time. Just very clever; I really like to work with him.
Do you engage your fans via Social Media?
I love interacting with my fans on Social Media, not only from here, but from Brazil. I feel very blessed because people from Brazil and America have embraced me. They accepted me very quickly, and I feel very blessed for that. There's never been a Brazilian singer here, some have tried but they failed. They released music videos here, singles, but it never worked.
Wow...is that true? Are there no big Brazilian pop-stars??
Andre: I was thinking that too, I actually looked and she's right...it seems impossible...
Right?! It does seem impossible...
Pop music in Brazil is not very cultural; we have other styles there. It's hard for them to sing in English. I'm still learning, but I'm getting better. It's hard with the accent.
What other fun secrets would you like our readers to know?
Pop music is my style and I will always be dancing. My inspirations are Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna (of course) and Shakira (because she's from another country, and she's rocking). I know that Marilyn Monroe is more of an actress, but I love her style; I think she's perfect. And Britney Spears as well. I love artists that dance and sing, like Michael Jackson…My mother is a crazy fan of Michael Jackson, since I was born she had me sit and watch Michael Jackson music videos. Every day I would watch since I was little.
Did your parents want you to be a pop-star? Was this their dream first, before it was your dream?
I don't know...my mother always wanted me to be involved in the arts, but she never thought I could go further. Especially at that time, being from a country that wasn't very good, at the time it was a third-world country; it was impossible to think that this could be possible. [Laughing] If I'm pursuing this career, that's my mother's fault. Always since I was little, she was shoo-ing me towards performing.
This is a hard dream to pursue no matter what country you're from.
But I believe in destiny as well, and in God. I know that everybody here has a path and a destiny. If it's your destiny and if God approves, it's going to happen. But it's not for everybody.
As I witness a new pop-star being created before my eyes, I thought it important to check in with renowned choreographer, Andre Fuentes. Fuentes has worked with some of the biggest names in the pop world, including Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Prince. I sat down with Andre to learn more about him, and get his take on working with Priscilla.
You're a choreographer that's worked with big stars, tell me more about that.
I've been pretty blessed with everyone I've worked with in the past 20 years. I'm an MTV award winner, and now I'm at this point in my career where I find myself wanting to create something new, something fresh. There are a lot of great acts, but the great ones are the ones who are trained and have done their homework. I feel like I have a lot of knowledge with what I've been through that I can share with new artists like Priscilla. Lately I've been finding myself working with a lot of new acts and I'm enjoying it. It's something different when you work with someone in the business that might not have the work ethic they had when they were young and fresh. I'm finding it very fulfilling for myself to see the light in their eyes. When I see someone like Priscilla get the move right, and all of a sudden that spark in her eye just shines, I'm like, "Ah, that's great!" It's really enjoyable to watch. And the process is what I always keep with me, and it's why I'm still doing it. Right now it's like having a new puppy. Honestly it's one of those times when I'm really thankful. You get so much out of watching someone become "that." I've had it happen before with Britney, and it's a process that you can't make up, it just happens. Having this chance again is great.
How did you get introduced to Priscilla?
[Priscilla's sister is yelling over to us, "I'm not a manager!!"]
Well you managed to track me down!! I have been approached before, and sometimes I'm a little wary, but her first approach was so heart-felt and I could tell that she had done her homework. We started with a meeting, and here we are now. We definitely connected, that was the thing. She really let me know what this was gonna be, and I believed in it. Once I saw the footage of Priscilla, I saw right there...the little gleam in her eye. And the thing I enjoy the most is that she wants this SO bad. You think everyone has that dream, but there's some that you know, no matter what, they're gonna' make it. There's nothing that's going to stop her so I thought, "let me get up on this band-wagon now." And here we are. I'm really glad I made the connection.
You've worked with some big stars...and you've worked with some up-and-coming stars...What's the difference between working with a big star, and someone who's not famous yet? (Other than the money.)
Less press. [Laughing]. There is no difference. I think the difference is when people keep that gleam in their eye, that spark…If they can keep around the people that helped them through that process. That's the difference for me. There aren’t that many people here now, but there's going to be a lot of people around later, and that's where it starts getting difficult. I think that's the thing that's different. I like the fact that I don’t have so many bugs in my ear from the labels telling me what they want and what I have to do; I'm just listening to Priscilla. The artist kind of knows what they want, and it's us helping their vision. I'm doing my job. It's so easy to do my job when I'm not being told what to do from a lot of different heads. One day and someday it's gonna' happen, that's what we want, but at this point it's still coming from her.
How many dancers are in this new video?
The one and only Priscilla. It's about her and her music, and we're keeping it that way. We all decided that there's the image of the iconic video...if you can hold the stage on your own, that defines you. We've all seen those images of stars that don't need anything but a floor and a mic. It's about stamina right now for her, keeping the vibe of capturing the audience throughout the entire video. It's cool because we're discovering her, and she's discovering herself at the same time, which is really fun to watch. She's being surprised looking at herself, and I'm just watching her develop. The whole nature of her being and her aura is unmasking. We're getting something really special out of this, and I think everyone's going to enjoy it.
After our interviews, I got the honor of watching the rehearsal for her new video. I was there from the warm up, to hearing Andre cajole, carefully scold, and then praise Priscilla’s work on his choreography. She was a willing student, and I personally look forward to seeing the finished product. Are stars born? Are stars created? I think it’s a bit of both. It will be interesting to see where the journey and the dreams of this young Brazilian girl take her.
Learn more and follow Priscilla at http://PriscillaMusic.com