Makiki teen shoots for U.S. stardom via Japan
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
She's the hapa singer, half Japanese and half European, who has a voice that packs a wallop and a Eurasian face that her Japan Victor Entertainment handlers hope will appeal to Japan audiences.
The Mid-Pacific Institute student is hitting the promo trail for her debut CD, "Jennifer," already a hot commodity here. She's No. 1 in sales on Tower Records' list of local best sellers. A music video is in the works.
A local launch came before the planned entry in the Japanese marketplace, where hapa girls are marketable. If Jennifer connects in Tokyo, she'll get a global push.
"It's moving as we expected," said the Makiki teen.
Performing is what she lives for. It helped her through her mother's two divorces, rough times in which she learned music could be a haven.
"It was a stress reliever during those times, and I was kinda in my own world when I sang," said Jennifer. "If I had any kind of trouble, I would find comfort in singing. And I would be OK. And that's why I love performing."
Shy she isn't.
"I'm so frustrated this (career) thing is taking so long," she said. "I can't wait to be in Japan, to start making appearances, to get the record launched."
Japan Victor believes that a percolating career in Japan would kindle a blitz in America.
Outspoken she is especially about the field of pop wannabes.
"There's a glut of 10-year-old Japanese singers, and it's very crowded," she said. "It irritates me. Little Japanese girls with big eyelashes, pink lipstick. And most can't sing."
Don't leave out Britney Spears, Jennifer.
"She looks too fake," she said, pointing to her own chest. "I've seen her (in concert), and she's just not down-to-earth, like people like Brandy. I definitely don't want to be like her."
Jennifer grew up listening to Metallica, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, because those were the groups her father, Jim Perri, a sound engineer, liked best.
"I was going to concerts at 3. I started singing at 7. I was thinking of a music career at 9. So, yes, I'm a little impatient. I wish things would move a little faster."
She'll be a sophomore when fall classes resume. She abhors school, she said, but there are three more years of books and homework.
"Mid-Pac is an arts school, so I can take dance (instead of P.E.) and I want to major in dance, minor in singing, open up a dance studio when I'm older," she said. "But you have to have a degree for that, so yes, I plan to go to college."
When depends on what happens to her budding career. She figures it might take her three to four years to achieve her goals.
"I want to be a star by 20," she said. "I'd rather go straight to America, but everyone thinks the Japan connection will be good. But I will always say I'm a Hawai'i native, not from Japan."
She's had modest local brushes with fame and celebrity. She won a modeling contest as a child and received considerable TV exposure on Oceanic Cable (she won a "Kiddieoke" contest and became a child host).
On a quick Los Angeles trip this month, Jennifer completed a music video for her "My Secret" song from her best-selling CD.
She hopes to one day get it aired on MTV, but already has been promised a showcase on "Overdrive Live" on Oceanic.
"I start driver's education in December, when I turn 16," she said. "I hope to have a car by then, too. It's an Integra Acura. 1997. Two-door and white. With white lights, too. Way nice."
Even before her media blitz overseas, Jennifer already has won a spokesperson role as Nickelodeon Asia's face in Japan and other regional markets.
Is she nervous about the path ahead?
"I'm kinda scared," said Jennifer. "So I have to push myself to be better than the best. Making it in this business is not only about talent, but being in the right place at the right time. A little luck is involved, but it's luck you have to work for. I think people who don't work for it, or don't do anything, won't succeed."
She speaks a little Japanese, because her obaachan (grandmother) doesn't speak English, and understands the language.
"They'll probably call me Jennie-chan in Japan," she said with a giggle.