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Nina Sophia Waga Mojares
03/06/2012 - By Gayle Davis
Photo: McKay Imaging (mckayimaging.com)
The Triple Threat
Nina Sophia Waga Mojares–
on her way to the bright lights
Sitting down and getting to know Nina Sophia Waga Mojares was truly a pleasure! This young girl, from Freehold, sure has what it takes to make her star shine. By the time she was 10 she had already had earned the opportunity to perform in front of thousands at Madison Square Garden for a handful of New York Knicks basketball games. She has also sung at the U.S. Tennis Open, the Filipino Parade in New York City and several other notable events. Not only is Nina full of talent but she is focused, poised and articulate. Her passion resonates with every word that comes out of her mouth.
This recording artist, songwriter, Latin ballroom dancer, pianist and actress has already been on National Television and rubbed elbows with a laundry list of celebrities. She praises the power of YouTube for allowing her to “get noticed.” Nina has appeared on America’s Got Talent, The Maury Povich Show, SiriusXM Radio, The Today Show and is also appearing in a movie that will debut on the Gospel Music Channel this spring. Nina hopes to one day become a pop star, but right now she’s taking each day as it comes. Nina has met with the top executives from Atlantic Records, Nickelodeon and Disney and some of these higher ups now follow Nina on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Nina’s family (father, Dennis, mother, Jeanette and seven year old brother, Christian), are grateful for the opportunities their Sophia has been blessed with and look forward to what her future holds…which could mean eventually moving the family out to California!
When you get a moment, log onto Nina’s YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/user/NinaWagaMojares) so that you can fully appreciate a sampling of the aspiring teen’s many talents.
Note - At the time of this interview, Nina was awaiting the arrival of her 13th birthday!
LIWM: You are only 12 years old and have accomplished more than some people do in a lifetime in the world of entertainment! Tell me when you discovered that you could sing like a pro!
NSWM: Well, I first started singing with the karaoke machine when I was about four years old. I would always sit on my mom’s lap at parties and sing songs by Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. Then I started performing locally in Freehold at charity events…that’s when I really started to realize that I love singing! I started to begin to audition for bigger events, such as performing at Madison Square Garden and the U.S. Open. I really got used to singing at the Garden because some of our family friends recommended me to audition for the Kidz Bop Contest there. That’s when I recall saying to myself, “This is so cool performing in front of some 20 thousand people!” That day, I was competing with two other 13 year olds and I was only 10! It was so nerve wracking. I was third to sing and the audience went berserk. I won first place in that contest! I felt like I was putting on my own concert and I was only singing a 90 second song. So that’s when I first realized that I could sing like a pro.
LIWM: You are also an accomplished recording artist, songwriter, pianist, dancer and actress…which one comes to you the most naturally and is there any one that you are most passionate about?
NSWM: Singing. It’s the first talent I discovered, then recording. I love recording because it just makes me feel like a superstar. I go to BlockStars Production Studios in Plainfield. I work there with James Foster and Lamont Cooley. They are two of the biggest musical geniuses. They are just amazing! Every time I record a song I have so much fun. They produced my original songs, “Now It’s Time;” “It’s Possible;” and “Leap of Faith” - which are available on iTunes.
LIWM: While watching your YouTube channel, I was blown away! Was your voice always as powerful as it is today, or did you “grow” into it?
NSWM: Well, singing definitely requires a lot of work. I take a lot of lessons. I take R&B and pop vocal lessons with Alicia Madison at Music University in Freehold; I took Pop Vocal lessons from three-time Latin Grammy nominee Brenda K Starr and, I also study with Elaine Kennerly at the Staten Island Conservatory of Music. Now, when I look back at my videos when I was little, I am like, “Wow! Who is that? That is not me and don’t sound like what I do today!” My voice did not have the kind of power it does today when I was younger. And I thought I sounded so good back then! Now I think, “Okay, I am getting better at it.”
LIWM: Your voice has been compared to that of a young Alicia Keys, Katy Perry and/or Beyonce…that is quite a compliment. Who do you consider your inspiration for sound and performance?
NSWM: I have actually been told that I sound like Christina Aguilera mixed with Amy Winehouse, just because I have a soulful voice and as you said, Beyonce and Katy Perry. But I like Selena Gomez. My music and my genre switch from time to time. Beyonce’s voice is similar to mine. She has a lot of pop, but then she incorporates her soulfulness into that. I guess that’s who I would choose as my singing inspiration.
LIWM: When was it that you were first “discovered?”
NSWM: A gentleman by the name of David Brodsky was the first to notice me. He’s a P.R. guy and owns a local TV show called “Rhythms of New York.” He had seen me perform in New York City at one of the largest parades held there. I had left an impression on him and he reached out to my mom and invited me to be on the show. This was my very first TV appearance. To this day he voluntarily writes all of my press releases at no charge, just because he believes in me. Next, I would probably have to say when America’s Got Talent found me. They emailed my mom and said, “We found your daughter on YouTube and we would like to have her audition for an 'invite only' audition - which means I didn’t have to wait on line for 800 hours to audition in front of the executive producers. They gave me a time slot through the power of YouTube! I was like “Wow, an invite only audition!” I went in and I auditioned in front of them and they interviewed me. I then waited a couple of months and then in February we got the call; they asked me to perform and audition in front of the celebrity judges on national television! At that moment I was crying…there were a lot of tears, but they were tears of joy. I then auditioned in New York City at the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Lights and cameras were all over the place! Nick Cannon, the host of the show, was there. Then something weird happened. Right before I was about to go on stage my mom got a call from The Maury Povich Show saying that they would like me to appear on the show as one of Maury’s Most Talented Kids! Well, my mom was like, “I can’t talk right now, my daughter is about to audition for America’s Got Talent!” I was literally about to go on stage…I think God was looking down on me. But I didn’t make it to the next round. Howie Mandel said, “Yes, you have the potential to move on to the next round in Las Vegas,” but Piers Morgan and Sharon Osborne didn’t think I was ready. They thought I was a bit too mature for my age. Sharon used the word “precocious” to describe me. I was only 10 moving on to be 11 years old at the time….
LIWM: Going on 20! [Laughs]
NSWM: [Laughs] My dad says, “As one door closes, another door opens…”
LIWM: What was the next door that opened for you?
NSWM: The Maury Povich Show. That show was the week after. I sang, “And I Am Telling You,” by the Dreamgirls. Adrienne Bailon was the cohost along with Maury. I was chosen from the United States, along with seven other kids.
LIWM: Was it a contest?
NSWM: No, we were all just chosen as the most talented kids to be on the show. They found my video on YouTube, too.
LIWM: I wonder what these producers are typing in their search to find you...?
NSWM: That’s what my mom and I were wondering, too! Madison Square Garden found me by typing in 'Child National Anthem Singer'. I sang a couple of National Anthems at a few local events and I come up in the search. The New York Red Bulls found me that way, too. And to think most people usually have to audition and they are just finding me on YouTube.
LIWM: You were also on The Today Show. What did you do?
NSWM: My mom’s friend recommended that I audition to be The Today Show Kid Reporter. It was a contest. It was the day before the deadline so I had to make a video of me reporting. I did the weather. So my mom was like, “We have to make this video quick.” We went out to the patio. I had my sunglasses on and I had my umbrella as my props. I was like, “Okay soccer moms…it might be a little rainy this weekend (as I pulled out my umbrella)....” We sent in the tape, that my mom wrapped in pink with my picture on it, and I was selected as a finalist. I met Al Roker; he was pretty cool. I didn’t win but it was so much fun.
LIWM: So did the job offers, television interviews and auditions start to roll in all because of YouTube?
NSWM: Pretty much. The power of YouTube has afforded great things for me. There have also just been some people who have seen me perform live and have asked for my mom’s email address. I also perform at a lot of Asian Heritage Festivals and from that they have asked me to continuously perform at their other events.
LIWM: Tell me, do you just lie in bed at night and think that this is all a dream and pinch yourself?
NSWM: Oh, yes! I sit by myself at the computer and I enter in 'tags' so people can find my YouTube links so, hopefully, I can get discovered. I also keep up with my Twitter and Facebook and I pray a lot. My mom does so much for me. She’s the one who makes all of my videos and posts them with all of the necessary captions as well as manages my website. It’s overwhelming at how much I’ve accomplished, but it would also be great for me to be on Disney or Nickelodeon.
LIWM: Do you think you are ready for that?
NSWM: I think I am! I mean I am working hard to pursue that dream.
LIWM: But do you understand that, if you do make it to that point, you would have to give up your sense of “normalcy?”
NSWM: Yes. I do think about that a lot. Disney and Nickelodeon are all the way out in California. I always think that if I make it, I will have to leave all of my family and friends here. My mom and I would be out there and my dad and brother would be here….
LIWM: You have it all planned out, huh?
NSWM: Well, we have talked about it. Like what would we do if it does happen? There have already been some opportunities out there. I was out there this summer, with my dad, where I filmed a movie for the Gospel Music Channel coming out this March. It is called “Brother White”. I played a 10 year-old gospel singer and sang “His Eye On The Sparrow.” It was pretty cool. I met Reginald VelJohnson and Jackee Harry. So we have thought about going to Hollywood. I would be scared though, if I was actually be put in that position. But, I would be happy, too.
LIWM: You have also been afforded the chance to meet a long list of celebrities. How have they affected your life and who has left the biggest impression on you and why?
NSWM: I have met one of my idols, Taylor Swift. I went to her 'meet and greet' after her concert and I was just star- struck! First of all, she’s very tall. She’s just so nice and down to earth. I really like the way she connects with the crowd; that really inspires me. I have also met the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato. Oh, and Rosie O’Donnell. I had an interview last year with Sirius XM Radio and Rosie O’Donnell was there, which was very rare. The President of Sirius, who grew up in Freehold, had heard me sing at Madison Square Garden and invited me in for an interview with Nicole Biggins. So when I finished, I walked out and did a little wave to her. There’s this wall that all the guests sign after they are on the air and I had already left when I realized I forgot to sign it. So I came back. I happened to pass her and she said to me, “What are you doing here? You’re a little girl and we don’t usually see people so young here.” I said, “Well I’m a singer and I recently sang at Madison Square Garden.” She said, “Really? Can you sing us a little tune?” I told her I was also on America’s Got Talent and sang “Mercy” by Duffy so I sang her a verse of that and she was blown away. Next thing I knew she took out her video camera on her phone and recorded me singing another song - “Hurt” by Christina Aguilera. She put it on her Twitter and website. That was a lot of shout out to me! I was completely star- struck. She then got a little information about me…
LIWM: Wow! So, you write your own music and have performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City?
NSWM: I wrote a song with Brenda K. Starr and I have written some songs with Paul Sallee from Music University. I wrote a song called, “Now It’s Time,” and I play the piano on that, too, and was lucky enough to be one of the “Outstanding Filipinos of New York.” They perform at Carnegie Hall and I got to perform my original on a Steinway Grand piano, which was awesome.
LIWM: You have done so much. Do you ever get nervous before you go on?
NSWM: I always get nervous, whether it’s in front of 20 people or 20 thousand people.
LIWM: What do you do to keep yourself calm?
NSWM: I practice a lot. I also have a lucky bracelet, which has all the saints on it. I pray a lot and just breathe in and out and run through the lyrics in my head so I don’t forget the words.
LIWM: What projects are you currently working on?
NSWM: I am performing the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden February 19th for the Knicks vs. Mavericks Game. (Note – this interview took place in February.) Then there are some other things that I can’t talk about at this time. I am auditioning for some sitcoms and commercials and things like that.
LIWM: Have there been any calls or emails that you found not legitimate?
NSWM: After “America’s Got Talent” we got so many calls that we had to screen out some. We’ve definitely gotten some “weird” emails and my mom monitors my Facebook account. We’ve gotten some really big phone calls and, currently, Disney is monitoring me.
LIWM: How do you find time to balance all of that you do in entertainment and middle school at that same time?
NSWM: It’s hard to balance all of this…
LIWM: And I bet you’re a straight-A student?
NSWM: Yeah…my mom says, “Education comes first!” It’s my number one priority. We keep a calendar on the 'fridge and my grandpa drives me to where I have to be a lot of the time. Every single day of the week I have something after school. It’s very rare when I can call one of my friends to hang out.
LIWM: What time do you go to sleep?
NSWM: Very late! Especially on the nights that I take my ballroom dance lessons. It’s all the way up in Bergen County. I work with Spencer Nyemchek. His son is one of the dancers who opens up the show Dancing With the Stars. His name is Chris Kiki Nyemchek. Spencer is an amazing teacher and he is wellknown in the industry.
LIWM: How do you know at such a young age that this is something you’d like to do?
NSWM: My parents. I used to go with them until they had to stop because they would fight all the time about performing their steps correctly! So then I started taking lessons. Now I do competitions. I am lucky enough to be a Junior Ballroom Dance Champion. I will be competing again in April for the Regionals and the Nationals. My partner, Gabriel Basalatan, and I have been winning awards, one after another.
LIWM: You also like to golf?
NSWM: Yes - and play tennis. So it’s very hard to balance everything. My mom sends me texts after school saying, “Okay…time to practice piano.” I tend to pull through it all and I have fun.
LIWM: What does your brother do while you are so busy with all of this?
NSWM: Oh! He is my number one fan! He is busy, too. He does Taekwondo, piano, basketball and soccer…
LIWM: To date, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
NSWM: I think singing is the most successful thing I have done. Singing at Madison Square Garden; at the U.S. Tennis Open; and at the New York Red Bulls Soccer Game. It’s done so much for me. Five years from now I would like to see myself acting on Disney or Nickelodeon. But most of all I would like to inspire other kids to do what I love to do.
LIWM: Do your classmates look up to you because of all you’ve accomplished?
NSWM: Well, my friends are so supportive. I am so surprised they aren’t bratty about it. But there are some kids who are just so mean or jealous. I get cyber-bullied a lot. I am very successful in school and I am talented, but I don’t go around saying, “I am the best…”
LIWM: Is it fair to ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
NSWM: I am doing what I love to do. I just love showing the world my talent. If I don’t become that “Pop Star” I would love to work behind the scenes in the music business as a producer or, I would like to be a pediatrician. I love kids!
Tokyo in Freehold
Favorite Recording Artists:
Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Bruno Mars
Victoria Justice and Victorious on Nickelodeon
Julianne Hough from Dancing With The Stars
Favorite Reality TV Show:
“Grown ups” and “Step Brothers”
People who hate or bully others
Three People Who You’d Like to Dine With:
Selena Gomez, Justin Beiber and Beyoncé
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