In just a short amount of time, Pia Mia has made a massive impact on the entertainment industry. She counts some of the biggest A-listers, including Kylie Jenner and Tyga, as part of her inner circle, her single "Do It Again" found immediate success and amassed over 239 million views on YouTube alone, and she was recently named by Madonna as the newest fashion director of Material Girl. And if that wasn't all, she also has toured alongside iconic hip hop artist will.i.am and has worked in the studio alongside Justin Bieber. The pop singer/songwriter has accomplished more than some of the seasoned pros in her field.
But don't chalk it up to luck. The 19-year-old is quick to note that everything she's done so far is all thanks to a supportive family and an intense internal drive to make her dreams come true. It's this exact tenacity that drove Pia Mia to leave her homeland Guam at the young age of 13. And while she's been calling herself a Los Angeles resident for the past few years, Guam still holds an incredibly important role both in her personal life and musical career.
We recently sat down with Pia Mia to talk about what life was like living in Guam, how she overcame her shyness at a young age, and how her heritage plays a crucial role in her creative process today.
YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, including more Pia Mia exclusives, click here
I think you have a really interesting backstory. What was life like for you growing up?
So I come from the island of Guam. We're a really small island, the population is about 150,000 and it's very family-oriented. We were always barbecuing and having parties. Growing up was really about spending time with my cousins or family. I was also really shy and I started singing when I was eight years old for my school's musical theater. Everyone on the island was really supportive of me when I began singing. I would sing for Japanese weddings when I was about 10. Island life was paradise.
You mentioned that you were shy. When did you decide to put yourself out there and become a performer?
Music was something I never though about because I was shy. But when I was in third grade all these girls were auditioning for Cinderella at my school and I didn't want to feel left out, so I auditioned too. And the second I stepped on stage and started singing I felt like that was where I was meant to be.
When did decide you wanted to take your career from Guam to the US?
When I found music it made me feel confident. So I mentioned that I sang at weddings and other events, and at a point I had maxed out all my opportunites in Guam. So I began to start posting songs on my YouTube channel, and I noticed how many people were liking my videos from all around the world. So I decided it was time to move to LA and start my career there.
Was there a culture shock when you first moved to the US?
Yeah, it's so different. Guam is slow paced and relaxed but in LA is so high paced. And it was just me and my mom who came to LA and I have a whole family who stayed in Guam as well. Learning the ropes was a challenge and there was a lot about the industry I had to navigate. But it worked out.
What specific challenges did you face trying to make it in Hollywood?
I had never worked in a recording studio before. And I had been picked up by Baby Face which is where I learned how songs are created. Being around other people who are trying to be in the spotlight were weird for me. Because music for me has always been a way to express myself and get things off my chest. But there are a lot of people there whose focus isn't about the art itself. There was a whole second layer to Hollywood and it took me a while to understand how to navigate that. I was thirteen when I got there. I quickly learned that you have to keep a small circle, stay focused on your work, and remember that family is the most important thing.
How do you find the balance between keeping in touch with your family in Guam and focusing on your career?
It's hard. Thank God for FaceTime. It's hard to not see my little siblings for so long and every time I see them they've grown so much. And when I see them, I'm really torn up about it and a part of me just wants to go back home with them. But then they always encourage me that this is what I'm meant to do. So they keep me really motivated. It's not easy but we make it work.
And you recently performed at Guam Live. What was that experience like for you?
It was amazing. It's a concert they put on every year and this year was cool because I got to headline, which is a huge deal. There were so many people there, the energy was insane. It was the first time I was back there after I dropped my single "Do It Again." It was just really good vibes.
How have you seen your heritage affect your music or fashion?
I think it's had a huge effect on me in both music and fashion. Growing up on Guam there weren't too many places to shop so I always had to be creative with my fashion. So I would take clothes from my family and make them my own. I'm so happy that I got to do that because I think now I'm so much more diverse with my fashion. Same thing with my music, I still have an island-y feel to my songs. But growing up on Guam, since there weren't so many artists there, I would study Michael Jackson or Beyonce. Guam really has been everything in my career. If it wasn't for it, I don't know where I would be.
YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, including more Pia Mia exclusives, click here.
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