Billboard Special Feature: Stars – Mexico’s Multifaceted Superstar has Thrived Through Reinvention – Thalía
PART I of III
PART II of III
PART III of III
Mexican pop star Thalía and her 11th studio album “El Sexto Sentido” (EMI Latin) are profiled. The singer is fond of saying that she believes in intuition. She believes in “el sexto sentido”-a sixth sense. The EMI Latin album is the follow-up to “Thalía,” the singer’s 2003 English-language debut. While that set targeted the English-speaking market (despite a few tracks in Spanish), the plan behind “El Sexto Sentido” is even more ambitious. Although largely recorded in Spanish, the album features English versions of three songs, included to boost Thalía’s career in non-Latin markets around the world.
October 22, 2005
MEXICO’S MULTIFACETED SUPERSTAR HAS THRIVED THROUGH REINVENTION
Singer, actress, entrepreneur and celebrity, Mexican star Thalia has carved out one of the most successful global Latin careers in memory. The arrival of her new album, “El Sexto Sentido,” is but the latest chapter in the story of a driven starwho does what it takes to get what she wants. Born Thalia Sodi Miranda in Mexico City, she is tile youngest of five sisters, arriving 11 years after her next-oldest sibling. She focused her energies on an artistic career since early childhood.
She worked under the fierce guardianship and supervision of her mother, who concentrated fully on handling her daughter’s career after Thalia’s father died. By the time she was 15 years old, Thalia was already a member of Timbiriche, at the time the country’s most popular teen band, and a bona fide soap opera starwith a leading role in the country’s most popular TV serial.
Such early success in a country that actively fosters young talent is not as surprising as is Thalia’s remarkable staying power and capacity for reinvention. Thalia’s career has been on a consistent ride upward, punctuated by equally successful forays into the business world.
Now 34, Thalia is a one-name wonder, associated with music, TV, clothing (the Thalía Sodi Collection, carried by Kmart), a candy line (La Dulcería Thalía, with Hershey’s) and an eyewear collection (with Kenmart), and she says there are other ventures on the horizon.
Thalía’s success even spills into her personal life; she is happily married to renowned music executive Tommy Mottola. During a listening session in Miami for “El Sexto Sentido,” Thalía spoke candidly about her success and what is to come.
Your family is very artistic. In fact you have a sister, Laura Zapata, who is an established actress in Mexico.Where does the inclination come from?
My grandmother always regaled us with her voice. She has a gorgeous voice and would always sing in the house. My mother also sings very well. And Laura was the first to go into singing professionally. She started in dramatic theater and then changed to musical theater. She was in the first production of “Cabaret” in Mexico. And it affected me greatly to see someone I knew-my sister-creating a character and controlling the audience. I fell in love with being backstage seeing her sing and dance. In fact, I had to get good grades in school during the week so my mother would give me permission to see my sister. I was a little girl, and I knew all the dialogue. All the choreography. To this day, I know it..
So, when did you get your professional start?
I actually came out in a TV commercial when I was only a year old. And later, Laura was working on a movie called “La Guerra De Los Pasteles.” She brought me in as an extra. I was 5 years old, and it was my first paycheck. I got $5. And with those five dollars, I went directly to a very famous chocolate store in Mexico, and I spent it all on chocolates. And I liked it. It was a game, but what a sweet reward.
Looking back at .your career, do you ever feel your childhood was taken away from you?
No, because I was always playing. It was play and fun. It’s like little girls who pretend they’re acting, but I had an audience. Reality touched me when I joined Timbiriche and started acting in soaps. The group was already famous, but when I joined, it went on to become the biggest group in South America. It was a phenomenon.
And then, there was your first starring role in the soap opera “Quinceanera.”
It was the first soap [in Mexico] made for young people and starring young people. It was a huge hit. In that moment, I realized this wasn’t a game anymore, where I had fun singing and acting, but that it was about taking care of a career that was just beginning.
Many eyes were on me now. There were expectations. People paying attention. People saying, “This is the new girl. This is the new girl.” When I began to read that, and I saw how big the soap and the group had become, I said, “This is serious.”
For a long time, you were handled by your mother, who had a reputation as being very tough. What was that like?
My mom, from the beginning, followed me because a mother has to take care of her chick, and this chick was very hyperactive. And [performing] somehow calmed me. It calmed me to be on a stage or [in] a competition. And my mom was always with her little daughter. To make sure the big bad wolf wouldn’t eat her. She was always with me. It didn’t matter the looks she got, the comments-that she was a stage mom. She didn’t care.
Do you think the death of your father shaped your artistic future?
It made me a strong woman at a very young age. I’ve always said I have a man’s heart. I’m not intimidated by anyone. I think it’s a role I assumed. My father died, but no one will make fun of me. Because kids make fun of everything. I remember when my dad died, I went to school, and the girls surrounded me and said, “Thalía has no father, Thalía has no father.” And I said, “This will never happen to me again.” In fact, his death had tremendous impact. I may have the image of a sweet artist, but at the same time, I have an image of authority, of “get out of my way, or I’ll run you over.”
In fact, you kept right on moving with your career. How did you go from Timbiriche to being a solo artist?
I resigned from the group. I thanked them for everything they’d done for me, and I went to Los Angeles to study voice and dance. And I signed with Melody Records and released my first album. It was called “Thalía.” People had this image of me as sweet and innocent, and suddenly, I come out with this solo album and a super femme fatale image. I was very dating for the time, singing songs like “Un Pacto Entre Los Dos.” It was the first song I wrote, and many radio stations boycotted it because they said it was sadomasochist. And it bothered them that my image had changed. That was the first blow to my ego, my plans.
My plan was to release this new album with this new look. “These are my plans, why are you criticizing it?” And well, obviously, it was my first personal low point. I told my mom, “You know what? I want to resign. This is painful. I did this with all my love and the best intentions.” And she sat down, took my hands and said: “Listen, daughter. If you want to resign, we’ll close the door and we’ll take you to study. You like biology; we’ll find the best biology school. Now, if you want to stay with this, you stay, you hang in there, and you not only hang in there, you become the best.” And I said, “Well, I’ll be the best, then.”
You took a break from acting and singing to live and work in Spain for a while. Would you say that a key point in enticing you to go back to soap operas was the opportunity to marry them to your music?
I was thrilled about singing the theme of the soap opera, that it would be heard every evening and that it would be included in my album. I loved the idea that Thalíathe singer was going to be Thalíathe actress.
And that became a winning formula, didn’t it?
The backbone of all the [soap opera] stories was love, impossible love. And all kinds of things happened. One [character] lost a child and found him. The other wanted revenge. The other wanted to help her poor family. The important thing was, my music was attached to everything. In the Philippines, for example, it allowed me to record an album in Tagalog.
Did you ever think about acting in something more “serious”?
Yes. And I signed with the William Morris Agency, and at the time, they sent me many scripts and things that weren’t what I wanted. At the time, it wasn’t important for me to get naked in front of the camera. So I let many important roles go by. On the other hand, I was very busy doing the soaps and my music. Going to the Philippines, Brazil-where they played my music in Spanish, which is very difficult. So, I began to break many barriers with the formula of soaps and music.
People love to stereotype. When I began to sing in the soaps, the reaction was, “Now she sings.” When the fact was, I began my career singing. So, it was hard to reinforce my career as a singer after having opened my way as a soap star.
Do you find that some people look down on the fact that you were a soap star?
I don’t listen to those comments. Having been Thalía performed this summer at the Reventon Super Estrella 2005 concert at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif. a soap starworked in two directions. One was positive; the other, I had to shed as a singer. But, it opened an incredible market for me. Everything starts somewhere. People who knew me for my music will follow me as a singer for many years. Mothers play the music for their babies. My audience is a. family audience. So, it’s been a big plus. And I think I handled it well, a
It has been 10 years since your last soap role. Why haven’t you gone back?
It was a perfect cycle, and I want to keep it that way. I’ve taken my crown as the queen of soaps. I have it in my imagination.
Many other artists have attempted to combine acting in soaps with singing careers, but none have had your level of success or longevity. What is the secret?
It’s been a fan of different lucky charms. One is [my mother] Yolanda Miranda, who told me, “Even if there’s a hurricane, you bend, but you get up again.” The other is having partnered strategically at the right time with producers like Emilio Estefan [Jr.], Kike Santander, Estéfano, Corey Rooney for my English-language album, which is a watershed album for me. And, always, I reinvent myself. That’s what’s important. Reinvent yourself. Allow yourself to be a new person. A new artist.
You live here in the United States full time. But you are still regarded as 100% Latin. How do you maintain your links with Mexico?
I think the mere fact of singing in your own language, interpreting stronger songs, changing with your music and continuously going to your country to promote, to allow yourself to be seen, to allow your people to touch you is important. It’s important that people see you evolve.
You are an entrepreneur as well as a singer and an actress. How do those roles all come together?
All the facets help each other, and it’s a very interesting cross-promotion. In the end, it’s about growing the name and the brand. And it’s important to safeguard [it with] every step I take.
Joining with these big companies has been very important to me. They have been some of the sweetest associations I’ve had. The clothing line, I love. I love creativity and design. I like to be on top of quality control. And because I’m a family artist-like the girl next door-the association with Kmart is popular for me. It means reaching everyone.
Your clothing line, in particular, is very visible and very successful. It is now carried in more than 1,500 Kmarts. How did that come about?
They said, “We’re interested in you, we like the way you are and we want to reflect that in fashion.” And I said, “OK, it can be a reflection of me, but that goes from the 5-year-old girl to the sexy woman in her early 30s. My line has to be all that. Sexy, empowering, comfortable. And it has to fit everyone. So, are we on the same page?” And everyone started to work on that. The proposal came at a very happy, tender time in my life, and that’s how we started to grow.
Your husband, Tommy Mottola, guides you and gives you advice, but your projects are very independent from him as well, aren’t they?
When we met, he was an established icon, but I was too. We met at a special time. He had had his stumbling blocks with love, and so had I. We met, and we clicked immediately.
And from then until now, it’s a relationship of a lot of respect. IfI don’t reach out to him for advice, he doesn’t impose himself. He’s very respectful. And sometimes, he comes to me and says, “Hey, what do you think about this singer?” It’s an exchange of ideas from his experience, which is amazing, and from mine, which comes from the Latin side.
But there is always a line and a place where we talk about work. Where we say, “Tomorrow we’ll talk about work in the office.” I think that mixing bed and business is not a good thing.
Have you ever turned down his advice?
Of course. A thousand times.
Does he get upset?
He just laughs.
So, who is right?
Many times my intuition wins. I trust my intuition a lot. A lot. And in this life, you have to take risks.
How about another English-language album. Is that in your plans?
Yes, for next year. Right now, my new album is [selling] in Japan. We’re setting up so everything is ready for the English-language album.
You are successful in all these different realms. What is left for you to do?
As long as I can grow with my music and evolve as a singer, writer and producer-if in the future I have the possibility of producing a new artist-as long as I have all those opportunities, my life will have been worth it.
I will have planted a seed. I like to produce, to organize. If in the future I have the opportunity to produce a soap opera or film, I will take it.
You said before that you are always contemplating film roles. Do you have a specific one in mind?
Not a specific one. But I’m always looking. Because I’m an actress. To be a singer, you have to be an a actress. Otherwise, people will 9 say, “What a pretty ballad,” but they won’t feel it.
How would you describe yourselfas a singer, an artist, an actress?
As an artist, because I like to create. I like to write my music, create the sounds I will use in every song. Create the concept of the album. I think I’m an artist. I’m the artist of my life, my career. I’m always giving the best of me in every project.
Source: Billboard – Leila Cobo
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