‘America’s Got Talent’ includes Hawaii residents
HONOLULU PULSE STAFF / firstname.lastname@example.org
Two contestants from Hawaii — one a girl singer and the other a dance trio — are making their way through NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, and 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17.
12-year-old Ciana Pelekai and the guys from Hype have advanced to the Las Vegas rounds after their successful auditions in Chicago and New York City, respectively.
Pelekai is making her second appearance on the nationwide talent show after first competing as an 8-year-old singing the R&B chestnut “Rescue Me.”
Now, the Aiea Intermediate School student returns four years later after the show’s production staff saw her audition on YouTube. This time around, unfortunately, not much background information was offered, as she was part of a group highlight segment. The only thing that mattered was that she won over the celebrity judges with “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” originally sung by Etta James.
Ciana said she started with singing lessons at age 6 and always leaned towards songs well before she was born. She takes her inspiration from her older sister, 16-year-old Teiliana, who made it through the untelevised rounds this year on NBC’s other contest, “The Voice.”
Ciana’s talent is known in the local community. This year, she won the grand prize and top female vocalist awards in high school talent contest “Brown Bags to Stardom.” In 2010, she appeared on the syndicated “Maury Show” as one of the year’s most talented kids and sang the National Anthem at a Los Angeles Clippers home game.
“When people first hear me sing, they say ‘oh my gosh, you sound like an adult,’” she said. “When I was younger, I was really, really nervous. I don’t think I was prepared because I didn’t know what was going on around me. Now, I know what to do.”
Ciana’s mom, 38-year-old Misha Pelekai of Maili, knew her daughter was very disappointed when she didn’t continue through the “AGT” competition four years ago.
“I kept telling her don’t give up,” she said. “(Ciana) quickly wanted to keep going, saying, ‘can I tryout again?’
“Ciana loves to perform and she’s so different when she’s singing. Some of the comments by the judges pointed out there was such a drastic difference between her speaking and performing.”
THE HYPE dancers also got picked to do “AGT” thanks to a YouTube video, but the first-timers took a more dramatic path to Las Vegas.
25-year-old Josh Ulep (aka Hazmat of the offshoot Academy of Hype from Waipahu’s Hypersquad), said “we decided at the last minute that since the three of us (including Mikey Ruiz aka Mikey and AJ Pak aka Headache) practice the most and stay after rehearsals, we’d fly out to New York the morning of that day’s auditions.”
Their clever hip-hop interpretation of “Singing in the Rain” had just been “made up” the night before back in Hawaii. For their Vegas performance, they had to change up their routine in two days time when their chosen song didn’t pass rights clearance.
“We’re used to working under pressure a lot,” Ulep said. “While we all dance hip-hop — breakdancing and popping — I’m trained in ballet and jazz dance. We like to add more theatricality to our routines.
“Our chemistry works because we’re all really good friends,” he said.