She got Drake dad-dancing with her cover of ‘Hold On, We're Going Home’ – but what's next for Guam's teen sensation?
Taken from the autumn/winter issue of Dazed:
One fateful night at the Kardashian compound last summer, Kanye West persuaded Pia Mia Perez, Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s BFF, to serenade them over dinner with a cover of Drake’s ballad “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. To put even more pressure on the teenager, the song’s creator was a fellow guest, who also just happened to be sitting directly across the table from her. Undeterred, she put down her crystal glass, cleared her throat and belted out a rendition that moved Drizzy to bust out some dad-dancing and Kim K to immediately upload her iPhone footage of the performance. A year later, the girl from Guam – a small northwest Pacific island – gets as many likes on her Instagram posts as the population of her homeland (170,000). She insists that she didn’t know that Yeezy had asked the OVO heartthrob over for dinner as well. “I’d met Kanye before and I don’t know if he’d maybe heard me singing around the (Kardashian) house, but I’d never sang for him before,” the 17-year-old explains. “I was choked up before I started to sing, because I look up to Drake and Kanye so much. I feel like I blacked out. After I sang I was like, ‘What just happened?’ But Kylie’s always been super supportive; she made that moment a lot easier for me.”
“I’ve just always known that music was what I was supposed to do” – Pia Mia
Initially moving to Los Angeles at 13 with her mother for what was intended to be just three months, Perez says the last four years have felt like “living in a fantasy world. I kinda feel like an island girl just wandering around, not really knowing about anything out here!” After signing a rumoured multimillion-dollar deal with Interscope in February, she’s spending her days cooped up with the current cream of the USA’s hit-makers, from ratchet-pop supremo DJ Mustard to Katy and Kesha’s favourite Benny Blanco, with whom she got a matching set of grills. “Everything really fell into place when I got to LA,” Perez says, her words spilling out with bubbly excitement. “I’ve just always known that music was what I was supposed to do.”
Although she’s collaborating with producers who have The Hot 100 on lock, Perez’s heart isn’t set on becoming a pop starlet in the mould of Selena and Ariana. With her manager Abou “Bu” Thiam, she’s been working on crafting her own label/empire, Wolfpack Entertainment (her fans call themselves the Wolfpack), to showcase her self-termed “rhythmic pop”. By licencing the label to Interscope, she’s that rare teen star who gets to retain creative control while reaping the benefits of major label bucks. In the past year she’s released a poised pop/R&B EP The Gift, as well as scoring a spot on the Divergent soundtrack with her Chance The Rapper collab, “Fight for You”. Produced by Clams Casino, the track twisted up her powerhouse vocals with the spacey beats that populate Perez’s Hype Machine-fuelled iTunes.“I don’t like to stay in a box,” she says of her musical direction. “I just go by what I feel, in every aspect of life. I’m always very much in the moment.”
As the world begins to open up for Perez, she’s becoming a picture-perfect ambassador for the place she’ll “always call home.” In June, she headlined Guam’s first international music festival, in one of the biggest shows to ever hit the island, with thousands of fans singing along to all of her lyrics. “I felt so weird. Everywhere we went, people were like, ‘We love your music!’” Perez recalls, looking mystified. “It got to the point where we couldn’t even go anywhere. It was crazy, I felt like Justin Bieber!”
hair Grace Zip; make-up Anthony Merante