It’s no small thing to be compared to Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the late and beloved Tejano singer from south Texas who rose to fame in the ‘80s and ‘90s with hits like “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” But Mia Garcia, a bubbly and energetic 11-year-old Austinite, is worthy of the comparison.
As a bright star of the new generation in Tejano music, Garcia is gathering steam. Last year, Austin mayor Steve Adler declared October 5 to be Mia Garcia Day, in part as recognition for her becoming the youngest person ever nominated for a Tejano Music Award. Just a few weeks later, Garcia became the youngest person to ever win the prestigious award. And recently, she was nominated for an Austin Under 40 Award.
Garcia hears comparisons to Selena and answers with a view to the future. “I’ve always looked up to her,” she told Univision in an interview last year. “She’s a big inspiration. She’s opened many doors for a new generation, but I want to be my own person.” And her audience can be forgiven for jumping to find similarities, especially when none other than Selena’s father himself, A. B. Quintanilla, was on hand in San Antonio last November to present Garcia with the prize for Best New Artist. It was a passing of the torch, of sorts.
Just 10-years-old when she released her album “La Reina del Mundo” (The Queen of the World), Garcia began singing at age 5. Soon, she was touring across Texas and Mexico. “When I sing, I feel free,” she says. “I love how people can put all of their emotion into a song that other people can relate to. When I sing, I just let go of all my worries and pour my heart out.” Her love of the craft makes perfect sense when you consider her family’s musical DNA – her dad is a drummer and her mom is a singer.
Lucky for us, the busy fifth-grader found a few minutes to chat with us recently.
AFM: Tell us about your family.
Garcia: My family is my dad Chris, my mom Yuliana and my little sister Genesis.
AFM: Do you remember when you performed your first song?
Garcia: No, but I have many memories from when I would sing with my mom in karaoke. I started out when I was 5-years-old, singing karaoke and practicing in the shower.
AFM: Do you remember when you first recorded a song?
Garcia: Yeah. My mom was going to record this song called “¡Corre!” by Jesse & Joy. But my mom decided she didn’t want to do the artist thing anymore, so she said, “Why don’t we do it with Mia?” So, I ended up doing the main vocals for “¡Corre!”
AFM: Do you write your own songs?
Garcia: I wrote one. It was for a project in English and Language Arts class. It was to write about a refugee. This book called “Refugee” is about three different kids from three different time periods and three different countries. So, I had to write about this book: either a poem, a piece of art or a song. That was my first time to write a song.
AFM: What makes you really like a song?
Garcia: It should have a good rhythm and good words. It has to be unique.
AFM: Tell us about the night of the Tejano Music Awards.
Garcia: We went to a party before, and then we went to the place where the awards were going to be. I put some extra lipstick on for the red carpet. [laughs] Then we went in and I had to get dressed, because I was performing. I performed two songs, “Te Quiero” and “Boom Boom Boom.”
And while I was backstage, they told me that someone had canceled and they needed me to present an award, so they asked me would I stay backstage. But it turns out that was something they just told me to get me to stay there. They couldn’t tell me that I’d won an award.
Then I saw A. B. Quintanilla, Selena’s dad, go up to present an award. I thought that it would be for Jimmy Gonzalez, who died last year and was being honored with a Lifetime Achievement award. But then I heard that he was presenting the Best New Artist award. And then, they called my name. To win that award was humungous. I was bawling my eyes out.
AFM: What has it been like since you won the award?
Garcia: I’ve done a lot of interviews, especially right after I won the award. It’s starting to slow down a little now. But I’m enjoying this. It’s been exciting, and I’m hoping for good things to happen.
AFM: What will you be doing next?
Garcia: We’re working on a new album already, making new songs and working with our producers.
AFM: What do you do besides music?
Garcia: I do gymnastics, karate, classical guitar and school. In the summers, I do horseback riding. What I like about gymnastics is that you can gain confidence, and you have to learn how to be a team player. You have to learn how to take advice. With karate, you can learn discipline while still having fun, and you can fight without getting in trouble!
AFM: Any last thoughts?
Mia: I always say this to other kids: Stay in school. Listen to your parents. Listen to your teachers. Be good. Follow your dreams. ¡Si yo puedo, te puedes! [If I can do it, you can do it!]
Sherida Mock, editor of Austin Family Magazine.
Photography by Brenda and Jabari Photography