Latin music superstar Daddy Yankee happily announces rapper/hip hop artist Alex Moncada as the winner of Western Union's "Love in Any Language" contest (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner)
Last month, Alex Moncada was a struggling songwriter and musician cutting hair at a barbershop in Alexandria, Virginia, to pay the bills.
On Wednesday, the unknown rapper/hip hop artist was given the star treatment and introduced to the music industry at the Billboard Latin Music Conference by none other than Daddy Yankee.
Moncada, 28, is the winner of the Western Union's "Love in Any Language" contest, in which thousands of people submitted videos of original songs or shout-outs to their loved ones. He won $10,000, admission to the conference and a spot onstage at the Biltmore Bash Wednesday night.
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But he was most thrilled about having found a mentor in Daddy Yankee -- who has sold more than 8 million records and is a leader in urban Latin music.
The other side of him is less known, said Juan Pablo Valdes, vice president of Integrated Marketing Communications, which created the campaign for Western Union.
"He is a good person, an excellent human being," Valdes said.
Daddy Yankee said he was glad for "the opportunity to participate in this campaign.
"It was creative. It was fun. The connection I had immediately with the music was excellent. To have the opportunity to see so much talent participate was great.
Some of those videos will be used in the Western Union Mother's Day commercials, which were shown to the conference participants at a press conference announcing the winner Wednesday afternoon.
Moncada told the crowd that he was feeling emotional and thanked God, his family and his friends -- and his cousin, who recorded the video of him singing "In 1,000 Languages," a song he dedicates to a girl whose photo he stares at on his cellphone.
"And thanks to Daddy Yankee for being a part of this family. This is like a dream for me."
In a short interview, Moncada said he had come to the U.S. from Nicaragua four years ago but had started writing music and performing when he was 7 years old. He said he's going to take the momentum from the contest win and his Daddy Yankee connections to record a remix of his song, and he is working on a meringue track to put on a disc in the near future. And he had one piece of advice for young, struggling artists like him.
"Don't give up. You have to keep working," Moncada said, all smiles and pats on the back from well-wishers. "Nothing is impossible."
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