It’s not every day that you’re asked to sing “Hold On, We’re Going Home” in front of Drake himself. Adding to the pressure cooker? When the request comes from Kanye West while seated at the Kardashians’ dinner table.
“We were in the middle of eating, and it was really, really nerve-racking,” says the 17-year-old, who counts Kylie Jenner as a close friend and Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion as influences. “I was so nervous I changed the melody of the song, but Drake ended up liking it.”
What happened next is the stuff pop star dreams are made of. Kim Kardashian posted a Keek video of the impromptu performance, which highlighted Mia’s impressive vocal range and went on to garner 1.2 million views. In no time, Mia was fielding label requests, eventually signing with Interscope in December. “I’m a person that goes off vibes,” she says. “Interscope was what felt most like home.”
Mia’s moment wasn’t an isolated one, however. By age 11, the Guam-born singer was already performing professionally at the weddings of Japanese tourists on the island. In 2010, Mia and her mother left her father and siblings behind to pursue her career in Los Angeles. That was where Mia met manager Neima Khaila, who signed her to management company 88th Commission, and, eventually, Interscope president of urban records Joie Manda, who was, in a word, wowed. “She has an incredible voice, her style is amazing, and she’s a beautiful young girl,” Manda says. “Everyone is chomping at the bit to go into the studio with her.”
Mia is at work recording and writing her debut EP, a mix of uptempo and stripped-down songs that she describes as “a rhythmic pop sound,” with a heavy dose of first-person teenage perspective.
“When I moved out to L.A., my dad wanted me to document my life, so I started writing journals, and I like to write [songs] from them,” she says. “I need to relate to what I’m singing about, and I want teenagers to know we’re all going through the same thing.”