Millions of people know Rebecca Black as the 14-year-old girl whose “Friday” stuck in their heads whether they wanted it to or not. They know her as the precocious girl who sat and discussed her overnight star status on Jay Leno’s couch, proved she could sing on “Good Morning America” by belting out the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” poked fun at herself on “Funny or Die,” and was blown away by Joe Jonas’s tweets, Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest and Lady Gaga’s praise, and America’s fascination with her, all as “Friday” climbed towards the 200 Million mark on YouTube.
But what people don’t know about this teenager from Anaheim Hills, California is that she didn’t just do the “Friday” video on a lark to become famous. She didn’t want to be the biggest viral star launched from YouTube since the sneezing panda. The honor student and straight-laced kid who, like any 13-year-old loves the mall, hanging out with her BF, and putting together colorful outfits, has been studying dance and singing since age 3 and is dedicated to a career in music.
“I’m not going to be just a one hit wonder. This is what I have wanted to do all my life and what I plan to do for my future. I’m determined and I don’t think people realize how hard I’ve worked for all of this to happen. I’m not going to let the haters stop me. I want to show everyone, I’m serious,” says Rebecca, who is currently working on a debut EP which is expected later this summer.
Rebecca’s journey began at age 3 when the happy and outgoing child of veterinary parents started dance classes. She began learning piano at age 7 and vocal lessons followed at age 9. As a member of the group Celebration USA which she joined when she was in the 4th grade, Rebecca performed at patriotic events such as the Republic Women’s Convention, singing the national anthem at Angels Stadium, performing at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Rotary International Convention, The 2007 Naturalization Ceremony on board the USS Midway, the Pledge Across America on Constitution Day and dozens of performances for the members of the military and their families at Camp Pendelton, and a number of retirement homes and veteran’s hospitals.
Her musical adventures also took her to two years of Musical Theater Camps at the Orange County School for Performing Arts and various other programs both in Southern California and New York. She performed in many musicals, including the lead role in “Oklahoma,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Best of Broadway Goes Pop” where she landed the solo “Breakaway.”
“I’ve loved music and singing for as long as I can remember. My first concert was Hilary Duff and I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw her up onstage. I was 7 and I just thought, Oh my Gosh, that would be so cool!” recalls Rebecca, who is also a big fan of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Bieber, and “American Idol.”
With her passion for music growing (and being too young to try out for “American Idol”), Rebecca found an opening in the entertainment world that would change her life forever. “My friend Alana is also an artist and she just did a video with Ark Music Factory. I loved it and did some research on the company. I didn’t think it would make me a star or anything. I just thought it would be a good experience and something for my resume,” she explains. “I asked my mom if we could do it and totally expected her to say no, but she said sure.”
In the Fall of 2010, Rebecca and her parents met with L.A.-based Ark Music Factory producers to discuss working together. In that meeting, she sang songs from musicals such as “Maybe” from “Annie,” “My New Philosophy” from “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” and a song she just landed as a solo in her school production of “Memphis,” “Steal Your Rock and Roll.” Ark liked what they heard, and what Rebecca and her mom decided on next would prove to be very smart and rewarding. The deal was this: pay nothing and get no rights to the song and video Ark would write and produce for her. Pay $2,000 and get some rights. Or pay $4,000 and get all of the rights. The Blacks opted for option three.
Rebecca made another decision wise beyond her years. “The first song they sent me I said no to. It was kind of about adult love. It was too mature for me,” she explains. “When they sent me ‘Friday,’ I actually really liked it. It was just a catchy song to me and it fit me because I was 13 at the time.”
The plan was to record “Friday” and make a video for the track, which would be given to Rebecca and her parents for their own use as they had purchased the rights to it. Ark had offered to promote the song with major record labels, but instead they uploaded the music video on February 10, 2011 and within a month it went viral and was the most talked about topic on Twitter.
“About a month after the video was up, I was in the car on the way home and it was a ‘Friday’ actually, and I got this email from a random guy that said, “Daniel Tosh, ‘Tosh.0′ [on Comedy Central] found your video. There are over 17,000 views in just an hour. You’re going to be famous.’ I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Rebecca. Those 17,000 views grew to more than 100 million views by April 15, 2011, breaking the YouTube 100 million marker and outpacing Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” which took 67 days to ready 100 million. “Friday” took only 63 days. By May 2011, it was approaching 200 million views and counting.
The song was a hit and Black was indeed an overnight star. Everyone took notice. Nick and Joe Jonas tweeted the lyrics. (“I kind of died a little bit inside when that happened!” she beams), and performed “Friday” in concert, as did Justin Bieber. Lady Gaga told a group at Google headquarters, “Rebecca Black is genius.” Nicole Richie, Joel Madden, and Willow Smith Tweeted about her. Ryan Seacrest booked her on his radio show. Jay Leno invited her to his couch. Simon Cowell said he wants to meet her because, “Anyone who can create this much controversy within a week, I want to meet. I love people like that.” Other late night shows jumped in, and even the mega-hit TV show “Glee” performed “Friday.”
“It’s crazy. I didn’t expect this. I’m still am having a hard time grasping that I’m not just a kid from Anaheim Hills, that people know me,” says Rebecca. “I never thought it would turn out like this, and it can be overwhelming but I’m just trying to stay true to what I believe and what I love.”
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Rebecca since on the one hand she’s breaking records and getting shout outs from her idols, but on the other hand “Friday’s” been dubbed the “worst song over,” has more dislikes on YouTube than likes, and the world has essentially been Rebecca’s biggest bully. “When I first read the hate mail, I cried. I was shocked and angry and sad. I went to my mom and was like, ‘Oh my God they hate me!’ How can they do this to a 13-year-old? Yeah, the song is simple, but is it worth all this hate? People were saying I should die or cut myself or get an eating disorder. It was hard.”
But, thankfully in a weird way, this isn’t the first time Rebecca had been bullied, and she knew how to handle it. “From kindergarten, I was bullied,” she reveals. “There were just mean girls in my class. I’m not the type of girl that does everything to fit in. I like being different. I like dressing in bright colors. I guess I was an easy target. But my mom told me to just block them out and don’t let them get to me and that’s what I did. And that’s what I do now. I have a thick skin. Now, I just laugh at it. I mean, they spend their day commenting on a 13-year-old girl’s song, but at least I’m out there actually following my dreams and doing something.”
That “something” is continuing with her vocal lessons to be in tip top shape, performing with her music theater program, keeping up her grades in school, and working on her debut EP on breaks from school and weekends, of course.
“Going into the studio has been amazing. I just want to prove to everyone I can do it. I’m not some rich kid whose parents paid for her to have success. That’s not me. I want to be a real artist with a real career. The record is coming out so cool. I’m doing a ballad, a dance song with a little bit of a Latin flair to it. And, the lyrics will be a little more challenging. It’ll sound completely different from ‘Friday’ because there’s not a crap load of auto tune in my voice,” laughs Rebecca.