YouTube followers: 148,182
Pia Mia Perez’s online career started long before August 19, 2013, the day Kim Kardashian posted a video of the 17-year-old singing at a long dinner table populated by the Kardashian family, Kanye West, and Drake, but it’s this particular moment that’s worth anthologizing: In the video, Pia is singing a portion of Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home” while the rapper sits across from her, nodding his head to her rhythm, and she is sitting directly next to West, who is beaming like a proud surrogate father. And there, at the other end of the table, is Kris Jenner, the greatest single manufacturer of fame the American entertainment industry has ever known, and she is dancing in her seat.
Endorsement is always crucial to an internet sensation’s succession—Scooter Braun may have plucked Justin Bieber from the YouTube search results, for example, but you probably didn’t hear about him until Usher started talking him up—and Pia’s high-profile patronage just happened to come early. She’d been invited to the Kardashian home by Kylie Jenner, a friend and one of Kris’s two teen daughters with Bruce Jenner. Pia Mia already had a devoted following on YouTube, where she’d been posting covers by the likes of Drake and Bruno Mars for years. She rose to the moment: Her voice didn’t waver, and the ripple effect was immediate and climactic: What other celebrity cosigns, really, does a person even need?
Six months after the video hit (and was viewed more than a million times), Perez, born and raised on the island of Guam, signed a deal with Interscope Records. She released a strong six-track EP, The Gift, in February, and she recorded a song with Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper, “Fight For You,” that was featured on the Divergent soundtrack, which dropped when the tweenage-aimed film was released in March. The EP is promising: the girl has range—and the ability to make a repeated phrase sound catchy as hell, which is as marketable a skill as you’ll find in pop music these days.