Very few artists can claim to have been a published author by the age of 17 or open for superstar band One Direction on their US Tour. Manika can. She recently told us about all of this and a lot more, including the inspiration for her single “I Might Go Lesbian”
The Early Years
Where you were born, what is your earliest childhood memory, and how did you get started in the Entertainment Business?
OK. OK what can I say?
I was born in Las Vegas where we party everyday ;)
With how outgoing I am now, ironically when I was a child I was extremely shy!
When I was 17 years old, Frank DiLeo (Michael Jackson's long-time manager) discovered me through some competitions and some videos of my music I had posted online. He then flew down to Las Vegas to meet with me and decided to come out of retirement to manage 'one last big act!. That's how I got started in the Music Business
Is there a music scene in Las Vegas? What was it like?
Yes! One of the many things I love about Las Vegas is it’s entertainment! All my favorite artists stop here on tour or have their own residency here! *Cough cough* Britney Spears <3
So you moved to Los Angeles at age 17 to pursue your music career! We find it remarkable that you made this move at such a young age! Tell us why you did so at such a young age, and how you were able to move to LA, which is a very expensive city to live in?
It was super scary moving to a city where I had no friends or family at such a young age! Luckily when it came to the music industry, Frank DiLeo guided me on everything. Lots of hard work and grind but it definitely paid off! Sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith… opportunity hit and I wasn’t going to let being so young stop me from taking hold of it.
What is the music scene like in LA for you & how does it differ from Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is all about the tourists! That’s why residencies work way better in Las Vegas than in LA.
When you were only 15, you wrote a book, "The Exciting Adventures of Boo" and donated the proceeds to your local ASPCA Animal Shelter. What was the Book about? How did you come up with the idea? Why did you decide to donate the money to the Animal Shelter?
I come from a family of authors! My dad, grandparents, uncle and aunt are all authors. So I guess it was natural for me to take after them. I wrote down all the lessons I had leaned throughout my childhood so far at age 15, narrowed it down to the 10 I though were most important for children ages 2-12, and created ten stories in a children’s chapter book in which the main character (a dog named Boo) goes through different adventures to learn these lessons. I love kids and I love animals! I toured inner city schools and hospitals giving free writing workshops and reading sessions.
We are big animal lovers here at The Looking List, so tell us about your involvement with the ASPCA, and describe to us your love of animals, and what they mean to you?
I am also a huge animal lover…I have four dogs, two birds, two rabbits, a chinchilla and a tortoise. So I decided to help out my favorite animal shelter, the ASPCA, by donating the proceeds from my book to them. I also served as the Nevada ASPCA teen spokesperson and would educate kids on the best ways to take care of their pets! :)
As a child, you taught yourself piano and guitar! What sparked that? What inspired you to pursue music?
Music has always been my passion! It’s just always been a part of who I am. And I LOVE songwriting! That’s what really sparked me to learn piano and guitar.
Who did you look up to growing up?
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Alanis Morissette, P!nk, Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson…
Did you have any mentors who guided you when you were growing up?
My Dad! He is the best and taught me how to write. And of course for the music business Frank DiLeo
Did you ever have a day job before your music career took off? What was that like? How badly did you want to get out of that job? or did you enjoy working for that company or companies?
Well, I guess writing books is not your typical day job ;) I started writing at age 12.
Besides music, what else did you do growing up such as hobbies, interest, sports, school clubs/events, etc.?
Besides music and writing.. I've basically played every sport at School and Leagues.. knowing I sucked at sports... bit for some reason kept playing them LOL
In a 2011 interview with the "Las Vegas Review-Journal" you described your heritage as being part Japanese, part Chinese, part Malaysian, and part Spanish! Tell us more about your background and how has your culture shaped or influenced your music career?
I am part Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian and Scottish. Hence the inspiration for my favorite line in my song “B.Y.O.Bugatti”.
“I’m Latin, I’m yellow, I’m European hello...who the fuck even knows bitch I’m intercontinental”
My mixed heritage inspires me and my music in many different ways. Some people say they think I have an unidentified accent (although personally I don’t hear it). But could come from my unique background.
At age 17, you graduated as a valedictorian, which is an amazing accomplishment. Tell us all about your studies and what it meant to you to earn such an honor as valedictorian?
Whatever I do I wanna do it great! I am an overachiever, perfectionist. In everything…including in my studies. I was so happy to get Valedictorian! I feel bad for my younger brothers though. Cuz thanks to me, seeing a B+ on a report card basically means your failing to my parents. Since they were living under the not-so-typical reality of A+ as every single grade on every report card for years while I was growing up. LOL I’m not a natural “genius”, as a lot of people think of Valedictorians are. I had to work really hard and sacrifice my social life for those good grades.
The Music Biz.
Tell us what it is like to be woman in a business, which is dominated by men?
Dominated by men? I beg to differ, cuz as Beyoncé says, “Who run the world, girls!” :P
How does the artist experience differ from being a songwriter?
Being a songwriter is much more creative, but also much less glamorous. When I songwrite, half the time I am laying in bed in my PJs! When I perform on stage I’m all decked out, full hair and makeup, and have to wear a bra, what!! LOL
How has music changed your life?
EVERYTHING. In fact, music hasn’t changed my life, MUSIC IS MY LIFE <3
You have a huge voice, you rap, dance, and can write great songs, do you want to expand in the biz & perhaps run your own company one day & work with other artist?
I am extremely involved in the music business side of things...much more than most artists. I would one day love to help upcoming artists such as be a mentor on X Factor!
What do you want to accomplish in the Big Picture with your entertainment career?
I want some number 1 charting songs! I’ve had two that charted 12 & 15 on the Billboard Sales chart but no number 1s yet!
Are you involved in any charities right now?
I donated proceeds from a song on my album to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I also perform and help raise money at as many radio charity events as I can.
At age 17, you were "discovered by Music Executive & Personal Artist Manager Frank DiLeo, who had worked at Epic Records as a VP of National Promotion, and then later guided the careers of Michael Jackson, Prince, and others. What was it like to be discovered by Frank, to work with him & have him on your Team?
The last person Frank DiLeo managed before me was Michael Jackson! So I was so nervous when I first met Frank! He was the best and helped me with everything in the music business. I was so honored to work with such a music industry legend! RIP <3
In 2009, you released the single "Boyz R Dumb" which we really like, and feel it had a Avril Lavigne pop/rock feel. Tells us why you wrote this song and all the details of releasing the song, and filming what looked like a fun video?
LOL! That’s actually the video Frank DiLeo saw that peaked his interest in managing me! And come on when your 16 years old Boyz R Dumb FOR SURE! A lot of them still are! And that’s why I’m giving us ladies a try ;)
In 2011, you released another single "Just Can't Let You Go" F/Lil Twist. which is a strong song, and showcases your ability to play acoustic guitar, there is a great video featuring Lil Twist, to support the single. What made you decide to release it as a single, and why did you decide to collaborate with Lil Twist?
Lil Twist and I were both young up-and-comers at the time with great mentors! Plus I love his music :) He has Lil Wayne and Young Money mentoring him who I also love. When we got Lil Twist’s rap back I knew it was perfect for my single!
Tell us more about your business relationship with Lil Twist as everyone knows that he is or was a part of Justin Bieber's inner circle.
Lil Twist is a super cool, chill guy! He is for sure super tight with Justin, he calls him his brother.
In 2011, your manager Frank DiLeo passed away after having surgery. Tell us about that experience and did it make you stronger and more determined than ever to become successful in the Industry?
It was so hard having him pass away! Especially because initially they thought everything went perfect after the surgery so we were all celebrating…and then out of no where things went bad quickly… :( It did definitely make me stronger and more determined… but I still wish Frank were here.
Your single "Good Girls" was released in 2013, and is your best selling digital single to date. The song is a great uptempo, anthemic tune! We can see girls all over the world relating to the lyrics, which include "I'm a good girl and I deserve a nice boyfriend". What inspired you to write this? Tell us all about the video?
This song was my anthem on the One Direction tour! I was living in Hollywood at the time and that definitely inspired that single. Mostly all the good guys there are taken or gay. The video was directed by Director X, I love his work! He did Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” video right before mine and I was like ummm we are using him!
In 2014, you released your 4th single "Vegas Party", which is a fun, uptempo song about the crazy Las Vegas Lifestyle Scene! Why did you write it,? Is it reflective of your real life, or did you write it about the scene in general,?
I wanted to capture the crazy party magical experience of Las Vegas that people travel from around the world to experience! I mean the last song about the good awesomeness of Vegas (not the bad like Katy Perry’s “Waking Up In Vegas”) was way back in the day with Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas”. It was time for a new Vegas Party anthem and things have gotten a lot crazier here since Elvis’s time ;)
How did you get involved in doing a remix with the "Jump Smokers", who have worked with a lot of established artist including Becky G, Pitbull, Kesha, R City, Rihanna, and many others?
I love Jump Smokers! Their remixes are always the best :P I believe in work hard, play hard… so I definitely do not go out all the time… but when I do go out, I go HAM cuz hey it’s a VEGAS PARTY!
"B.Y.O.Bugatti " is a favorite of ours. It’s a wild song where you rap & sing the hook. How did you create the concept of the song, and for the video?
I was thinking about all my favorite rappers and singers and thought, hey I should reference as many as possible in my track! :P That song is a very fun song…a great party song. And although it is preferred, you don’t HAVE to be at a Bugatti party for you to party to this song LOL :P
Was the video your idea or someone else’s on your team?
I am extremely involved in all creative parts of my career including the music videos. The director and team for this video really made my vision come to life!
"B.Y.O.Bugatti peaked at #12 on the US Sales Chart! How did charting make you feel,
That was the first time I had Charted Top 20! It was so surreal! Charting number 12 on the Billboard Sales chart like what!!!!!
Tell us about your connection to your fans in general & what their support means to you?
I LOVE my fans! They are the best in the world! So I try to stay in touch with them as much as possible through FB and twitter and IG :)