The contestants for NBC’s “The Voice” all have a dream to make it big. During this season, there are a number of Latinos who have made it to the show’s stage with hard work and much more than a dream.
Diego Val, 26, Peru/Argentina
After having overcome Perthes, a rare condition of the hip, Diego Val was in Peru’s version of American idol, he modeled and he was in a popular novela.
But his life in the U.S. has not been easy. He has lived undocumented for eight of the nine years he has lived here.
“I had to be a cook, work in construction, sweep streets and do everything you have to do to succeed,” says Val. “But I always fought for my dream and fought to represent my country.”
Although he struggled, he continued to do everything he could to pursue his dream. He joined a band and became part of “Musicians on Call” which gave him the opportunity to tour the United States singing at schools and universities.
“Just to be able to say that I was an undocumented immigrant, and look where I am,”says Val. “I might not be very far [but] I’m going forward and I’m proud.”
He dreams of singing in his own pop rock Latin band and hopes to sing in both Spanish and English. In his spare time, he likes to stay fit and promote obesity awareness. He has been a vegetarian for 3 years and is against animal abuse.
“For me, it was a dream comes true to stand in front of the camera, represent Latin America and say I am Peruvian,” says Val.
Julio Cesar Castillo, 21, Mexico
“Mariachi is the reason I started singing,” says Julio Cesar Castillo.
Before Castillo sang pop music, mariachi was all he knew. He was 3 when a TV show gave him the opportunity to sing and then opened the doors to performing and working as a full time mariachi.
With the mariachi job, Julio has been able to support the family financially, especially after his father was diagnosed with epilepsy 14 years ago.
“It’s not his fault and we do the best we can,” says Castillo. “My dad has been the most supportive parent. I couldn’t have asked for a better father.”
His mom and sister have also been very supportive but it was his sister who pushed him to audition for The Voice.
“I was pretty content with working as a mariachi,” says Castillo. “But I lost the drive to go after my dream.”
After the extra push from his sister, Julio became the first to sing a song completely in Spanish for his audition. He is currently singing pop music and is working on the transition.
“I wanted to take a risk and be able to not just get the vote of America but Latin America as well,” he said. “Right now I can only hope to get better.”
Joselyn Rivera , 17, Puerto Rico
“The power of music heals,” says Joselyn Rivera about her take on life.
Joselyn Rivera’s premature birth lead to many health issues through her childhood. She was so introverted that her parents took her to various doctors to advice on her health.
When she was 4, a doctor recommended that she tried music as therapy instead of medication. Her mom bought her a portable karaoke machine, and the rest is history.
“I would sing to myself locked in my room, that’s where it all began. It became more than a therapy, it became my passion,” she said.
Rivera began singing in school, church and talent shows until she got the opportunity to perform in front of Emilio Estefan. She was 14 when she was signed by his record company.
“He put me in the studio to record and gain experience,” says Rivera. “That’s what helped me become the artist I am today.”
On her spare time she likes to rollerblade, listen to music, play the piano and volunteer at church and the community. She is proud to represent Puerto Rico and all Latinos in the competition.
“I feel really proud to be able to go on an American show and put a twist into it,” said Rivera. “I will show other Latinos that I can do it. You shouldn’t be ashamed of where you come from and where you go.”
Laura Vivas, 33, Puerto Rico
For Laura Vivas, it was now or never. She had her own band and sang covers but still dreamed about being a famous singer. “Go for your dreams and don’t be afraid,” says Vivas.
“I don’t feel like I should hold myself back,” says Vivas. “When you take a chance the unimaginable can happen — with facing your fears comes great success.”
It all started in her backyard. She would make up songs and stand in front of her family to perform. As she got older, she dropped out of college to pursue music. All she wanted was to perform.
But it was her fiancé who finally convinced her to face her fears and chase her dreams by auditioning for “The Voice.”
“I want to inspire people to know that they can go for their dreams and to not be afraid to take chances,” says Vivas “I want people to know that they are not alone. There is always something positive out of hardship and difficulty.”
Vivas wants to be an example for all Latinos, but especially for all the girls who are afraid to go for their dreams.
“It’s an honor to represent,” she said. “It’s unreal. I get emotional thinking about everything that is going on.”
Daniel Rosa, 21, Mexico
Yes, this is Daniel Rosa’s second time in The Voice. “My story is an accident,” he claims.
He had nothing to lose by auditioning a second time and he wanted to prove to himself and others that he was growing.
“I didn’t want that to be the last thing people remembered about me,” says Rosa.
He started singing by accident, after taking a choir class only because no other class was opened. He hated the class but after a while he realized that he enjoyed singing.
“I always thought I was an OK singer, I didn’t know I was good till recently,” says Rosa. “I still don’t think I’m amazing.”
The audition was also an accident. He attended the audition just to support a friend, who was not selected. He decided he could give it a try to now he is participating on a second season.
“I’ve always been a shy person, I’ve never been one to put myself out there,” says Rosa. “My friends and family have pushed me out there, the show is an accident, I never pursued it. They made me pursue it.”
Rudy Parris, 46, Mexico
“It’s the love of God,” says Rudy Parris.
Parris suffered a heart condition where he had high chances of getting a stroke. With the fear of his condition, he stopped doing what he loved the most: singing and playing music.
“I couldn’t play, and when I did, I had to sit in a stool,” says Parris. “It was the darkest months of my life.”
Everything changed when he got involved in a church and was miraculously healed from his heart condition, he said.
“I am not going to be a Christian singer,” says Parris. “There is just something about me that will touch people’s spirit. The love of God will come through me and touch people.”
Hard rock, blues and conjuntos norteños are just some of the genres that influence Rudy’s style in music. Despite being stereotyped into only being able to sing for a Latino audience, he hasn’t stopped pursuing different styles of music, including country music.
“I’ve had situations where managers in labels were interested but after they saw that I was Latino they seemed uninterested,” says Parris. “But it’s all about taking people away from the pains in life that sometimes overcome them. The love of God is for everyone and he uses people to convey that.”