When Kat De Luna was just an infant, her father said she would become the family's little artist.
She has more than proved him right. De Luna's first single off her "9 Lives" album "Whine Up," is screeching up the charts; it's currently No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100.
De Luna was born in the Bronx but moved to Dominican Republic as a young girl before returning to the United States. Her mother was a singer and a dancer, but her father, she said, has an incredible voice. Because they were poor, they never had the opportunity to see where their talent could take them. Instead, their daughter would have to be the one to make it big.
De Luna's destiny was sealed when at 3 years old, she cried her way into a singing competition in the Dominican Republic for ages 5 and up. She won.
Now the 19-year-old from New Jersey is eagerly anticipating the Aug. 7 release date of her album with both optimism and anxiety.
"Little nervous, I'm like 'Oh my God, my first week,' but I'm very, very — at the same time I'm positive that it's gonna do well," she told The ShowBuzz. "I did a worldly appealing album, international … I don't care if you're from Australia, if you're from Africa, if you're from South America, you're gonna relate to this album."
De Luna calls herself "international girl." It's an apt title, considering the plethora of influences that show up in "9 Lives." If you listen closely, you will find some opera influence (De Luna is a first soprano.) "Whine Up" is traditional dancehall — the kind of music she learned from her Jamaican friends. The second single, "Am I Dreaming" is reminiscent of the late Latin star, Selena. In that song, De Luna, who writes her own music, says she infuses sounds of the Dominican's Bachata music with reggae and pop.
Reflecting her Dominican culture in her music is important to De Luna, especially considering that in the United States, her people are usually thought of as great baseball players, not necessarily great musicians.
"We're known so much for baseball, we have like the best players ever that are coming up," She said. "Also, we're known for the doobies (special hair wraps), Dominican people do great hair. But no one ever knows us for music, in the pop world, so thank God, you know, I had a chance to come out and be accepted."
De Luna is also thankful for her solid upbringing. Growing up in Newark, N.J., she saw a lot of troubling things. But in the midst of the crime and poverty that characterizes parts of the city, De Luna found a beacon in her high school, New Jersey School of the Performing Arts.
"You have these hood kids, there's talent everywhere," she said, "but you have the hood kids singing opera and doing ballet."
So don't expect to see Kat De Luna falling out of limos on her way to the club or in rehab anytime soon. She says she has her priorities in check.
"I know where I came from," she said, "and you can go back there, so you better act right."