Tyler teen Maria Cristina Bravo, who coaches boxers, beat out thousands auditioning to sing on La Banda, a music competition on the American Spanish language television network Univision.

Although boxing is her hobby, Bravo, 18, said what she likes most is singing. When the Robert E. Lee High School senior graduates, Bravo plans to simultaneously pursue a career in singing and study to become a dentist. “I’ll have gigs at times. I’m not having classes,” she said.

There’s a lot of competition in music, Bravo acknowledged. If singing does not work out, she said, “I will have a job as a dentist.”

Bravo is already on her way as a singer even though she has never had voice lessons.

Bravo said she has always dreamed about singing on television.

Last February, she competed with approximately 3,000 boys and girls in pre-auditions in Houston for the show La Banda on the Univision network, which is similar to The Voice talent show on NBC. There were four rounds and she was among the top eight chosen in Texas.

Then the waiting started. After four months, Bravo didn’t sleep, thinking she had not made it to the finals. But one day during lunch at school, a call came saying she was picked to be in the final auditions in Miami for the La Banda show.

“I was so happy. I was screaming. I was crying. I couldn’t believe it,” Bravo said.

Accompanied by one of her brothers, Bravo went to Miami last summer. “It was my first time in an airplane; it was my first time being out of Texas,” she said. When she got off the plane, people from Univision were there holding a sign with her name on it to pick her up.

“We went to a huge hotel; it was beautiful,” Brava said. “I remember being nervous because I was going to sing before famous judges.” When she saw the judges, she was so excited she could not breathe.

“I was standing there, where other kids have passed by and they are now artists and famous. It was just an honor to stand there talking to them (the judges),” Bravo said.

At the end, Bravo said, she got “nervous and messed up” because she accidently touched the hand of one of the judges while singing in Spanish a song judges chose for her.

Because of her nervousness, judges said they did not think she was ready. “I said, ‘Hold on. I can rap.’ I started rapping and they were shocked. I got a ‘yes’ from three judges,” Bravo said.

Bravo scored 86 percent in the auditions and went on to be on the show in Univision’s Miami studio.

“I was very, very lucky,” she said. Judges are not only looking for talent but for attitude, charisma and humbleness in a performer.

On the show, Bravo said, “I made it to the third round (out of) six or seven rounds).” She went to Miami every two weeks during June through July while appearing on the show and will be under contract to Univision until next March.

Some art critics have compared her looks and sound to the late Selena Quintanilla, a beloved Latin recording artist known as the Queen of Tejano Music.

Bravo had never been in front of cameras and fans screaming her name. “It was a nice experience. I got to meet different people from different places and cultures. I still can’t believe I was up there,” she said.

“I’m just very thankful because the show helped me be recognized worldwide. It was a big recognition,” Bravo said.

“My life hasn’t been the same since I’ve been on the show,” Bravo said. “I’m always busy. My calendar is full until March. I’m not treated normal now. I’ve been getting fan calls from different people and promoters. When I go to stores, I can’t walk with my face up because I get chased and people want to take a picture with me.”

She is writing the lyrics for her music and has performances scheduled. In December. Bravo plans to start collaborating with a rapper from Houston to write songs.

“Since I was little, singing has always been my passion,” Bravo said. “My dad used to be in a Christian band and he inspired me to sing. When I sing, it makes people happy. It makes people emotional. I love every type of music and I sing every type of music.”

When Bravo was 5, she remembers sleeping in her room across from the studio in her family’s home, where the band her father played in rehearsed. “I remember waking up and hearing the beautiful music. One day I told my dad, ‘I want to be a singer like you,’” Bravo said. “He didn’t take me seriously.”

“I kept wanting to sing, sing, sing. I remember singing in the shower and in my room. When I was around 10, I started singing to my mom. She told my dad, ‘Your daughter’s really good; your daughter can sing,’” Bravo said.

But her father, who was obese at the time and wanted to lose weight, opened a boxing gym at the intersection of Houston and Glenwood streets and “pushed me” to box when she was 7, Bravo said.

“I wanted to make my dad happy. I said I would do it for a hobby,” she said. Bravo had her first fight when she was 10 and over the next few years had a total of six fights in different places – Dallas, Houston, McKinney and Tyler - winning them all.

“I would always win because I was aggressive and I would never give up,” Bravo said. She stopped fighting a few months ago because bruises are not a good look for an artist, Bravo said.

Now, she coaches children and adults in boxing and her father gives her tips on singing.

“I practice singing every day. I don’t go to teachers for voice lessons because that’s a lot of money. God gave me this beautiful talent and I think I have a wonderful teacher in my dad,” Bravo said. “He might not be the best singer, but he can give me the best tips.”

In music, boxing and everything, Bravo said, “I think you need discipline. I think that’s the key to everything.”

Twitter: @Betty_TMT



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