It all happened very fast.
Mariah Williams, 18, of Lexington Park, a senior at Great Mills High School, learned about the contest on Feb. 10, just a couple of hours before the deadline.
Williams didn’t hesitate. She headed down to her basement where she likes to film music videos, which she posts on YouTube. She filmed an entry, sent it in and waited.
After two weeks, she learned she had won.
“After reviewing hundreds of submissions that covered every musical career from an artist to a producer, song writer, record label executive and more, it was Mariah Williams’ that stood out among the rest,” said Jacquelyn Gillespie in a statement. Gillespie is a representative for Aquafina FlavorSplash’s “Make a Splash” national campaign, which is awarding seven teens the chance to explore their future career interests in a real-world setting.
Williams won the part of the contest that asked teens to submit a video explaining how they would shake up the music industry. Other contests will focus on areas like culinary arts, sports and fashion.
In her video, Williams explained why she was meant for the music industry. Not only was she named after singer Mariah Carey, but said she learned to sing before she could fully talk. And at the age of 2, she was singing songs she heard on the television. In addition to singing, Williams dances, writes music and plays the guitar, ukulele and piano.
Last Tuesday, Williams left for an all-expense-paid trip to New York City. On the first day she was there she visited sites like the 9/11 Memorial and Times Square. The second day, she shadowed pop singer Austin Mahone and his crew as they prepared for a concert. The third day, Williams was taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of Republic Records.
Mahone, who is a teenager himself, was discovered on YouTube. Williams was already a fan, she said. “Austin showed me around the venue where his show is at,” she said. “He was a really nice, humble, genuine person, even though he is famous … It was really fun.”
While at Republic Records, Williams sang one of Mahone’s songs, “Say You’re Just a Friend,” for some talent scouts. “They said they really liked it,” she said.
The experience encouraged her in her musical aspirations, she said. “I definitely came out thinking it is possible.”
On Friday, Williams was back at Great Mills High School, where she took a break from tennis practice to talk about her experience in a telephone interview. In addition to tennis, Williams is active in the National Honor Society and related community service projects and keeps busy with a schedule that includes five AP courses this year.
Despite her dreams of a singing career, she hasn’t been in a school chorus since middle school. “I don’t know, it’s just freer,” Williams said about pursuing her musical interests on her own.
Nevertheless her friends are aware of Williams’ talent. In her sophomore year, Williams wrote a rap song about chemical bonding for a class science project. And it caught on, according to her friend, Natalie Marshall of Piney Point, also a senior at Great Mills.
“People were walking down the halls [singing] it,” Marshall said Friday.
Marshall said that their teacher, Ronnie Chavez, liked Williams’ work so much that he took it to a school board meeting to share it.”
“She’s really good,” Marshall said.
Marshall said that she and other friends have encouraged Williams to try out for a TV talent show. But Williams said she hasn’t tried that yet. She’s preparing to go to college after graduation and plans to work toward a degree in physical therapy. At the same time, she plans to keep her music dreams alive by performing when and where she can, like in restaurants. “I mostly want to stick with pop, with an R&B twist,” she said.
She already has approximately 20 videos on YouTube, she said. “I mostly do covers on YouTube,” Williams said, but she writes her own songs as well.
Williams has a lot going on. “Pretty good stuff, though,” she said.
Aquafina FlavorSplash’s six other contests “will cover culinary, fashion, sports, entertainment, art and design, etc.,” said Emily Thomas, another representative from the contest, in an email. “Every month, our micro site: https://makeasplash.flavorsplash.com/ will be updated with details on how to enter.”
Thomas said that a full-length episode detailing Williams’ experience will be released across the AwesomenessTV channel on YouTube in mid-April (see www.youtube.com/user/AwesomenessTV). In addition, a very brief preview of her experience will air during the 2014 MTV Movie Awards on April 13, according to Thomas.