In today’s social media world, a YouTube video can change someone’s life dramatically in a matter of hours. For 10-year-old, this happened when superstar mentioned her in a tweet and directed millions of her followers to Maria’s video.
Within a week of Gaga’s anointment, the YouTube video had shot to 25 million views and is still going strong.
Winnipeg’s Hot 103 brought her into the radio station studio and arranged for Lady Gaga to talk to her, which was emotional for both parties. Gaga was so impressed and touched by Maria that she invited her to perform the song “Born this Way” on stage with her at a concert in Toronto.
Maria explained: “I met a lot of people before, but Lady Gaga is the reason why I am here because if she hadn’t seen my video, I wouldn’t be doing this interview. And when I first got to talk to her, I cried because she had time to talk to me, and she even wanted me to sing with her at a concert. I was just very overwhelmed; I was just so star-struck.” Maria has also appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and has since been invited to countless interviews, performances and media outlets all around the world.
Maria’s success is particularly inspiring because of her family’s story. Maria’s mother and father emigrated from the Philippines to Winnipeg in 1997 with two older sisters and a brother in search of a better environment for their kids. Although the Aragons didn’t speak that much English at first, through a combination of work, school and with the help of family already settled in Winnipeg, they became well integrated in their neighbourhood.
Although she liked the Philippines, Maria’s sister Rojuane says that she could probably never move back. Canada is what she considers home. “My parents would love to go back,” she said. “I know that for sure, because my mom’s side of the family is all still in the Philippines.”
Maria is the only one of four children who was born in Canada. When asked what she considers her identity, she states, “Well, I’m Canadian because I was born here. But I was raised by Filipino parents, so I guess I’m both.”
She loves Winnipeg but also knows that being Filipino is a huge part of who she is. She has a lot of fans from the Philippines and from Asia at large, which she says can be both exciting and a little strange. Many of them follow her on Facebook and have set up numerous fan pages dedicated to her.
Maria has even had the opportunity to sing with Prime Ministerduring his campaign tour during the last federal election. She reflected candidly, “Well, it was an honour because, of course, he’s the Prime Minister, he’s like the boss of everybody! It was fun because I didn’t know he could play the piano so well!”
Maria also took part in the annual Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill, performing in front of the large crowd which featured William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as part of their 2011 tour of Canada.
When asked what made singing important to her, Maria says, “Everyone is good at something, whether it is art or singing or dancing, but I think singing is special because it’s the talent that I have and it’s special, especially now because it’s the reason why I get to go see Lady Gaga and be on the Ellen (DeGeneres) Show ... It’s the talent that God gave me so I’m really grateful for it.”