Guatamalan singer hopes ‘The Four’ will expand her music

‘The Four: Battle for Stardom’ opens its second season June 7 with Stephanie Zelaya, Carvena Jones, James Graham and Sharaya J.
‘The Four: Battle for Stardom’ opens its second season June 7 with Stephanie Zelaya, Carvena Jones, James Graham and Sharaya J. FOX Broadcasting Company

Stephanie Zelaya newest journey is one she hopes will “bring my career to another whole level.”

The 27-year-old Guatemalan singer/songwriter will join three other singers in the FOX network’s ‘The Four: Battle for Stardom,’ a music reality show whose second season kicks off Thursday (June 7).

Zelaya will defend her coveted spot on the stage against all challengers in the Latin pop genre each week until she is knocked off or survives. The three other singers (Carvena Jones, James Graham and Sharaya J.) will face the same challenge.

The last recording artist left standing will claim the ultimate prize: Key support from Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, DJ Khaled and Meghan Trainor.

“To be the champion of ‘The Four,’ I think it requires a lot of attitude, a lot of passion, just a lot of self confidence. Doing what you love,” said Zelaya, who was born and raised in Guatamala City. “Challengers, be ready!”

Zelaya, who began singing at age 5, raised $15,000 through social media to produce her first album, ‘Es Un Viaje’ (It’s a Journey) in 2013. She has recorded two songs for her follow-up album, including ‘Hasta Que Amanezca’ (Until Sunrise).

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Stephanie Zelaya is one of the contestants on ‘The Four: Battle for Stardom.’ MICHAEL BECKER FOX Broadcasting Company

Her goal is to show the world that not only is the Latin genre a universal success but that a young woman from Guatemala has what it takes.

“I know there’s probably a lot of people who don’t know Spanish, but when you’re presenting the Latin genre you’re able to really deliver each performance with all the energy and the message that the song has so that people can connect through music,” said Zelaya during a recent telephone interview.

“Music is the universal language, even if they don’t understand every single word.”

Guatemala, she admits, is not exactly a hot bed for singers ... outside Ricardo Arjona.

“The music scene is not development yet,” said Zelaya. “It has been hard to prepare myself. I’ve had to find creative ways to do it.”

Zelaya, who has opened a concert for Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández in Guatemala, welcomes the challenge of ‘The Four.’

“The most challenging thing is being yourself throughout the show, especially in the Latin genre,” said Zalaya. “What I really like about the show is the format. That they’re not just looking for great vocalists, but the whole package.

“They’re looking for people who have experience and can perform, who can connect with the audience and be themselves.”

Zelaya moved to Los Ángeles five years ago to pursue her music career, but it wasn’t her first time in the country. Her parents sent her to summer music programs at the Manhattan School of Music, Instituto Vocal de Miguel Manzo in Spain, and Berklee College of Music.

The time away from home, she said, has allowed her to grow “not just as an artist but as a person.”

Zelaya looks forward to ‘The Four,’ a show she said has been described as “starting where other shows end.”

“I like the format. This brings my career to another whole level,” said Zelaya. “I feel blessed for having the opportunity.”

Zelaya believes that Latin genre is ready to take over the world, as evidenced by last year’s success of ‘Despacito.’

“I admire much what Luis Fonsi was able to do with Daddy Yankee,” said Zelaya. “It is definitely something that opened the doors to Latin music, to Latin artists.”

Someday, Zelaya would like to collaborate with Arjona.

“I admire him so much. He’s an example of someone who fought so hard for what he wanted,” she said. “He has stayed true to his music. Sometimes you sacrifice who you are; he hasn’t done that.”