Upon first meeting up-and-coming Toronto Latin artist (of Uruguay/Dominican parentage) Chantel Collado for a quick interview prior to her performance at the Panamerican Food Fest at Dundas-Yonge Square this past weekend, I honestly thought “This is what meeting Tejano legend Selena Quintanilla must’ve felt like.” After seeing her perform live (something we’d never done before)— in particular one of Selena’s hit songs, and channelling the music icon by giving a mesmerizing performance— I was almost sure Collado was undoubtedly the late musical legend personified.

In chatting with her for a few minutes, the 18-year-old, known in local circuits as “La Princesa de la Bachata”, I found her to be so incredibly so beautiful and charming, with a bubbly, sunny and winning personality— an absolute pleasure to speak with. The buzz about her music career in the Toronto Latin music industry is getting louder and louder as more people discover how incredibly talented, personable and charismatic she is. Many may think her career started with her first album at the young age of 15, but Collado is quick to point out that she’s been doing this for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been singing practically my whole life, since I was a little girl. It’s something in my blood, something that I’ve always loved to do. I started with musical theatre, I did acting, I did singing and dancing. Then in 2013, when I was about 15 years old, we said, ‘You know what, let’s start this professionally. Let’s take this to another level.’”

2013 may seem like only a minute ago, but in these three years she’s accomplished what many take years and years to do: She recorded her first album, “Infiel” (Unfaithful) that included seven original songs— two authored by her and five of them written by her older brother (and bass player), Leo Jr. Collado. The album was produced by her father, Leo Collado.

In her short but eventful career, she has participated in major concerts with renowned artists as Tito “El Bambino”, Hector Acosta, Los Hermanos Rosario, Tito Rojas, Fernando Villalona, Frank Reyes and many more. She has appeared in Canadian Latin festivals all through Toronto, Montreal, Barrie and London. In 2014 she was invited to New York’s “La Gran Parada Dominicana del Bronx” (Bronx Dominican Parade), where she was named “Artista Revelación del Año” (Best Upcoming Artist) for her performance. She has been invited since then to the popular Dominican Festival of Perth Amboy in New Jersey, where she has shared the stage with the biggest names (a lot of them personal idols of hers) in the Dominican Republic’s music industry. This very evening in downtown Toronto she had just returned from the 2016 edition of the festival that morning, where she performed with the likes of Toby Love, Raulin Rosendo, Los Hermanos Rosario, Fernando Villalona, Ruby Pérez and more.

It’s also worth pointing out that all of the performers (as is the case for a great majority in the Latin industry) were male; something that may seem a challenge given her young age and the fact she is a female, but she has been able to navigate these waters with ease, mainly because of the overwhelming support and love she has received from audiences wherever she performs.

“Being the only female (performer), it is very special. I’m only 18 years old and I’m doing such big things that I’m proud of, and I know my family and the team are proud of. It’s great to represent the females in the (tropical) music industry.” Her audience’s absolute adoration of her and her music is the main fuel that keeps her going. “That’s important to me, seeing that the audience is enjoying my music ‘cause that’s what motivates and encourages me. Having that audience like my music and enjoying it while I’m on stage is what helps me. Being surrounded by a bunch of male artists, being one of the females there and a young female, it’s great, it’s fantastic. It’s a dream come true.”

Her gradual incursion into the international stage is only the beginning— or the continuation, I should say, of what will no doubt be her eventual reach to international fame and recognition. Collado, who is currently in the midst of promoting her upcoming album, “Mentiras Baratas”, will be touring the Dominican Republic for the entire month of September. She’s very excited about this promotional tour— a first-ever for her and her team— because although she visits the country regularly to see family, this trip is strictly a promotional tour and media blitz effort to introduce her music to Dominican audiences. There is no doubt they will see what Canadian and American audiences already know: her incredible musical talent and the charismatic personality she possesses.

Her charisma and outgoing personality, and her ease on stage, Collado admits, are something she had to especially hone through years of being in the spotlight. “Musical theatre helped me a lot,” she said. “It was something that not only I enjoyed doing, but it was also a learning experience. And being on stage I was able to try and build that charisma and be able to freely be myself on stage. That helped me a lot. The charisma now comes naturally, and being on stage is something that I enjoy. I leave everything on there and I have the time of my life.”

It also helps, she also admits, that having her family by her side also eases greatly what could be an overwhelming and lonely experience, especially for someone so young. And she knows that no matter what, she has their loyalty and support and they have only her best interest at heart, something she recognizes is so important and feels very grateful for. “I’m very blessed to have my father and my brother both with me. My father’s musically talented as well and he’s a huge influence on the musical side. And my brother’s still young— he’s only 26 years old. He’s my bass player and writing all of my songs as well with me. It’s a great journey and having my family with me, it’s that much more of a blessing because I know I’m in safe hands. I know they want the best for me and I’m not just with anybody. So ‘me dejo guiar’ (let them guide me), I let them give me ‘los consejos’ (advice). It’s easier for me to work with them ‘cause ‘estamos en confianza’ (I trust them).” It can also be challenging, working with family, but they somehow find a way to balance both the professional and the familial side. “We love each other,” she says. And that’s enough to make it all worthwhile.

And just to add to the challenges facing a young artist trying to make it into that big monster that is the music industry (the Latin music industry, to be exact), some may find being in Canada an obstacle to making a name for themselves. For Collado, it’s not something that has been an impossible obstacle to overcome. “I’m lucky to have been Canadian-born. Wherever I go, I always mention that.” It’s one more element that she finds only complements her: being a proud Latina but born in Toronto. “I always mention I’m from Toronto and I’m proud to be from Toronto. It is a little more difficult, especially because the (Latin) music industry is not as huge as it is for example in the States. But I’m glad to have the support from ‘los Latinos de aqui de Toronto’ and I’m glad to be able to be an up-and-coming star and represent Toronto and represent my Latin culture, but I have faith it can be done.”

Things for Canada-based artists are not as difficult as before, she recognizes. The way the music industry is so interconnected, she’s able to keep Toronto as her home base and yet establish her career by constantly travelling to where opportunities are. This weekend, exhausted as she is from performing in New Jersey at the Dominican Festival in Perth Amboy, she is ready to give it all to her adoring public in this beautiful venue right in the middle of downtown Toronto. Having realized at the very young age of 15 that this is the career path she wanted to follow, performing on stage is a fulfillment of her dreams.“We’ve done a lot. I’ve had so many amazing experiences, so many amazing opportunities with different artists. Me, being 18 years old, it’s huge for me. I’m following my dream, so that’s what’s important.” For Toronto audiences, we can’t wait to see what successes the future bring for this beautiful and talented young Latina artist.

Videos Courtesy of YouTube User Mimadito19.