In a small recording studio in Hialeah, Florida, Amanda Almeida is having a jam session. Between writing a verse for a new song and effortlessly belting out soulful rifts, she can’t stop giggling. The brasileira, face beaming, is an image of pure bliss — and she has every reason to be. Almeida is the grand prize winner of the #LiveUnlimited The Dreams Academy music contest, and along with the distinction is this one-on-one mentorship session with Prince Royce.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” Almeida, 22, tells FIERCE. “I’m overwhelmingly grateful and trying to catch my breath.”
(Photo Credit: M8)
In December, the Dominican bachatero teamed up with Sprint to launch the contest, which provides aspiring artists and innovators with resources, like grants and training opportunities, to pursue their dreams. The first competition sought out musical artists, and Almeida was one of numerous hopefuls from around the country who submitted a personal video to enter. The public helped narrow down the top-10 finalists, but it was ultimately Royce and Sprint who selected the grand prize winner and two runners-up, Texas’ David Mejorado and Arizona’s Luis Fabián Lara.
“I was like, ‘oh my God, they picked me.’ It was always ‘they’ until a few days ago when I put together who ‘they’ were. And I actually thought this, in these words: ‘Prince Royce watched my video, and he picked it,’” the Brazil-born, New Jersey-raised Latina and longtime Royce fan, said, still amazed by her big win. “It’s humbling.”
Royce, along with the Miami-based Puerto Rican duo Coast City, spent the day with Almeida, harmonizing with the songstress and helping her write a new tune.
“This has been a great time. She’s really just a nice girl, very charismatic, very energetic, very into it,” the 28-year-old pop star told us. “She’s also very talented. She plays piano, she plays guitar, she’s very soulful, she’s writing here on the spot. I think she’s already standing out.”
Royce, who worked for Sprint as a teenager, partnered with the telecommunications company to help aspiring artists in a similar way his former employer supported him in his career. According to the Bronx-born singer, his Sprint paychecks paid for studio time and producer fees for most of the tracks on his first album.
“I’m thrilled to give back and spend time with kids that are just like me, that have dreams, that love music,” he said.
(Photo Credit: M8)
During their one-on-one, Royce encouraged Almeida, who is also a cellular and molecular biology student at Kean University, to never give up on her musical dreams, because she has what it takes to make it in the industry.
“You have to try your best in everything, and at least you know no matter what happens, whenever you look back, you did your best in every field,” he told the young singer. “We have one life, and you really have to live your best life, be the best you you can be and be the best version of you.”
Almeida is heeding his advice. After putting her first love, music, to the side to complete her bachelor’s degree, she plans on focusing on her career as an artist following her graduation, and she attributes Royce and Sprint for instilling in her the confidence she needed to materialize her aspirations.
“I think that I can reach my dreams. [This contest] made me actually think about what Sprint represented, like live unlimited, that literally makes sense. I feel like I’m unlimited in my dreams, like anything can happen, and it still has me shaking,” she said.
In addition to the mentoring sit-down with Royce and the recording and writing session with Coast City, Almeida’s grand prize win also comes with $10,000 to help her commence her musical career.
Upcoming categories for the #LiveUnlimited The Dreams Academy program will include topics like technology, entrepreneurship and community activism.