Person to Watch: Christina Grimmie
SJ’s Christina Grimmie turns heads – and chairs
By Terri Akman

Move over, Miley Cyrus. When Christina Grimmie belted out “Wrecking Ball” on NBC’s “The Voice,” all four coaches quickly turned their chairs. The 19-year-old from Marlton hopes to win the grand prize – a recording contract – to add to her already impressive resume. With more than 400,000 Twitter followers, 2.4 million YouTube subscribers and a stint opening for Selena Gomez’s We Own the Night tour, Grimmie is well on her way.

“The Voice isn’t like any show I’ve ever seen,” she says. “During the blind auditions they are basing everything off of your voice, which is different from YouTube where it’s about the subscriber numbers. If people can only listen to your voice, that’s a very good thing. If the judges turn around for you, it must mean you belong in the music industry.”

Grimmie thought long and hard about her song choice for her blind audition. Known as “the YouTube cover girl,” she felt an obligation to her fans, and Wrecking Ball fit her online persona.

“Viewers can identify who I am from YouTube. But on the flip-side, I wanted to put a very different spin on the song for the coaches, because they are just listening to my voice,” she says. “I wanted to try to impress everyone.”

And she did. All four coaches – Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Shakira and Usher – urged her to join their team. Levine and Usher made especially compelling arguments. She chose Levine.

“I went into this saying to myself, ‘If I got all of them to turn around, who would I pick?’” she recalls. “I wanted to go with Adam for a couple of reasons. I’m a pop/R&B singer, and Adam would really know how to choose songs for my voice. I also liked the way he coached in previous seasons. I liked the things he would say, and I could see myself applying them. He seems to be the best coach for me.”

Grimmie is comfortable she’s made the right choice. “Adam is a goofy, awesome guy behind the scenes. He’s not a diva,” she says. “During the battle rounds when the contestants were talking about what to do, Adam came in and started telling some funny story. Right after he was done talking, he ran to the drum set and started banging on the drums. If this were anybody else, it would be annoying and we’d tell him to stop. But because it was Adam, who is awesome and everybody loves him, he kept going. Everyone loved it.”

So far, Grimmie’s experience has been incredibly positive. She has become good friends with the other contestants, which she wasn’t expecting.

“Everyone has been so cool,” she says. “No one has been arrogant. I went into this thinking I needed to be careful of people’s egos, and maybe they’d try to put me down. But nobody has been that way. It’s such a nurturing environment with everyone pulling for each other. I’m shocked that everyone wants each other to do really well.”

Well, maybe not that well. With a recording contract on the line, winning can be very lucrative, and there’s only one winner. Grimmie thinks Levine can take her all the way.

“It would be a shame to lose,” she says. “I plan on staying on the show. The exposure I’ll get is incredible. After just one night of being on TV, I had a boost of between 12,000 and 15,000 Twitter followers. Win or lose, the exposure on the show cannot work against me. This will be an amazing step in my career moving forward.”

Grimmie started singing when she was 5 and plays the piano, flute and guitar. When she was 15, a friend urged her to put a song on YouTube. As her popularity grew she put up more songs, and in 2010, she caught the eye of Brian Teefey, Selena Gomez’s stepdad.

“Brian reached out to me and was wondering if he could manage me,” she recalls. “Gosh – that was a huge turning point for me. That’s when I started to get more stage experience and learn the ropes.”

In 2011, Grimmie packed her bags and moved to LA to pursue her music career. She released her first album, “Find Me,” debuting at number 11 on the Billboard Digital Albums chart and number two on iTunes. Among her growing legion of fans, none is more passionate than her mother Tina.

“My mom has had breast cancer three different times,” she says. “I was very young when it first happened, probably 3, and then it came back when I was 6 or 7. She and my dad have always supported my singing. They’re not stage parents, just very supportive in wanting me to succeed in what I love to do.

“The fact that my mom is still here to support me and go through this with me is amazing, considering I could have lost her a while back. She’s on so many different medicines, but she’s doing really well now. That’s why it’s especially important for me to go through this with my mom here.”

Though Grimmie now makes LA her home, she has only fond memories of growing up in Marlton. “It’s very different from LA, but it was a great place to grow up,” she says. “I still have those best friends to this day and they are the most supportive friends anyone could ask for. I don’t think I would have moved if I hadn’t had a singing career. I’d probably still be living there. I love the whole Marlton, South Jersey vibe.”

April 2014
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