Dallas’ vocal adrenaline

VOP runners-up raised the bar for everyone this year

Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe knew this was a great year to win the contest, with the new groups category and the trip to England, but she also knew it was the toughest yet. She and the other finalists all agree the competition was stronger than ever: Third through fifth place took home prize money, but also released a collective sigh just to make it on the proverbial podium this time around.

Runners-up Juliana Jeffrey, Angie Landers and Robert Olivas give some insight to their experience at this year’s competition and how firsts always seem to happen, no matter how long they’ve been competing.

— Rich Lopez

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The Bridesmaid: Juliana Jeffrey, 2d  runner-up
Competition songs: “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts and “So Small” by Carrie Underwood.

Why these songs? I love the Underwood song, no question. I pick songs I really love or feel like I’m going through. I was just like Eek! But I don’t think my first song was a good choice.

What changed from last year? The talent was a lot better. Everybody was good and I think more people are finding out about it. It felt different this year — there wasn’t a lot of bonding like before. Every year I’ve made a friend. There was a lot more pressure.

TROIKA | Jeffrey, left, Landers, center, and Olivas gave the also-ran list star power. (Dallas Voice/ Arnold Wayne Jones)

Did the trip to England affect your performance? Who doesn’t wanna go to England? But personally, I try not to think about the prizes. It’s added stress. I like amazing singers and that makes me wanna be better.

You’re a VOP veteran. Would you rather win or keep placing and racking up change? Hey, all I can say is my rent is paid! The reason I do it every year is because I have so much fun with people I meet. We hang out.

Any immediate musical plans? I’m 29 but I don’t really have anything to show for my singing. So, I need to get more serious about that. But I gotta work these 40 hours a week. It’s tough, but I gotta make a demo.

Any thoughts on next year’s Voice of Pride? I know what to expect and I know what motions to go through so that’s relaxing. I think next year I will broaden my song choices. I just don’t wanna put myself in a box. I tell myself I’m gonna step out of this country box, but I never really know what judges are looking for. I just go with what feels good and pray for the best. I just try to do me.
The Breakthrough: Angie Landers, 3d runner-up
Competition songs: “I Drove All Night” and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

Any second thoughts? No, though I tend to think that I should have shown my country side as well as my pop side. There’s always next year.

How was it when your name was called? Oh my gosh, it was such a surreal moment.

Do you pick songs you like or that will sound good? I only perform songs that touch me or I enjoy, but for competition I try to choose songs that show off who I am and what I can do.

How do you prepare? Practice — in my living room!


The Dude: Robert Olivas, 4th runner-up

Competition songs: “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train and “Remember When It Rained” by Josh Groban.

Why these two? I love those songs and I wanted to show my range. I’ve been paying attention to the judges’ comments and I wanted to win the crowd. But dang, the gays love their women singers.

Yeah, you were the highest placed male this year. The competition was gonna be so strong and it was all about the women this year.

How’d you strategize? I made it my business to go to the preliminaries and see the competition. I’ve grown to see what judges are looking for.

When did you start singing? I started singing about four but didn’t have training until my girlfriend at the time talked me into taking a vocal class at UTEP.

What did you learn about yourself this time? I’ve only made finals three times so I’m proving that I can be consistent.

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It takes two

Mel Arizpe, far right, and Laura Carrizales had quite  summer. The real-life couple took the No. 1 and 2 spots in the solo competition at Voice of Pride and scored the inaugural group competition victory. As Mi Diva Loca, the duo won over the crowd with their second performance, a medley of pop hits which might have been risky. “Because it wasn’t a whole song, we wondered if the judges would see past that into our harmonies,” Carrizales says. “These were just songs we liked.” They also got to perform at Pride in Manchester, England.

If you missed ’em before, though, you can catch them (plus third place Juliana Jeffrey) riding in the parade Sunday, followed by a performance at the festival in Lee Park afterward.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

VOP winners shine in Manchester

Arizpe, Carrizales wow crowd with performance on final day of 10-day Pride celebration in England

Ed Walsh  |  Special Contributor edwalsh94105@yahoo.com

Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales
TALENT ABROAD | Mel Arizpe, right, winner of the 2010 Voice of Pride competition, sings a duet with her partner — and VOP first runner-up — Laura Carrizales during their appearance at the Manchester Pride celebration on Monday, Aug. 30. (Photo courtesy MRNY.com)

MANCHESTER,  England — A couple from Dallas brought a bit of Texas to England this week and stole the show on the final day of Manchester Pride 2010, the city’s 10-day Pride celebration.
Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales were the winners of Dallas’s Voice of Pride, an annual contest sponsored by the Dallas Tavern Guild. Arizpe came in first place, winning a trip for two to Manchester and $3,000.

As luck would have it, Arizipe’s girlfriend, Laura Carrizales, won second place in the contest.

So naturally, Arizipe took Carrizales for the trip to the UK.

The couple, performing as “La Diva Loca,” also won the Voice of Pride’s duo category.

All those talents were put to good use at Manchester Pride 2010 on Monday, Aug. 30. The couple took to the stage at 2:40 p.m. and performed for a short 10 minutes — but they enthralled the crowd for each second.

Arizpe took to the stage first. “All the way from Dallas, we’ve come to sing to you all,” she told the British crowd in a Texas twang before launching into the  Whitney Houston hit “I’m Every Woman.”
The Brits roared their approval.

Carrizales joined Arizpe next on stage for their duet medley of four different songs: The Fugees “Ready or Not,” followed by En Vogue’s single “Never Gonna Get it,” and two different versions of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” — first the fast dance version, then the slower “Glee” version.

The Dallas couple made sure that their abbreviated version of “Poker Face” included the line, “I wanna hold ’em like they do in TEXAS please,” with a strong emphasis on “Texas.”

And the crowd was thrilled with the Gaga tribute, many dancing and singing along.

The medley, put together by their friend Danny Anchondo, was the same duet performance that helped them win the Voice of Pride group category.

Said Arizpe after the show, “I was happy they were responding. I think they really enjoyed the duet.”

Carrizales said they were concerned about the sound system, but in the end, she noted, it sounded great.

Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales
AFTERMATH | Laura Carrizales, left, and Mel Arizpe relax after performing onstage at Manchester Pride. (Ed Walsh/Special to Dallas Voice)

Arizpe and Carrizales appeared confident and relaxed on stage. They said that it helped that they were performing for strangers who they would never have to face again if they gave a bad performance. “It was a comfort that we didn’t know anybody,” said Carrizales.

The couple also said they were impressed by the scope of Manchester Pride: “It’s 10 times the size of Dallas,” said Carrizales. “They block off a whole section of the city [in Manchester].”

Added Arizpe, “We get a good turnout in Dallas but nothing like this.”

The idea to award Dallas’s Voice of Pride winner with a trip to Manchester was hatched by Andrew Stokes, who is both the chairman of Manchester Pride and the chief executive of the city’s official tourism office.

Stokes came up with the idea after visiting Dallas and visiting with his friend George Carrancho, who is part of American Airlines LGBT-dedicated “rainbow” sales team. Stokes watched part of the Voice of Pride competition while he was in town.

“I thought what a great thing it would be to bring the winner to Manchester,” Stokes said.

He worked out the trip with Carrancho and American Airlines, who helped sponsor the trip. Stokes and Carrancho introduced Arizpe and Carrizales before the couple’s performance.

So what’s it like for a couple of Texans in England?

Carrizales and Arizipe said they were welcomed warmly by the English and were given the VIP treatment during the four days they were in town. They were surprised that they were asked to march at the start of the parade, right behind the grand marshal, actor Sir Ian McKellan. That was an impressive honor considering that there were 101 contingents in the parade.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens