Interview with Latifa Tee

Eden Caceda interviews Latifa Tee of Straight Up

Latifa Tee might look like your average school girl with a lovely voice, but the 15 year old Sydneysider is taking Australia by storm on this season of The X Factor with hit group Straight Up. Following a very successful audition for the judges, which this year include veterans Natalie Bassingthwaigthe and Ronan Keating with newcomers Dannii Minogue and LMFAO’s Redfoo, Latifa gives us a peek into the life of a potential superstar with her video already garnering over 100, 000 views on YouTube.

Latifa, how old were you when you first began performing?

I began performing as a dancer at the age of 4. I grew up dancing at Urban Dance Centre, Glebe and had a dream of performing in musical theatre just like many of their graduates. It wasn’t until I took to the stage at a school broadway performance night with microphone in hand, that I realised how much I loved singing. After the show, I met my singing coach Sarah Logan and have been singing at Platinum Vocal Studio with her for the past 2 years. Watching artists perform in concert over recent years has further inspired me to put in the hard work with classes and training so that I can combine my passion for singing and dance. Unless you have tried singing and dancing at the same time, you probably wouldn’t realise how fit guys like Timomatic need to be to perform like they do!

Why did you decide to audition for The X Factor?

Auditioning for The X Factor this year was a last minute decision! After meeting the boys in Straight Up, we knew the chemistry we shared was something rare and special. I know sometimes in life it pays to take opportunities as they come and the timing was perfect for us as a newly formed group to go to the The X Factor audition.

How did you meet the rest of Straight Up?

The members of the group, Liam Ferrari, Ellis Hall and Jayke McGill come from all over Australia and we knew of each other via Facebook. We met for the first time at a JMA music bootcamp just 4 days before our X-Factor audition. The way we gelled so quickly took us by surprise.

Your first audition for The X Factor swept the judges off their feet. What were you thinking after your debut performance?

It was the most exciting moment of my life when the judges said we were going to The X Factor boot camp. After the hype, it did sink in though that the competition would be fierce. I was pumped up and slightly distracted at school with boot camp constantly on my mind!

You’re the single girl amongst a group of boys, what’s that like?

Being the only girl in a group is something I am learning to get used to. The boys are so funny and I don’t know where they get their energy! The biggest challenge is that I don’t get to enjoy chatting about fashion and make up with the boys when we hang out. Instead, we do things like play laser siege and they have reminded me how much fun it is to skateboard. The boys come from great families. We share a dream and have experienced something intense that has created a special bond, so they are brothers to me now.

Dancing seems to be a big element of Straight Up’s performances. Who choreographs these dances?

I assist with choreography and movement on stage because I have been performing as a dancer for 11 years. Liam also choreographs and is our featured dancer and rapper. Jayke is our beat-boxer and does acrobatics. While I am the lead vocalist, we do sometimes mix it up and Ellis takes lead whilst I harmonise. He has a great voice.

Who is your favourite judge of the panel this year?

Redfoo is my favourite judge. He is fun, intelligent, energetic and out of all the judges, his music is probably what I would listen to the most. We were shocked when our group was told before going on stage that Redfoo’s Dad discovered the Jackson 5. Yet, we didn’t have much time to focus on that extra pressure because the next moment we were called out to perform. In hindsight, our song choice was very risky! Thankfully, Redfoo’s comments were positive; being complimented on our chemistry as a group was incredible, especially considering the short time we had been together.

Who’s your ultimate idol and what is your dream career?

My ultimate idol is Beyonce. Everybody knows she’s an amazing performer yet, last week seeing her advocate to stop discriminative violence against African-American teenagers reminded me of the power artists have to influence socio-political change. As a humanitarian, I am driven by ways that I can help bring about equitable change. To become a celebrity artist at a young age would mean having the opportunity to share my views with teen fans. Our group is already working to support an anti cyber bullying campaign. I will never forget the response from the crowd at The X Factor audition. My ambition is to have precisely more of that! I dream about a career travelling the world and sharing my music with thousands of people who are up on their feet singing the words to my songs.

Originally published in BULL Magazine, August 5, 2013.

Watch Latifa’s audition with Straight Up below:

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