Mari.kris.am.i of Umamiya
On her past:
Most likely found at the nearest Jollibee restaurant in Los Angeles, Merry Christmas (aka Mari.kris.am.i) of Umamiya makes up the Filipino percentage all girl Pan-Asian Pop group. Mari Kris was born in the Philippines to a low-income family. Mari Kris prides herself with the fact that she was born singing: “When I was born, my mother told me I cried in the whistle range, like Mariah Carey.” Her first actual memory of singing was at the of 3, while she was doing chores. While cleaning the kitchen, Mari Kris sang Ihilak by Filipino crooner Victor Wood. “I was like one of the dwarfs in Snow White, whistling while I worked…” Because her parents were so supportive of their daughter, Mari Kris was told to sing all the time, at every opportunity, even while selling food on the streets. “…I had many fans who said my singing was ‘Eargasmic.’”
Her self-proclaimed “God given talent” as a singer formerly helped her acquire a recording contract with S-Cube Entertainment’s competitor, Hoy! Records. While the president and CEO of the recording label gave notice to Mari Kris’s gift as a singer, she was usually put into a background singer position. “He did not think Mari.kris.am.i had a very marketable image,” her description explains. “Hoy! Records was a HOY! Nightmare,” she exclaimed in an email interview, “Have you ever heard of those, how do you say, NIGHT TERRORS? It was like that. Except at least with night terrors, you wake up. And then maybe you make yourself a nice light snack, maybe have a Fruit Roll-Up or some kind of a Funnel Cake. At Hoy! Records, you DO NOT wake up and they forbid all types of snacking. Dios ‘ko! NIGHTMARE talaga!!” In the end, Mari Kris had a falling out with the President and CEO and left the label. She defends her actions by explaining that the head of the label was intimidated by her “musical genius”, when in truth, she could not overcome his disappointment in her. When asked to compare her past and present recording label, Mari Kris gushes: “S-Cube is a wonder…They should carve his face on a mountain…”
If given the chance to go back in time, Mari Kris would tell her younger self to have more fun, “because fun is what makes the world go ‘round.” She would also tell herself to invest in Google and teach herself how to invent the computer. Though she has never won any conventional awards, Mari Kris feels she’s been rewarded in different, interesting ways: “I get fan mail, at least one fan-email per 6 weeks. And, when I go to Jollibee, sometimes they give me an extra wing when I order the Chicken Joy Combo. That is like awards, right?”
She is now proud to say that S-Cube Entertainment’s Sang Sung Song recognizes her true talent and that is why she became a member of Umamiya. Though she was primarily flattered that she was chosen to be a part of the group, Mari Kris said that it was right in the nick of time: “It was a shambles before I arrived. S-Cube is a smart cookie cutter to bring me in.” She thinks that S-Cube really needed someone to mix it up like a good halo-halo (a Filipino dessert) with Frosted Flakes. She describes herself as humble and modest to a fault. “If I get a compliment, I blush so RED, like garnet red, you know? RED like a beautiful red rose – dewy & perfect in every way.” Mari Kris, like the rest of the girls, told me that S-Cube made her the leader.
She admires the girls’ attitudes toward constructive criticism, since there are so many. She also feels the girls are all good girls with their own sense of spunk. But that is as a group; individually, Mari Kris had different things to say:
To Mari Kris, Winnie “WWII” Wu is really a “princess rabbit.” The Filipina explained that, that means Winnie is not a rapper. “You know who can rap? That’s right, ME. AND, I can rap in WHISTLE RANGE.” Despite the fact that people tend to complain about her rapping, Mari Kris brushes it off: “Crybabies crying… ‘Ouchie, it hurts! My eardrum!” Mari Kris compares the next member to another animal, but it’s not what you think: “Cathedral is like a gazelle—lean & so alert.” She describes how everything catches Cathedral Leung’s attentions. When Leung is “grazing”, her ears and hair prick up. She goes on to say how Cathedral is like a gazelle running with one mythical beautiful dragoness (Mari Kris), a mangy princess rabbit, and two lemurs. Kitty Karaoke is the first of two lemurs. Mari Kris explains her comparison with the fact that Kitty has big eyes and a keen sense of smell that the Filipina categorizes as “freakish.” Kitty is also very sensitive—emotionally and even metaphysically. “I looked at her once and the next thing I know, she got a bruise on her forehead. It was so talagang bizarre.” Kim Min Jung got the best .. or worst (depends on how you see them) reviews from Mar Kris. “She is probably the best person who really listens to all we have to say about her shortcomings. She just smiles and nods. Then she giggles.” Mari Kris is also amazed by Min Jung’s ability to make any hand sign in photos. “Have you seen them? Like a heart and the peace sign and this building with a tall point.”
When asked if she wrote any of the group’s songs, Merry Christmas said that writing musical comes naturally to her. “I take the OVERALL process of music very seriously. It’s part of an artist’s growth and I’m ALWAYS growing, like this and like that, don’t you agree?” In one year, she hopes the group will dominate the world. She wants their songs to be playing in elevators, on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, and movies such as Harry Potter. She also envisions some of the greats to admire them. She writes, “I…envision my idols Mariah Carey & Madonna (I LOVE “Ray of Light” Madonna) covering HOT SOUR SPICY & SWEET, acoustic and electronic version, respectively.”
“I’ll share this with you – I am a bit of a prankster,” she responded to the question about her most memorable moment with the group. She tends to prank the rest of the girls when they least expect it. “You know, like plastic wrap the toilet, salt in the sugar jar, Tic-Tac instead of Prozac in Kitty’s pill case.” She said the best part was their expressions afterwards. She believes her pranks have brought the girls closer. To any hopeful person planning to take the same path as Mari Kris, she suggests you take over the internet first along with some presents: “It’s important to have a Facebook page and have some giveaways always on hand—like magnets with your face on it.” But the number one thing to remember, or better yet forget, is your self-image: “And most importantly, being SKINNY is NOT IMPORTANT. At all.” This fact is show when Merry described the most fun part about being in Umamiya which is, “the special time when you can be by yourself—after the endless rehearsals, after the recording sessions, after the photo pictorials.” She loves the fact that she gets time for herself to contemplate about how much fun she is having, “then maybe have a sandwich.” But with the good comes the bad. The fact that the list of things the group has to do is endless is the hardest thing for Mari Kris. She talks about how they are constantly working and sometimes she needs to stop and do a Sudoku puzzle or something.
She likes to believe that the best features she contributes to Umamiya are her lips with their “really shiny shellac-y finish.” She also includes her brain in that list. When told to describe herself by choosing between: The Leader, The Jokester, The Quiet One, The Fashion Diva, and The Nerd, Merry answered: “As Chaka Khan once said, I’M EVERY WOMAN. I’m at once complicated and then at once simple. Does that make sense? We are what we think we are and I think I am all things – I’m EVERY Woman, except maybe that Nerd one.”