Standing at a staggering 6’1” with long brown locks cascading down her statuesque figure, beauty queen Amelia Vega easily stands out from a pack of even the most glamorous women from around the world. The Miss Universe 2004 winner, hailing from the Dominican Republic, isn’t a stranger to being in the spotlight. Her father is a highly respected doctor, her mother was also a model, and let’s not forget her uncle, legendary Dominican musician Juan Luis Guerra. As a teen, Vega began competing in pageants, showcasing her bee-stung lips and dark doe eyes, making her a favorite among judges. However, this wasn’t enough for the girl who seemed to have it all. Music was always a career she yearned to pursue and finally, Vega would debut her first album, Agua Dulce, this year. As the now 25-year-old prepares to tour around the world, she speaks with nocheLatina about making her dreams come true, collaborating with her famous tio, and whether those pesky rumors about a possible duet with bachata boy band Aventura are true.
nocheLatina: Talk a little bit more about how the reality show ‘Segunda Opportunidad’ inspired you to pursue music.
Amelia Vega: Oh my God, no. That started a long time ago! I was 15 when I realized I wanted to do music. I started doing theater and dancing when I was 14. The show did inspire me to write a song with my producer, which is also called ‘Second Chance.’ I’ve been in the same situation for 10 years, trying to make my album. I was doing other things, but my passion has always been music.
nocheLatina: Why was it important to release your album now more than ever?
Amelia Vega: It’s always been very hard to pursue music. I was involved with many other projects and time just flew. One day, I decided to concentrate on my album for two years, which I just finished a couple of months ago. It was time. I can’t die or become a great-grandmother without having my album out! I had several opportunities where I was asked to make a record, but it wasn’t me at all. I knew that if I wanted to do something, it needed my taste all over, so I had to do it myself. I started my own record label and then began a long, difficult process, but the satisfaction is double.
nocheLatina: How did Archie Pena play a vital role in making this album a reality?
Amelia Vega: I met Archie when I was 16. I went to Emilio Estefan’s office and I was like ‘Hey, I want to sing!’ Archie was there and from that moment, we connected. Then all these things happened, like I won Miss Universe, but I kept seeing him working with Shakira, Gloria (Estefan), and other artists. When I decided to do my album, I started to search for a producer and I needed someone who was crazy enough to understand what I wanted. I called Archie after meeting other producers and man, when we met, it was an instant click. He understood perfectly what I wanted to do and the next day we started writing and creating all the ideas for the album.
nocheLatina: You mentioned in your website that your fans greatly inspired you to finally release your album because they would always ask you about it. What’s your relationship like with your fans and why was it important for you to specifically create music for them?
Amelia Vega: First, music has been a necessity for me. It’s something that I have in me and I breathe everyday. Since I was Miss Dominican Republic at 17, the first thing I did was sing in shows, so the people that have been following me know I’ve been trying to do music for a long time. It’s amazing now to have this communication with your fans on Facebook and Twitter. Man, they motivate you to do many things. The fans went crazy when I finally announced that the album was coming out. That support has been amazing and I wanted to do this for them. It’s been a two-year non-stop process. It’s been done with a lot of patience and passion. The fans deserve good music.
nocheLatina: What role did your uncle Juan Luis Guerra play in helping you create your first album?
Amelia Vega: He’s been more than an uncle and a musician in my life. He’s been like a father. I used to live in his house with my aunt Nora for a couple of years. He’s always been there in my personal life, so he knew of my love for music. We actually recorded many demos years before. I sang with him in Madison Square Garden and at Miami’s American Airlines Arena. One time he was in Argentina and he stopped and went to the Dominican Republic for two days and called me. He was like ‘Run, I want to check some material with you.’ And this was before he had to go to Japan. We got everyone together and worked for two days non-stop for 14-15 hours in the studio. He was always like, ‘We need to put percussions here! Where’s the tambora? Let’s get the guiida!’ He was very involved with the music in a couple of songs and it was just amazing to have someone like him be a part of my album.
nocheLatina: What were some of the most important lessons that you learned from him about being a musician?
Amelia Vega: When I showed him my first demo at 15, he just wanted to make sure I really loved music. He taught me that through sharing the stage with me. When I saw him playing his guitar in a corner at home, I realized that he really loved it. He doesn’t do music because he wants to be famous or sing for thousands of people. He does it because it’s his passion and it’s in him. He breathes music. I have to enjoy and respect music like he does.
nocheLatina: Knowing that you’re the niece of a music legend, it’s safe to say that many listeners are going to compare your music with his. What are your thoughts on this and how do you plan on dealing with the pressures of being compared to Juan Luis Guerra?
Amelia Vega: Obviously, there’s no comparison. Juan Luis Guerra is who he is. We are completely clear on that. It’s my dream to give my country some of that pride. I wish I can do something like him. Right now, all I can do is learn from him and try to do the best I can. He’s been guiding me and of course, some of my music has been influenced by him because I am Dominican. I grew up with his music not just because he’s my uncle, but he’s Juan Luis Guerra and I’m his number one fan. Right now, my music is in the public’s hands and they’re going to say what they like or don’t like about it. I just hope they enjoy it because that’s what music is all about.
nocheLatina: I was listening to your first single and discovered that you included various musical styles from Latin America. Was this a conscious choice?
Amelia Vega: Yes. I traveled to almost 40 countries for one year. Whenever I would go to a place and hear their music, I would first notice the instruments being used. You start taking a little bit from here and there, and then fuse it all together. I let myself play with rhythms and some of them came out cool. It’s part of the creative process. My fiancé is Colombian, so I’ve been enjoying Colombian music for almost four years now. I wanted to know how you can make a Dominican-Colombian song! That’s the story behind ‘Pasa Segundito.’
nocheLatina: How did your experience as Miss Universe shape you to become a better artist?
Amelia: Vega: Being Miss Universe gave me so many tools, not only musically, but in the way I saw life. It was a personal metamorphosis. I was 18 and living with my uncle. Then I went from attending school to seeing the world. Sometimes you put values to things that aren’t worth anything. When you get so close to people who are about to lose their lives, you think twice. I felt blessed that I was able to talk to these people and they would tell me so many things that they wanted the world to know. They would say, ‘Please tell people to take care of themselves. I didn’t do it, I didn’t believe in AIDS, and look where I am now. Think twice before you have a partner.’ I saw these people saying goodbye. I learned to appreciate life beyond the Valentino dresses and having dinners with presidents.
nocheLatina: And what about the name of the album, Agua Dulce?
Amelia Vega: Agua Dulce is also the name of a single in the album, which is bachata pop. It was supposed to be the first single, but I chose ‘Pasa Segundito’ instead. I wanted to leave the name of the album Agua Dulce. It wasn’t a popular decision, but it took me 10 years to finally make this happen and it’s been like sweet water to me.
nocheLatina: I know you were in a music video with Aventura. Is there any chance that you and the group may collaborate?
Amelia Vega: We haven’t talked about it. We did a couple of years ago. Right now, I’ve been concentrating on my material and experiencing myself in music. Of course it would be amazing to finally do it in the future. Who knows? We could just call each other one of these days and go, ‘Yeah, let’s do this!’
nocheLatina: What are your plans for the summer?
Amelia Vega: I’ll be done with the show in Mexico and that’s when my journey starts. It’s going to be a huge release for me to finally share my music with the world. I cried the day I heard my music on iTunes. It’s going to be the same when I finally take off with my album under my arm.