At just 23 years old, Pia Mia has cemented herself as a formidable star with a hand in multiple corners of entertainment. A critically acclaimed recording artist with hits like "Do It Again" and "Bitter Love" under her belt, Pia is approaching one billion global streams; and has collaborated with everyone from Chris Brown and Tyga to YG. She made her acting debut in 2019's award-winning feature film After, based on Anna Todd's wildly popular YA book series. On the fashion front, Pia's unique sense of style has landed her in publications such as Vogue, Paper Magazine and Nylon; and has made her an enviable partner for such brands as Guess, Bebe and Macy's Material Girl, the latter for which she was handpicked by Madonna to serve as the clothing line's first-ever fashion director.
On paper, one might think Pia's career has played out perfectly, an example of "overnight success." However, in reality, her path was anything but.
Pia's dream of becoming a singer began years ago at the age of eight when, once upon a time on her native island of Guam, she won the titular role in a school production of Cinderella — an experience that she says set her love for music on fire and was essentially the first step in her journey to stardom.
Several years later, the young songstress — inspired by the voices of idols like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion — started posting cover videos on YouTube and quickly amassed a significant online audience. (Pia, known on social media as @PrincessPiaMia currently boasts 1.48 million subscribers on YouTube and 5.8 million followers on Instagram.) Following a precocious stint as a professional wedding singer, performing inside Guam's seaside glass chapels, a teenage Pia — with resounding support from her family and island community — decided to take a leap of faith, trading the beaches of her beloved home for the bright lights of Los Angeles.
It was in L.A. where everything changed. After a yearlong production deal with Grammy-winning producer Babyface ended, a viral video of Pia belting Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home" gave her a crucial boost in exposure. Soon enough, she scored a record deal with Interscope and had a hit song on her hands with 2015's "Do It Again," featuring Chris Brown and Tyga. Pia's first official single on a major label charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached No. 19 on Billboard's Rhythmic Songs chart. Additionally, the earworm inched its way to No. 8 on the U.K. Top 40.
But before "Do It Again" came years of hard work, beginning with Pia's jarring transition from Guam to L.A. in 2010. With no connections in music, the industry ingenue (alongside her mother, who supported Pia's aspirations to the best of her best abilities) went on endless auditions and took all the dance, acting and vocal lessons her limited funds could afford. As Pia recounts, "I was given a budget and had to maintain straight A’s to remain in LA. I was 14 years old and living on $10 a day. Sacrificing and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and saving my Starbucks cups to get 50-cent refills. We were living in a small studio apartment. When my family would come to visit, we would push beds together and six of us would sleep together all at once."
Still, there were tougher trials. Navigating an unexpectedly cutthroat environment proved to be Pia's most substantial challenge. Some Hollywood players promised to help Pia, but instead took advantage of her personally and financially, chipping away at the trusting attitude she grew up with on Guam. "I learned to be cautious and to not play games," says Pia. "And to just focus on work and my music, which was the reason I came out here in the first place."
Pia's bulletproof work ethic is what led to her contract with Interscope. However, plans for a full-length album were frustratingly delayed, prompting her to part ways with the label in 2017. Next, she reemerged as an independent artist, dropping new tracks and releasing self-funded projects. And while it appeared as though Pia was entering an exciting new chapter of her career, she secretly reached an all-time low. Without a music team and knowing who she could trust, Pia felt alone in her fight and considered leaving music altogether.
"I was really close to dipping. I went through the war. I thought, 'That's it,'" Pia says. "I remember having breakdowns, sobbing on the phone to my mom. At that point, I just felt like I had invested so much of my life — and for what?"
Luckily, Pia's perseverance was stronger than the obstacles she faced. She saw light at the end of the tunnel last year when she met Austin Rosen, the founder of Electric Feel Entertainment (Post Malone, Louis Bell, Billy Walsh), with whom she began working on music that reignited her passion even further. In a snowball of fortunate events, she was next reconnected with her current manager, Founder and CEO of Q&A, Troy Carter, with whom she was originally meant to work with while she was signed at Interscope before he left for a now-finished stint at Spotify.
"It's such a full-circle moment and everything feels right now. I'm more prepared than I've ever been — mentally, vocally, creatively," says Pia. "I've come into my own and have learned so much about myself through all of the ups and downs I've been through. I just feel ready."
Indeed, with Rosen and Carter behind her, a new deal with Electric Feel and Republic Records, and the recent resurgence of "Do It Again" on TikTok, Pia believes the stars are finally aligned for her to unleash her full potential. Her commanding comeback single is titled "Princess," a sexy, R&B-tinged dance-pop record that samples Chris Brown and T-Pain's "Kiss Kiss" — yet another piece of kismet signaling great things to come.
"Chris obviously played a big role in the start of my career. My second job after arriving in LA at 13 years old was singing in a T-Pain commercial. I was in the car on a long drive to a friend's house playing throwbacks when 'Kiss Kiss' came on. I went directly into a studio session that night and made 'Princess,'" Pia says of the upbeat song, laden with sassy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. "I hope people feel strong and powerful, have a sense of relief and feel better when they listen to it."
With even more feel-good "global pop" on the horizon, Pia couldn't be more optimistic about the future. "My new music is strong, it's sexy, it's confident. It's about having fun, embracing your sexuality and unapologetically being yourself. That's me in 2020. But then again, I can't wait to continue to evolve as an artist," she says, assuring that her soaring vocals will also take center stage down the line. "I know that I was put on this earth to sing. I want to do this forever."