The first time she made it to the finals, she was 17 and had to travel with her mom. The judges called her “too green.”
So this past fall, Reyna Avelar, 21, refused to be pigeon-holed as the sweet young girl from Kansas when she tried out a second time for “Tengo Talento,” a Spanish-language show similar to “America’s Got Talent” and watched by hundreds of thousands in the U.S.
So Avelar strolled on stage for the first round wearing black boots and bright red shorts that left most of her legs exposed.
As she sang, Avelar strutted toward the judge who was known as the toughest, most pugnacious of the four. After the song was over, she asked for a picture with a young Mexican heartthrob, whom she kissed on the cheek.
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The comedic sidekick on the show joked that Mickey Mouse called and wanted his red shorts back. So Avelar was dubbed “La Mickey” for the rest of her run on the show.
Avelar is performing Friday with a local band at 54 West, a performance venue at Towne West, in part as a celebration of her repeated success as the only contestant from Wichita.
Avelar was discovered on YouTube, the same place she learned to play music. She plays four instruments, including the accordion and guitar, but neither of her parents played music, and only one of her seven older brothers did.
Avelar decided to re-enter the competition as a songwriter. At 17, she’d done only covers of songs.
Avelar performed one song titled “Ni de Aqui, Ni de Alla,” meaning “not from here nor there.” Avelar was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, but was brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was 3. She wore a red, white and blue top, and four scantily-clad dancers waved red and white flags in front of signs that said “home” and “casa.”
She predicted correctly that one of the judges would say her song “is very appropriate for these times.” The show aired last fall during the middle of the presidential election.
Although she didn’t win the $100,000 prize, she received free accommodations and travel to and from California. The producers traveled to Wichita and interviewed her by Century II and the “Keeper of the Plains” statue, exposing Wichita to hundreds of thousands of Spanish speakers across the country.