New gigs for 16-year-old Lelea Fonua

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It's a new year, and that means new gigs for one 16-year-old. We fell in love with Lelea Fonua when we met him last year, so we had to catch up with this rising star once again. And as it turns out, not only is he working on a new album, but you can catch this young talent for free as he'll be playing at different venues all around the Valley, already booking up his calendar before the year even gets started. 

So, what's all the buzz about? If you haven't already been introduced to this "Bruno Mars" look-a-like musician, let us have the honor. He is a self-taught ukulele and guitar player. But what's more, he's also a singer and song-writer, who has had the honor of being up on stage with the likes of Motley Crue, Alice Cooper and Jordin Sparks, to name a few, collaborating and song-writing with Grammy-award winning artists. 

When asked about what it's like to share the stage with some of the biggest artists of our time, Lelea is super humble and shy about it. And, much  like a teenager, he'll use words like, "pretty cool," to describe some pretty mind-blowing experiences. "It was like something from a movie," he tells us. "I was back stage hanging out with these legendary rock stars and I’m going to be the one who’s opening in concert for them," he says. "Those nights were the best performances ever." 

To give you a little background, Lelea found his love of music at the age of eight when he got his first ukulele. He then started performing regular gigs around town just two short months later. "My passion for music comes from people listening, smiling, dancing, and crying to my music," he tells us. His unique style and energy was compared to Bruno Mars early on, some even calling him "Jr. Mars," which he says is flattering as he respects Bruno Mars as an artist. " I kind of find it as a compliment because people think I look like Bruno Mars and I think it's pretty cool," Lelea is quoted as saying in a recent interview. "But, I don't want to be known as Bruno Mars, I want to be known as Lelea." Adding that, "I want to be recognized as my own artist." 

Lelea then taught himself to play the guitar, and tried his hand at the Alice Cooper's Proof is in the Pudding Talent Competition, which he ended up winning in 2013. On a television appearance with Lelea, Alice Cooper is quoted as saying, "Its easy to sing, it's not easy to be a stylist, and he (Lelea) has already got style." 

But, at the age of seven, this stylish kid was thrown a sour note. Lelea was diagnosed with type one diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, where the body does not produce insulin. He says doctors told him he would need injections daily for the rest of his life. He says it was a low moment, but he refused to let it slow him down. Instead, he says, he found passion in wanting to give back to the diabetes community. In fact, Lelea is now a Youth Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association, which he describes as a privilege and an honor. 

When Lelea is not giving back or playing his music, covers and originals, you'll find him taking online classes through an education system called K-12 www.k12.com. "It is so convenient for my music, and going to interviews on Channel 3," he says jokingly. Adding that, it's just flexible enough to give him all the time he needs for music, family and charitable work. As a growing artist, he understands life will just get busier, and appreciates every moment he does have with friends and family. 

As you can imagine, dad and mom are over the moon with this young man's accomplishments. "We are both extremely proud," says Ben Fonua, Lelea's dad. "We love supporting his gift of music." They say they are aware of the temptations the music industry can bring, but are not worried. "Our biggest concerns with Lelea entering the music industry is drugs, alcohol and women, but our Christian faith is what keeps Lelea grounded." They add that he's a good-kid and a well-rounded one at that. "He completes his chores, babysits his younger siblings and volunteers." 

And for all those younger aspiring artists, he offers some pretty grown-up advice; saying that young people who follow in his foot-steps should go for it, work hard, write good music, and make sure to always have fun. For more info: www.Lelea.org

Upcoming performances:  
- 2/19 - Courtyard 
- 3/5 - Dream Conference
- 3/10 - Glendale Chocolate Affair 
- 3/11 - Street Eats Festival 
- 3/16 - Tempe Marketplace 

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