Sisters hit the airwaves
Ondray Simmons is usually on his way to work when Good Morning America hits the airwaves.
Yesterday, however, he was glued to the ABC show, watching his teenage daughters, Maliah, Amia and Ayziah, on it.
“My father wanted to have a watch party, but that is difficult at 7am in the morning,” 18-year-old Ayziah said.
Mr Simmons has lived in the United States since he was 14. His five daughters were born in California, where Mr Simmons and his wife, Rosa, live 40 miles north of Santa Barbara.
The girls’ appearance on Good Morning America arose out of a disappointment.
In March, the sisters made a music video that won them spaces at EduHam, a high-profile drama programme started by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit Broadway show Hamilton.
After EduHam was cancelled because of Covid-19, the sisters’ teachers posted the video on Twitter. It was then reposted by EduHam and spotted by Good Morning America.
The television show then used the video to highlight Hamilton’s debut on the Disney+ channel today.
The Simmons’s video was made in response to a challenge issued by their school.
It featured three woman from early American history: Martha Washington, wife of President George Washington; Abigail Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams; and Elizabeth Hamilton, wife of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the protagonist in Miranda’s hit show.
“Our teachers asked if our classes could create a project for EduHam, it could be writing, poetry, a song, anything like that,” said Ayziah, who saw Hamilton with Amia and another sister, Zariah, at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood last year.
“We decided to do a rap and a song. We kind of just pulled inspiration from what Lin-Manuel Miranda does with his rap and melody duos. So that is what we did to create our songs.”
Amia, 17, said the hardest part was just getting started.
“Figuring out the rhythm, the melody and what we wanted to do with the beats was a challenge,” she said.
“Once we got that it was pretty quick to finish it off.”
Maliah, 16, said they were pretty pleased with the final result. “The only thing we would change is that we were going kind of fast so it was hard for some people to understand what we were saying,” she said.
“We had a limit of two minutes and didn’t want to go over it. We were trying to keep it in those two minutes.”
Discovering they had won a spot in the prestigious programme, but that it would not take place, was a “sad” moment. The girls are hoping it will now take place this autumn.
“My sisters knew before I did,” Ayziah said. “At that time Covid-19 was coming towards our town, so it was new.
“When they told me we’d won, but it was cancelled, I was shocked. I could not believe it. I was really sad about it.
“We had been looking forward to going, not just to perform at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, but also to watch.”
Mr Simmons, a photographer and soccer coach whose brother, Blaire, is a photographer for The Royal Gazette, said his daughters were overjoyed when Good Morning America approached them.
A week ago, they were interviewed via Zoom, by T.J. Holmes. A pre-interview with the show’s producers helped calm their nerves, Maliah said.
“So when we were interviewed we were more excited than anything else,” Amia said.
Scenes from their music video aired on the show yesterday; the girls were surprised when Miranda himself appeared in their interview, telling them how much he’d loved their song and that his kids would likely “be singing it all day”.
Mr Simmons said: “My wife, Rosa, was at work when it came on. The girls were pretty chill. There was a low-key excitement.”
The song might be used in a Disney special.
“I gave them permission to use it, but we’ll see,” he said.
Millions watch Good Morning America in the United States alone, so the girls hope it brings attention to their YouTube channel, ForeverX5.
“We don’t have much singing on there, but we are thinking of doing more of that,” Maliah said.
She explained their posts about cooking and various challenges have 24,000 followers. “It is a mixture of all of the things that we do.”
The Simmons family last visited Bermuda in 2013 and are hoping to return again when they feel it is safe to travel.
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