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Turn It Up: The teenage girls who make up pop-dance group, Runway MMC, sing, dance and design clothing -- all while going to school. Listen to clips of some of their music.

Turn It Up: The teenage girls who make up pop-dance group, Runway MMC, sing, dance and design clothing – all while going to school. Listen to clips of some of their music.

Chelsea Tavares, Meghan Elisse Mahowald and Melody Hernandez

FROM LEFT Chelsea Tavares, Meghan Elisse Mahowald and Melody Hernandez

Here to read more about one of the girls

M

ariachis have run in Melody Hernandez’s family for 125 years. Her father is the founder and director of the 14-member orchestrated professional mariachi group, Mariachi Sol de Mexico. Hernandez’s first recording was of background vocals on one of her father’s albums. She has basically lived and breathed mariachi music since birth. So naturally, the 16-year-old’s entry into band-hood must involve mariachi music in some way? Apparently not. Going the way of generations of 16-year-olds before her and electing to take a musical direction entirely opposite to that of her parents, the Newport Beach singer/ performer joined pop-dance all-girl group, Runway MMC, which debuted December 2007. “I think my dad always thought I would be a mariachi,” Hernandez says. “But I’ve always been more attracted to pop music and jazz music.”

She still loves mariachi music, though, and the fact that she could sing in Spanish was how she connected with Runway MMC founder, Lisa Minardo-Mahowald, and her 17-year-old daughter, Meghan Elisse Mahowald, who has been singing, dancing and acting since she was eight, and is now Hernandez’s band mate. Minardo-Mahowald, who owns a Los Angeles clothing company, wanted broad appeal through things like Spanish-language songs for the teen/young adult band and junior women's clothing line she was creating.

The idea for a junior line co-existing with a “no name” singing group came partly from observing her own daughter's buying and listening habits – Mahowald would create her own clothing designs if she couldn't find clothes she liked in a store and listens mostly to unknown artists she finds online.

“My vision is that the girls would design a line that they want to see in the stores,” says Minardo-Mahowald. “I know girls everywhere would relate to each of their different looks. I envision the junior departments having the girls in their clothes performing on the video monitors with their new songs blaring. I also envision a reality show that filmed the girls recording an album, their life at school, at home, designing their line, showing it to buyers.”

After holding auditions and selecting actress, singer, dancer, and model, 16-year-old Chelsea Tavares (the “C” of Runway MMC), the girl-band, fashion designing trio was complete.

Things have moved quickly since then. Runway MMC, the band, released a single (including the song “Runway” and a cover of “Kids In America”) in September and an EP titled Forever Yours in October; while Runway MMC, the line, is now being sold by Wet Seal.

Their line has followed Minardo-Mahowald’s vision of diverse styles. Each girl’s personality is reflected in her own set of outfits, which each helped design: Mahowald is the rocker, Hernandez takes on a more sophisticated, pin-up look and Tavares is sassy and sporty chic. And they always wear outfits from their line, reflecting their own individual styles, during performances.

Their music has a fun, dance quality that lends itself easily to a club, party atmosphere, with the girls demonstrating obvious vocal adeptness and a surprising level of maturity. They might be teens, but they don’t sound like it. The single and EP were written mainly by studio producers, but the girls – who all write themselves –hope their sophomore album will have some original songs written by them, says Hernandez.

It’s a busy schedule with school, studio work, fashion design, performances, photo shoots, and interviews, but they seem to be enjoying themselves.

“I'm still a teenage girl so of course I make sure I get my boy talk and party time in my schedule,” jokes Mahowald. “No, but really, I’m having a great [time] right now. This is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Runway MMC’s single and EP are available through iTunes. Find their clothing line at wetseal.com or through Orange County Wet Seal stores, including in Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza.


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