Former SMC student aiming to become Mexican idol

Former Santa Monica College student Mariana Balquiarena has always dreamed of becoming a successful singer, and with the audience’s vote she will be one step closer. Balquiarena’s motivation has helped her become on of the contestant on the hit Mexican reality show "La Academia", a musical talent show that airs on TV Azteca much like a Mexican version of "American Idol".

Balquiarena was a contestant when the new season premiered back in August but was voted off the show by the judges. However, she has been given a second chance to prove herself and return to the show.

“This week I was eliminated, but we all get a second chance,” said Balquiarena, still hopeful for what is to come. “I’ll be singing at a concert where the audience and judges will choose two of the eliminated to return.”

Her supportive father, Roberto Balquiarena, believes his daughter is destined for greatness.

“I’m so proud of her and I know she will be successful,” Balquiarena said.

The elder Balquiarena believes his daughter was born with an undeniable talent that will impress the judges and the audience.

Balquiarena was born and raised in Mante, Tamaulipas, Mexico. There she discovered her passion for singing, which is all she has dreamed of since the age of five.

“I am just so very happy and thankful for everything that has happened to me,” said Balquiarena. It has been a long road with many opportunities, and now that she is so close to a break, she is more driven than ever. “I never give up and I will keep going,” said Balquiarena.

At the age of eight, she entered a radio contest in Mexico and won. This encouraged her to continue auditioning and competing. Balquiarena has performed with Mexican music icon Pablo Montero on his show in 2001.

Since then, she has hosted two TV shows in Mexico, "Fiesta Infantil" and "La Cosquilla," which helped launch her career.

Balquiarena is also the lead singer for the band Grupo Bravada. She has her own YouTube account with video postings of her songs, music videos from her band, and recordings of contests in which she has performed.

When she was 16-years-old, Balquiarena moved to Los Angeles with her family to further her singing career.

Here she auditioned for various commercials, and played an extra in a film called "Rain of Freedom." She even performed as a folk dancer in a Disneyland Parade.

Hoping for exposure, she submitted a resume to Explore Talent, one of the world’s largest online talent resources.

“This career is very hard, but is not impossible when you have the talent and the energy to get it,” wrote Balquiarena on her Explore Talent Profile. “I’m ready to show the world how much I want to give them my heart, [doing] the things that I love.”

Balquiarena believes that hard work can help anyone realize his or her dreams.

“All effort has its reward,” said Balquiarena.