She started singing at the age of five when she performed Britney Spears’ Oops!…I Did It Again at a festival in San Francisco; and ever since, Thia Megia has been working towards making a name for herself in the music industry.

Well it only took her over a decade to make that happen, when she finally shot to fame as the youngest ever contestant on American Idol last year, making the finals while barely 16 years old.

With her powerful vocals and mature-beyond-her-years delivery, Megia became one of the initial favourites for the 10th season of the reality singing competition before being eliminated in the top 11.

But now, at 17, she’s hoping to continue where she left off at Idol by sharing her music with the rest of the world.

Last month, Megia kicked off her first Asian concert tour in Taipei, Taiwan, moving on to Manila, Bali and Jakarta before arriving at her final destination in Kuala Lumpur.

“I’ll go home for about two days (after KL) until I start my concert tour in Branson, Missouri. So I’ll have a really busy schedule for the next couple of months,” she adds.

Even with such a hectic schedule and a promising career in show business ahead of her, Megia is still determined to get a proper education. “Honestly, it’s really difficult trying to focus and balance school work while travelling and trying to maintain all of that without being jet-lagged, but I definitely want to finish my studies before anything.”

The singer/songwriter says she has already started looking for colleges in California, adding that her dream is to pursue music in Stanford University, a place close to her heart. At 10, Megia performed the national anthem for the first time at the renowned institution.

Music was certainly an essential part of her upbringing, being brought up in a Filipino-American household. Her uncles play various instruments like the ukulele and guitar.

“My mother sings too but she’s really shy,” adding that her mother Cynthia used to sing Baby Mine from Dumbo to her every night.

Even though she’s still very much a baby in the industry, Megia already hopes to be a positive role model to her younger fans, something which was inspired by her eight-year-old niece — who is one of her biggest fans.

“She’s already writing her own songs, and she would tell me, ‘Aunty, you inspire me’,” said Megia, smiling fondly. “I feel like I want to continue singing for the rest of my life for the younger audience, and the young dreamers whom I’ve met on my tour.”

Megia has her own list of role models too, which includes Michael Jackson and the late French songstress Edith Piaf.

But as a teenage artiste, she also looks up to child stars who have had years of experience in the entertainment business like Dakota Fanning and Beyonce, the former teen performer whom she met and performed with on Idol.

Like many Idol alums, she feels her participation on the show acted as a stepping stone for her career, giving her plenty of opportunities to travel the world and further immerse herself in the industry.

She has learned enough now to even give some advice to current Idol finalist and fellow Filipino-American Jessica Sanchez, who happens to be a friend of hers.

“I’ve known her since I was twelve! She did ask for advice, and I just told her to keep doing what she’s doing because she’s amazing and I’m really happy with how far she’s gone,” she said. Megia is also friends with other season 11 finalists like Hollie Cavanagh, Colton Dixon and DeAndre Brackensick, who all auditioned for the previous season with her.

But as much as she will always be associated with the Idol franchise, Megia is now looking forward to breaking new grounds in her career, hoping to also dabble in dancing and acting in the future.

Music, however, will always be her priority, and she can’t wait to start work on her debut solo album.

“I have so many songs that are not finished yet. One day I have an idea, and the next I have another, but it’s impossible to mesh both together, so I’ve got a lot of songs undone,” she said.

American Idol Season 11 airs on Star World (Astro CH 711) every Wednesday and Thursday at 6pm (live) and 8pm (delayed telecast).

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