A music video featuring two of the biggest stars of the past 20 years also featured another unlikely star: a 15-year-old Waiakea High School student.
Hilo’s Meili Aspen Caputo is the star of “Electric,” a music video collaboration between pop superstar Katy Perry and international mega-franchise Pokemon that released worldwide Thursday night.
The video, which celebrates Pokemon’s 25th anniversary, is a star-making turn for a girl who has been performing all her life.
“I don’t really remember how I got into this,” Meili said. “I just know I’ve been performing since I was like 3.”
Meili, who appears in “Electric” under the stage name Meili Aspen, has honed her vocal skills since her childhood, winning first place at the KBIG-FM Future Big Stars competition in 2016 and third place at the same competition the next year. A third-place win in a different state competition in 2017 allowed her to perform in China, and the next year Meili auditioned for “America’s Got Talent.”
But “Electric” is by far Meili’s biggest role to date.
Meili’s mother, Astania Caputo, said a friend on Oahu in the entertainment industry told her about a casting call for a secret project seeking a blond-haired, blue-eyed teenage girl who can play guitar and lives on Oahu.
“I’m none of those things!” said Meili, who has dark hair, green eyes and only learned guitar this year in preparation for the role. However, Astania submitted Meili for consideration and was told days later that her daughter was the first choice.
The project was shrouded in secrecy. Astania said she and Meili had to sign nondisclosure agreements before they could even be told what the project was — although Astania said she suspected it had to be someone big.
“When they said it was a Katy Perry video, I looked at (Meili), and I could see the blood rushing to her face,” Astania recalled. “She told me, ‘Mom, I’ve been listening to her all my life.’”
The entire production took only two 12-hour days in March, leaving Meili little time to prepare. She said she had to learn the song in only an hour, listening to it repeatedly while going through hair and makeup.
“I’ve never worked in a setting like that before, but now that I have, I think it’s something I want to do in the future,” Meili said.
In “Electric,” Meili plays a young Perry, who shares screen time with the actual singer, as well as a few animated co-stars — the older Perry is partnered with Pokemon mascot Pikachu, while Meili is joined by Pichu, a younger version of the same creature. Pikachu and Pichu’s electrical powers give the single its name.
Perry, 36, has said she is a fan of Pokemon, having grown up right as the franchise exploded in popularity in the West.
Meili said she knows little about Pokemon in general, but learned she has more in common with Perry than she thought.
“My mom … always called me ‘turtle’ when I was young, and Katy said her mom always called her the same thing,” Meili said, explaining that she learned about their connection when she gave Perry a set of turtle-shaped candle ornaments as a gift.
While on set, Meili said she was able to talk with Perry, and the superstar gave her advice about life in show business, and added that Perry “gives the best hugs.”
At the end of the shoot, Perry gave Meili the jacket she wears in the video, which was modeled after a jacket Perry wore as a child.
“She said it always gave her good luck,” Meili said.
Since the end of the shoot, Meili has had to maintain the project’s secrecy, and couldn’t tell anyone that she co-starred in a video with Katy Perry.
“It’s been agony, honestly, not being able to tell anyone,” Meili said.
But sharing a stage with Perry means a lot of attention. After Perry shared a promotional image for the video on social media — which included Meili’s name — Meili’s own social media accounts have been blowing up.
“It’s actually really cool,” Meili said. “A lot of people have been sending me lightning emojis.”
Meili, a sophomore, said she wants to continue to perform in the future, but added she hopes to attend New York University for its prestigious performing arts programs.
Meanwhile, Meili said she hopes the video inspires other young people like her.
“I just want to tell people to always follow your dreams,” Meili said.
“Electric” is viewable on Perry’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojpTpT5i-PI.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.