As Leslie Grace heads to this year's Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, the nominee would be smart to bring a bottle of nonalcoholic champagne.
That's in case the 18-year-old young singer from Davie wins her first gramophone-shaped trophy during the ceremony on Thursday.
"It's incredible," says Grace, whose 2013 self-titled album is nominated for Best Contemporary Tropical Album. "I knew it would happen eventually, and that I'd reach a lot of people with my music, but I didn't think it would happen this fast."
At 14, Grace recorded a Christian record that got the attention of the man who would produce her nominated second album: Delray Beach producer Sergio George, who's up for a few Latin Grammys of his own, including Record of the Year — for his work on Marc Anthony's summer hit "Vivir Mi Vida" — and Producer of the Year.
Grace's first album landed in the producer's hands after her father visited a local karate studio to install a credit-card machine and met one of George's talent scouts, who happened to be taking lessons there.
"My dad gave him the last CD he had in his car," Grace recalls. "The scout told us [Top Stop Music, George's label] was searching for a female vocalist. A month later, I got a call from him saying [George] wanted to meet me because he knew his 'search was over.' "
Grace, who was born in New York to Dominican parents and moved to South Florida at age 10, faces another Dominican artist in the battle for the trophy: 15-time Latin Grammy winner Juan Luis Guerra, who has sold millions of records and is nominated for a live hits album he released this year.
"It's an honor to be nominated in the same category, because I grew up listening to his music," Grace says.
As she was launching her career this year, Grace also graduated from Western High School. She was still a senior when she became the youngest woman to top Billboard's Latin Radio Airplay list with her single "Will U Still Love Me Tomorrow," a bachata-infused cover of the 1960s hit by the Shirelles.
"I've worked really hard behind the scenes, and it hasn't been easy," she says. "But I never thought, at 17, I'd be making history. I didn't think it was possible."
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