8-year-old Leila Cicco sings ‘Evil Like Me,’ delights audience

At the December 6 Christmas Medley concert in Rahway, NJ. Photo by Arman David

At the December 6 Christmas Medley concert in Rahway, NJ. Photo by Arman David

The Ciccos: Frank and Christine with children Leila and Leo

The Ciccos: Frank and Christine with children Leila and Leo

By Cristina DC Pastor

She could have done a Princess Elsa, but instead sweet-faced, 8-year-old Leila Cicco channeled Kristin Chenoweth’s playful witch in “Evil Like Me” during a Christmas concert in Rahway, New Jersey and held the audience spellbound.

The song-and-dance number was not easy to do, and Chenoweth’s excellent performance in the Disney Channel’s “The Descendants” was a tough act to copy. Leila’s act was almost close. It was graceless yet delightful, unpolished but endearing. Simply adorable. The audience that could not decipher what this Queens girl was trying to sing at first finally got it and began to groove along. By the end, they gave her a rousing applause.

Leila’s mother Christine was laughing, trying to explain her girl’s choice of a song.

“It’s from the Disney movie ‘Descendants.’ She liked the movie,” she said, adding, “I think she got a lot of compliments.”

What she was saying was Leila has a mind of her own and can make her own decision at least on what song to sing in a community program.

“She also did her own dance routine,” added Christine.

While waiting for her next number, Leila would be running around the auditorium with the other children and playing with her doll.

“She’s very talented, but I try to keep her grounded,” said Christine who works at Weatherproof Garment Company’s Imports Compliance & Logistics office.

Leila’s father, Frank, who is of Italian and Irish ethnicities, is more laid-back. He lets his daughter do her thing as long as it is clear that school comes first. He works at Musco Food Corp., which supplies Italian specialty food to restaurants.

Leila has a younger brother, Leo, who is 5 years old.

A third-grader at St. Adalbert School in Elmhurst, Leila began singing at age 3. She started with songs from “Mulan,” and that’s when family began to upload many of her home videos on YouTube. Christine thinks the musical genes are from the Italian side of Frank’s family. “My mother-in- law and my brother-in-law sing not professionally, but they have the voice.”

Leila is so good at getting the lyrics of a song, according to her mom. When she sings and repeats it the next day, she already knows the song by heart. “I just let her sing, and when she has a new song, I say, let’s make a video,” she said.

The first time she was in front of an audience was at a community variety show last year. Her aunt Ria Serrano of JCI North Jersey made the connection between the Ciccos and some community organizations.

“In the beginning, she got stage fright,” recalled Christine, who is a cousin of Ria. “She just stood still and didn’t move.”

With a future that appears to be moving in the direction of performing, Leila is currently doing workshops with theater artist Miguel Braganza to develop her stage presence. She is also studying ballet with a Russian teacher and learning to play the violin.

Leila adores Taylor Swift. “I love her songs,” she told The FilAm.

Third grader loves Taylor Swift and drawing

Third grader loves Taylor Swift and drawing

She also likes Idina Menzel in “Frozen,” Lea Salonga in “Mulan,” and, surely, Kristin Chenoweth in “The Descendants.”

“Sometimes I worry that she is doing so many things. I try to balance (performance and school) and not push her too much,” said Christine.

In school, Leila is at the top of her class. Except for Religion where she got a grade of B, her report card shows straight As in all her subjects. She is a Girl Scout.

“She can be very talkative in school, but her teachers try to pull that energy in a more productive manner,” said her mother. “She participates in discussion.”

Leila is aware of her Filipino ethnicity. The family visited the Philippines in February and she couldn’t get enough of the beach and the tropical weather. She is trying to get used to Filipino food, but is very much into pasta and pizza “like her dad.”

Leila also loves to draw and paint, and does both from memory. Sometimes she watches tutorials from YouTube.

“She’s a very sweet girl, and can be independent at the same time,” said her mother.

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