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Rising star, social media phenomenon Camila Mercado on bullying and depression: “I found my voice through music”

At 20 years old, I have the tremendous opportunity to sing on television and stages across Argentina doing the very thing that saved me. This journey taught me a valuable lesson: never let anyone dim your light. It is essential to forge ahead, embracing your style and preferences.

  • 1 month ago
  • June 16, 2024
7 min read
Camila Mercado in one of her live performances on Pasión de Sábado. | Photo courtesy of Camila Mercado Camila Mercado in one of her live performances on Pasión de Sábado. | Photo courtesy of Camila Mercado
Camila Mercado, at just 18, emerges as a tropical music revelation in Argentina, gracing national stages.
JOURNALIST’S NOTES
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Camila Mercado is considered the great revelation in tropical music in Argentina today. At only 20 years old, she has already performed on the most important national stages alongside top-level artists. Despite bullying due to her weight gain issues, at the age of 11, she won her first “Gran Futuro” award in a TV talent contest, which she received again in 2016. In 2018, she recorded her first CD of previously unreleased folk songs, and in 2019, she formed her first band called Doble Identidad Alma Joven, but within the tropical genre, with musicians of her own age. She dreams of continuing to thrive in the world of romantic cumbia.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Camila Mercado embarked on her career at just 10 years old, overcoming shyness to showcase her singing talent to her grandparents with a Valeria Lynch song. Battling childhood obesity and bullying due to an undiagnosed disease, she faced challenges until gluten intolerance. Her struggle was identified at age 11 as Celiac Disease. Her eating habits transformed, and her mood lifted. With her grandfather’s support, who is himself a singer and composer, she debuted on stage near Río Cuarto.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — During my teenage years, bullying cast a shadow over my school experience. At 15 years old, a particularly cruel classmate drew cows on the blackboard and labeled them with my name. The intimidation only escalated. One day, she waited for me outside school with a knife, dragging its blade along the walls to frighten me. I called my mother to come protect me.

After that, I began secluding myself in my bedroom. Unwilling to face the world, I cried every day. The shame I carried kept me from talking to my family; I didn’t want to burden them with my troubles. From a young age I also grappled with an unknown illness and weight issues. This, combined with the bullying, plunged me into a state of depression. I struggled to form relationships or connect with others at all.

Amidst numerous failed attempts to lose weight, I discovered my passion for singing. It became a source of solace and expression. Singing helped me cope with my difficulties and brought joy and purpose to my life. Then, at 16 years old, I found out I had Celiac Disease and could effectively address the problem.

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From silent observer to a star on the stage

Born into a humble family in Río Cuarto, Córdoba, on June 29, 2004, we soon relocated to the tranquil town of Villa Reducción. My father Román worked in a peanut factory, while my mother Valeria served as a domestic employee. Despite our economic constraints, we persevered. At 14, I began helping my mother clean houses after school to contribute toward putting food on the table.

Between the bullying and the challenges of life, at the tender age of 11, I found solace in singing. I discovered a lifeline in music. It became a means to heal and express myself when words failed me. I often struggled to share my pain, but I found my voice through music. As I sang along with songs on karaoke tracks, I realized I sang well, but revealing that talent would take courage.

Music transformed my sorrows into something positive, gave me strength, and became my sanctuary. On Christmas in 2015, I reached a turning point in my life when I bravely declared to my family, “I want to sing.” I often remained silent and uninvolved, so my announcement drew surprise and stares from my parents, brother, and grandparents. When I sang “Señor amante” by Valeria Lynch, I astonished them with my voice. They asked, “Where did she get her voice from?” My grandfather Oscar Puig, a folk singer-songwriter, seemed particularly impressed and said, “You have to dedicate yourself to this. I am going to present you on stage.” 

Young singer finds opportunity and faces criticism

My grandfather’s encouragement set me on a journey of self-discovery and healing. At 12, I took the stage for the first time. The feedback was so positive, it was unlike anything I ever experienced before. I realized I belonged on the stage—a haven where I felt immune to harm. When the Celiac Disease diagnosis followed, it clarified my struggles with weight and enabled me to begin treatment.

As I physically transformed, I also experienced an internal shift. I began to believe in myself and my dreams, not because of my physical changes, but because of a newfound inner strength. I found adapting to a gluten-free diet challenging, but I remained determined to win the battle. With each passing day, I noticed my mood improving, along with my zest for life.

Camila Mercado took the stage for the first time at 12 years old and received an overwhelming response. | Photo courtesy of Camila Mercado

Back then, my parents’ sacrifices clothed me in an artist’s wardrobe. I vividly recall the single pair of shoes that graced countless stages. One day before a performance, I told my mom, “Mom, I have worn these shoes so many times,” but we had no other option. When concerns about public perception arose, my mother ingeniously transformed those worn shoes with a stroke of paint, renewing them for the spotlight. 

Reflecting on my journey, now I cherish self-care and acceptance. I embrace my reflection with contentment—a recent, yet profound stride in my personal growth. I am gradually dismantling the barriers that once confined me.

Camila Mercado now sings on television and stages across Argentina. | Photo courtesy of Camila Mercado

Growing up, I sang across Córdoba province, harmonizing with my family band “Doble Identidad,” alongside my father and brother. We fueled our passion for music with the wealth of our bond, despite financial hardships. Today, I receive generous offers of attire for my performances, a stark contrast to those earlier days.

Pandemic paved the way for her musical career 

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I encountered a producer named Pablo Serantoni. He discovered me through a video on my social media after signing up for a live performance list. This fortunate event opened opportunities for me. When the Pandemic lockdowns ended, the Serantoni brothers summoned me to Buenos Aires, marking the beginning of a triumphant journey.

They heard my singing through social networks and, after experiencing it live, offered me my first contract with their production company. This dream did not materialize overnight; it took time and perseverance, and I debuted as a professional singer only a year ago. 

After discovering Camila Mercado’s talent, several music directors approached her and offered collaboration opportunities. | Photo courtesy of Camila Mercado

Today, I live in a house my producers bought, adjacent to the studio of Pasión de Sábado [an Argentine television program], the very show I grew up watching with my family. This proximity allows me to weave through the set of Pasión daily, an experience I find utterly surreal. Coming from a modest background, I never envisioned enjoying the luxuries I do now, even something as simple as air conditioning.

My life transformed in unimaginable ways, allowing me to earn a living from singing. The shadows of the past do still linger. Recently, while performing on “Pasión de Sábado,” a platform celebrating tropical music, I faced ridicule once more. This time, my attire drew unwarranted scorn on social media. The reasons behind such animosity from strangers remain a mystery to me. “Why do they harbor resentment towards someone they barely know,” I thought. These questions persist, though the answers elude us. Such is the nature of unexplainable dislike.

Yet, at 20 years old, I have the tremendous opportunity to sing on television and stages across Argentina doing the very thing that saved me. This journey taught me a valuable lesson: never let anyone dim your light. It is essential to forge ahead, embracing your style and preferences. I recall avoiding wearing white due to others’ remarks, but I have since realized the importance of staying true to myself. Now, I wear what brings me joy, and if my sparkle is too much for some, they can simply look away. 

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