The World Arena
by Caroline Chisholm
It's obvious Tina Arena will not let success in America change her. Her Australian accent and straightforward manner remain, while she seems awed and grateful for the opportunities she is enjoying in Los Angeles.
She is being rewarded - and awarded - for her efforts.
Born with a near-perfect pop name, Arena has had a broad-spectrum career. Starting with kitsch, '70s family entertainment in Young Talent Time, Arena has now made it into the American market - her singles are climbing the US Billboard charts.
She controls her career with hard work and computer communications. She even has her own Web site on the Internet. "It's been a very interesting period, to say the least", Arena said from her Los Angeles apartment. The new single, Chains, has been out for three weeks now, and it's just in the top 40. "I've showcased around the country. I've done quite a bit of television - Regis and Kathy Lee, a very big breakfast show here, G'Day New York, CNN.
"I'm getting ready to do the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Letterman's not too far around the corner."
Arena says she copes with the circuit by taking a deep breath, doing the best she can and focusing on the end goal. "People have been really, genuinely very responsive to what I do so it's actually been quite a pleasure," she said.
Amazed at her opportunities, yet hardly taking them for granted - she is working 16-hour days at present. Arena believes her hard work and solid material will pay off in America and anywhere else. "People are the same," she observed. "It doesn't matter where you go around the world. It's just on a much larger scale here, there's more area to cover and so many more people. It's pretty mind-boggling."
America is not the only arena where Tina is making her mark. In Monaco, at the 1996 World Music Awards, she won an award for Best Selling Australian Artist. "It was a great honour for me. I was really, really surprised," she said, adding the biggest buzz was meeting musicians she grew up listening to.
Journeying from ultra kitsch to computer hip in two decades, the singer-songwriter has guided her career through highs and lows. And 1996 is definitely a high - and hi-tech. "I've been surrounded by computers of late," she said. "I have two in my apartment here - a Powerbook and a 7300 PC - and they go pretty much all day."
E-mailing record companies and publicists, organising gigs...it's all part of the life of the modern pop diva.
But there are some facets of the pop-star lifestyle Arena has been spared.
She says she is "flattered and yet quite surprised" she has avoided queries about her diet, weight and breast size - questions that seem to haunt other women in the industry.
"I've got to say I've been lucky in that department. For whatever reason, I am grateful the media has responded and been as positive towards me as it has been," she said, steering away from any suggestions that the respectful way she is treated is a testament to her focus and her talent. "The thing I try to focus on is what I do - I sing and I write songs and I make albums, and I enjoy performing live. I want people to focus on that, the rest is really irrelevant."
How far her skills and focus can take her remains to be seen, but the American market is looking promising. "I'm one of those people that truly believes there is a place for anyone and everyone in any market" she stated.
"Just do what you do. It does fit in somewhere, it sorts itself out. You can do the greatest marketing plan, you can go for the greatest campaign, you can spend as much money as you want to spend but ultimately, at the end of the day, it boils down to the song."
The song is Arena's centre.
She stands behind her well-crafted pop numbers, and avoids marketing her face ahead of her voice. A change of hair colour or style, the loss or gain of a kilogram - either way, the song remains the same. "There are obviously some artists who do focus more on how they look and how they are marketed. I just don't think I'm one of those artists", is all the diplomatic Arena said.
For now, Arena's well-managed career is looking pretty rosy. "I'm enjoying what is happening to me because it's enriching my life so much, it's enriching my knowledge", she said. "I'm getting to experience a wonderful thing. And the music that's coming out is pretty positive too!"