Breje Williams is just 4-feet, 11-inches and 90 pounds but the Leominster resident has some real Hollywood muscle helping him break into both the music and acting industries. Breje, pronounced Brih-zay, is traveling back and forth to California regularly, meeting executives from such entertainment outlets as Disney, MTV, Nickelodeon and Will Smith's Overlook Entertainment to get his name known.
The 12-year-old also has a new song called "Glad We Met" set for release in the second week of May that Steven Machat, a music industry veteran who has worked with such legends as Peter Gabriel, is promising to get on the radio. Breje, who dances, sings and acts, is smooth and confident walking into a room. He is equally comfortable breaking into an impromptu dance performance in his living room as he was performing for 4,000 fans at Boston City Councilor Charlie Yancy's literacy event in Dorchester earlier this month.
It's that attitude that will make Breje a star, Machat said. "If you look at Madonna, people say... she has an attitude and the attitude becomes contagious," he said. "The attitude, it becomes a light and that light attracts people to follow you." Breje estimates he's done as many as 300 performances and shows since June. The goal-oriented preteen, who counts Bow Wow and Michael Jackson among his musical heroes, said he practices for an hour daily.
"This isn't really work for me, it's a privilege," Breje said. His career is a family affair. His father, Mark Williams, founded WPE Music LLC and made a number of industry contacts while he and his wife Seema Williams managed the group IQ, which included their daughters -- Sadiea, who is now a pre-med student at Brown University, and Nyla, who is studying fashion design at Johnson and Wales. Breje danced in some of their performances and became hooked. "Basically, I was like, wow, this is such an adrenaline rush to get on stage ... I wanted a career of my own," he said.
At first his father said no, but with his older daughters in college, Mark Williams finally relented last year. Seema Williams is now Breje's manager. "His work ethic is really good and I'm proud of him for that as a dad," Mark Williams said. Breje got a taste of success last year with the release of "Twist Wit It," a modern take on Chubby Checkers' "The Twist." Then he got a role in the independent comedy "My Genie," about finding a genie in a bottle on a California beach last year.
His performance attracted acting coach Diane Hill Harden who helped train such actors as Zac Efron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hilary Swank and the late River Phoenix, Williams said. "Twist Wit It" got some air time in markets such as Atlanta, Florida and California, but industry executives said that as a Hollywood outsider it is tough to break into the industry. So Mark Williams brought in legendary music producer Scott Storch, who wrote the lyrics for the new single "Glad We Met." Storch has worked with such performers as 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Dr. Dre. An album is expected to be released this summer. But since simply releasing a song isn't enough, Breje is working with Machat to get radio air play for the song "Glad We Met." The first step will be getting the song played on the radio in England where stations are more willing to play new talent, Machat said during a telephone call from London Wednesday.
"I'll get it on the charts here, I guarantee that," Machat said. From there Machat expects American radio stations to pick it up sometime this summer. Breje is scheduled to perform at Hanover Theater in Worcester on a program that includes Fabolous and Soulja Boy on April 29. Breje is also scheduled to perform at the Youth Summit at Fitchburg High School for LUK Inc. on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.