By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
By Kat Bein
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
By Sean Levisman
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
By George Martinez
One recent misty Saturday night at the Main Street shopping center in Miami Lakes, a few doors away from Victoria's Secret and down the street from Ruby Tuesday, two young celebrities mingled with their adoring fans. It happened inside Johnny Rockets, a retro-looking diner decked out in red leather booths, black-and-white tile floors, and chrome-accented jukeboxes. About 50 kids armed with tiny pink phones and slim silver cameras encircled the two starlets, who at age seventeen were a few years older than the majority of the clientele. Girls with blue nail polish and capri pants, and boys in striped polos and baggy jean shorts, giggled as they greeted the pair. Everyone seemed to have braces on their teeth.
The taller of the divas, Mimi Davila, was wearing tight jeans, a gray cotton half-shirt that read "HIP HOP RnB" in sparkly letters, and red mesh Chinese slippers. The shorter girl, Laura Di Lorenzo, was in black Reeboks, tight black capris, and a black tank top. Both had their hair pulled into high and severe ponytails, and both had lined their eyes in what appeared to be black crayon. Their lips, too, were lined with a dark brown, almost black, pencil and filled in with deep red gloss. The pair was also adorned in giant gold hoop earrings and dozens of bracelets that made tinkly noises when they moved. Which was a lot.
"Umm," said a boy with gelled black hair. "You're the Chongalicious' girls, right? I saw you on YouTube."
The duo batted their eyelashes. "Jessss," they said in exaggerated Spanish accents.
"Can I get a photo?"
"Jessss," replied the pair, almost simultaneously. Then they snapped into position, with Laura turning sideways and grimacing into the camera while Mimi held up two fingers in a ganglike salute and looked sultry. A girl dressed in a tight polo and jeans emerged from the cluster of teens and asked if they would pose for a photo with her.
"Okay, booty shot!" Mimi said. The pair stood on either side of the girl. "Booty shot!" Laura echoed. The girls stuck out their butts.
Camera phones clicked furiously.
"That's for MySpace," said the triumphant girl, shaking her long, straight brown hair.
"Thank jooooooo," Laura cooed.
After several more minutes of photos, the girls found a booth at the front of the room, near the counter, which was adorned with an arch of red and white balloons.
They squeezed into one seat, and Laura ordered onion rings, a grilled cheese sandwich, and an Oreo milkshake. I sat across from them in the booth. A twentysomething waitress with a nametag that read "Naty" requested an autograph, which Mimi and Laura graciously scribbled on the back of an order pad. I asked how being famous has changed their lives.
"It's more fun," said Mimi.
"We're a lot more popular at school," added Laura.
Just then the lights in the restaurant dimmed. The first few bouncy strains of "Stayin' Alive," the Saturday Night Fever theme song, blasted through several speakers. The diner's dozen or so white-uniform-clad servers lined the aisles for a dance; this is one of the ways the place keeps kids entertained on busy nights.
"Oh my Gaaaaad!" Mimi screamed. She pulled Laura from her seat, and they ran to a spot where everyone could see them. They writhed to the beat as the kids sitting at tables hooted and snapped more photos. It was like a music video come to life. The diner, which until an hour or so beforehand was just another dull, suburban outpost in another dull, suburban town, suddenly sparkled with the thrill of spontaneity.
When the song was over, the girls sat back down, flush with excitement. What, I asked, was the best moment in the past few months, since they had become famous?
"Maybe this one," said Laura, a little breathless.
Mimi nodded. "Yeah, right now." Chongalicious" -- a remake of the 2006 hit song "Fergalicious," by pop star Fergie -- actually began as a video that the girls made with a tiny handheld camera in late March at Mimi's house. By last week, the video had received nearly one million hits on YouTube. Kids post clips of it on their MySpace pages, chant it in the malls, and download it as a ringtone. It has spawned imitators (at last count, nine), who have sung the girls' version of the song into a camera and then posted their performances on YouTube. On May 30, two months after Mimi and Laura videotaped the song in Mimi's living room, it was the second most requested song on the Top Six at Nine, a five-night-per-week call-in request show on local radio station Power 96. That was down from several weeks in the number one slot. The song even has its own entry on Wikipedia.
The Chongalicious Video
Mimi and Laura have been featured on page one of the Miami Herald and on the national Univision newscast. And two weeks ago, the pair danced with Michael Krop Senior High principal Matthew Welker in front of their school's entire student body. Kids from all over South Florida have tracked Mimi and Laura down on MySpace; they usually post comments like this recent one from a fifteen-year-old Palm Beach girl named Lauren: "you're amazing. i was singing chongalicious all day today. and my school is like obsessed with you and mimi."