By Rebecca Bulnes
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Most fans of World Wrestling Entertainment have known Lilian Garcia for the past seven years as an attractive woman with a microphone who introduces the superstars to the ring. But that all changed this past October 9, during a taping of the popular Monday Night Raw TV program. It was then that Garcia performed one of her original songs, "¡Quiero Vivir!" for an audience of rabid wrestling fans in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was the day before the release of her debut album of the same name.
"I got a lot of 'I didn't understand a word you were saying, but I loved it,'" says Garcia. "It felt good to do something I have a passion for and share it with the same fans who were just cheering me as a ring announcer."
Work began on her CD in the summer of 2005, after WWE Chairman Vince McMahon heard Garcia's rendition of the National Anthem at a pay-per-view event in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The resulting record features 10 Spanish-language tracks and two in English; Garcia co-wrote 11 of them. Tim Mitchell (Shakira) and George Noriega (Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Jon Secada) produced the effort. Secada himself co-wrote three songs with Garcia, also singing "Adonde" and the emotional "Where Did Love Go" with her.
"Lilian Garcia is a singer at heart," says Secada. "It was a pleasure to work withher, realizing her dream and making her debut album a reality."
The album also has a rock influence, which goes back to Garcia's days of listening to Heart and Pat Benatar after her family moved to South Carolina, where she attended college. The lyrics, meanwhile, draw from different sources.
"I wanted it to be a record that anybody can identify with. It doesn't matter what moment you are in life or whether you are struggling," Garcia says. "I did take personal things that happened to me, but I also looked at other people's lives and identified with them."
Garcia's infectious smile and ability to connect with an audience have made her one of WWE's most beloved performers. She achieved this reputation without even throwing a punch or delivering a piledriver. Her patriotic performances around the world have brought people to tears, including American soldiers in Iraq, athletes at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, and Phoenix Suns basketball players.
And her musical background has helped her overcome the stigma of crossing over to the music industry in order to make a quick buck. "It's almost like someone who was wrestling for many years and getting into some organization, but not being able to full-out wrestle," she says. "Then you have somebody saying, 'Now you can step into the ring and do your passion.' They see that with me, and now someone is giving me the light. They are saying, 'Now you can bring out your passion, and let's do this with music.'"