Jenny Laura Takes El Exito

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Jenny Laura was thrust on stage to sing Gloria Estefan’s ‘Mi Tierra’ minutes after arriving at CocoWalk in Coconut Grove Wednesday night for a quick sound check. But her crystal clear chops did more than put a smile on the sound engineer’s face – they also helped the Columbian singer/songwriter fulfill a lifelong dream.

Laura’s fiery stage bravado and sensual interpretation was enough to walk away with first place in the El Rumbo al Exito 2008. "[It was] an incredible feeling," said Laura, 22, after holding off Danny Maldonado to win the singing contest and send a bevy of friends into a frenzy. Laura secured an opportunity to record a CD at Hoodiny Entertainment Group studios in Miami in addition to a photo shoot.

VP of Music for Hoodiny Andres Dalmastro and Romance (106.7 FM) host Ileana Garcia, who helped organize the event, said Laura exhibited the best combination of stage presence, professionalism and overall talent. An online voting system, where fans could vote once a day for the past two months also factored into selecting the winner, according to Dalmastro and Garcia. Laura and Maldonado were two of over 125 contestants that entered an initial audition at Hoodiny studios in February.

Laura, a petite brunette, shook her hips to the music while flirtatiously teasing a young male spectator in the front row. She was accompanied throughout her performance by a large group of fans wearing matching black T-shirts with the singer's name on them.

“I was nervous but once I got up there I just let my instincts take over," she said. "It was a night I'll never forget."

Despite seeming a bit rushed, Maldonado, displayed a powerful voice and charismatic charm in delivering a right-on rendition of Hector Lavoe's 'Aquanile' that had people dancing all over the double-decked mall.

"I'm proud of what I accomplished," said Maldonado. "This is only the beginning for me."

The contest preceded Una Copa Con Romance, featuring Latin Billboard nominee/Columbian singer Fanny Lu and Mexican synth-pop band Belanova. -- Fernando Ruano Jr.

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