If you’ve walked around the NYC subway lately, you may have run into our newest musical obsession: Stiletta, a female a cappella, dance, and beatboxing act that focuses on top 40 pop and electronic and is totally taking over the literal New York underground. To their knowledge, they are the world’s only dance a cappella group, and they incorporate hip hop choreography into almost all of their songs. Badass, IMHO.
Stiletta is part of the Music Under New York program, which, since 1985, has been funding interesting, cool new music groups to entertain the commuting public. They’ve gotten everyone from Cajun cellists to Australian didgeridoo players to perform on Subway platforms. They’ve just chosen 26 groups and performers (out of 70 that auditioned earlier this spring at Grand Central Terminal), and Stiletta is one of them.
The group has six members: founder, musical director, and “mama bear” Judy Minkoff, soprano and “sparkle princess” Haley Clair, rapper and professionally performing “rocker chick” Meg Lanzarone, alto and “smoky soul sister” Jaymee Frankel, bass and “fiery redhead” Olivia Harding, and beatboxer Meghan Costa (also known as “MC Beats,” she placed third in the women’s category of the 2012 Beatbox Battle World Championship). Put ’em all together, and you’ve got the real-life, badass version of Pitch Perfect gracing your ears.
“Stiletta was my brain child,” Minkoff told HelloGiggles. “Ever since I can remember, I have always both sung in a cappella groups and danced on dance teams. . . but these two loves of my life never coincided.”
When she moved to New York City in 2010, she decided to create a group that would include both a capella and dance.”I wanted us to have a distinct sound and a distinct image,” she explained. “I also wanted us to dance and provide all the entertainment quality that those groups do for the masses.”
Beatboxer Costa was the first member Minkoff chose for the group before holding auditions. “Since I wanted this group to be something unique from all the other all-female a cappella groups out there, I decided I couldn’t go through the usual a cappella channels to find my talent,” she told HG. “So, I advertised on places like Backstage and Playbill, where all the best Broadway talent find their auditions.”
After several months of competitive auditioning, Stiletta had their first official practice in February 2013. And since then, they haven’t looked back. They practice one a week, though they often add extra rehearsals “to learn choreography or polish our set for an upcoming gig,” Minkoff explained.
They are incredibly jazzed to have been selected for the Music Under New York program. “We are looking at this as a huge opportunity to gain exposure and meet people who might help open the doors to even more performance opportunities down the line,” Minkoff explained. “Really, this is about getting to perform as a group and hopefully making someone’s day because of our music.”
Stiletta has performed a ton of great hits, including Lorde’s “Royals,” Skrillex’s “Cinema,” and David Guetta’s “When Love Takes Over.” And it’s seriously impressive what they can do with just their voices.
Stiletta isn’t just a fabulous musical group: it’s a family, says Minkoff. “This is going to sound cheesy, but we are very inspired by each other,” she explained to HG. “One of the cool things about this group is how diverse each individual is in what she brings to the table. As a group, we truly support each individual in her own personal journey through life with regard to career and family. We also look up to and respect each other first and foremost. We consider each other sisters and it’s a wonderful feeling to have a family like ours.”
When it comes to music inspiration, Stiletta does NOT disappoint. “Musically, we are most inspired by strong female artists,” Minkoff told us. “Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera. Women who have made a name for themselves and don’t take anyone else’s slack. That is our bread and butter, and it’s what Stiletta is modeled after.”