Mexican teen rides “Cheetah” to wider audience

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) – You may not know Belinda Peregrin. But the Mexican pop star has already been announced with a Cheetah Girls roar, at least to the nearly 8 million mostly young viewers who tuned in to the Disney Channel at the end of August.

Belinda — as the 17-year-old styles herself — has sold more than 2 million copies of her albums worldwide, including soundtracks for telenovelas she starred in and her self-titled 2003 debut on BMG U.S. Latin.

On her last tour, she sold-out 11 nights at Mexico City's National Auditorium, breaking the female record at the 10,000-seater.

In the United States, "Belinda" sold a modest 83,000 copies. But she stands to get a major boost in exposure from her role in Disney Channel's "The Cheetah Girls 2: When in Spain," which premiered August 25. In the Latin-themed movie, she plays a Spanish rival of Raven-Symone's singing crew. In addition to her first English-speaking role, Belinda performs English and Spanish songs on the soundtrack, which debuted at No. 5 on Billboard's Top 200 with 87,000 copies.

Given that the first Cheetah Girls album has moved 1.6 million copies in the United States — and that a dubbed Spanish version of the TV movie sequel with English subtitles will broadcast on the Disney Channel September 15 — the Disney affiliation represents a potential major crack at the bilingual youth market. It's good timing for Belinda, whose pop-rock album "Utopia," will be released on EMI/Televisa in October.

"I'm shy speaking English all the time, but I write in English," says Belinda, who has two English-language songs on "Utopia." "I would love to do an English record."

EMI/Televisa recently released "Ni Freud, Ni Tu Mama," ("Neither Freud, nor your mother"), the first single from "Utopia." Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, president of EMI/Televisa, calls Belinda's Disney role "a very good and very positive coincidence," but insists that the marketing focus for "Utopia" will remain Spanish-speaking youth in the United States, Latin America and Spain.

"Belinda has incredible taste for music," Lopez-Negrete says. "She knows exactly what she wants and what her target audience is expecting from her . . . We have plans down the road to go after the English-language market but not now."




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