As pop culture representations are rarely kind to the Garden State, a pair of South Brunswick sisters are ready to fight the negative stereotypes by showing what real Jersey girls are all about.
Dayton natives Ashley and Bella Delgado are currently touring as part of a female vocal performance group known as an outfit of seven girls from around the state who project a positive image for New Jersey females. The group began last year, with Ashley as one of the original 11 members. Since their formation, the Follettes have gone on to perform shows all over New Jersey and Philadelphia, including a gig opening up for chart topping acts like Joe Jonas and Sara Bareilles at the 100th Anniversary concert for the Girl Scouts.
"The group has really established ourselves since we started. We've been doing full stage shows, cabaret acts and state fairs," said Ashley, who graduated from South Brunswick High School in 2003. "We've been getting a lot of great feedback for being positive representations of New Jersey, as opposed to the other stuff you see in the media. Everyone we've spoken to thinks it's a great concept with a unique sound and good ideas."
After college and other commitments caused some turnover in the group, an open call was held for auditions. Having been a fan of the original lineup, Bella decided to take a shot at being a Follette.
"I went to their first stage show and I just fell in love with it," said Bella, a 2008 SBHS graduate. "It looked like they were having so much fun. There was this great female camaraderie and energy. When my sister said they were holding auditions I told her I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to try out because I want to be a part of it."
Ashley said she took a backseat for the audition process with Bella's tryout, but the other girls in the group loved her and soon another Delgado was added to the lineup. For Bella, living up to the standard Ashley set was a challenge.
"It's definitely a lot of pressure, with older siblings you grow up and feel pressure all the time," Bella said. "I wanted them to understand I have a different style and I think the girls realized we're sisters, but we're different in our vocal styles and who we are as people."
and in the school district.
"I had a great experience in South Brunswick with the community theater and all of the shows in middle school and high school," Bella said. "I got to play a lot of different characters and had great people to mentor me through it. It was something I did to break out of my shy personality. Meeting new people and playing so many characters was the best part."
While two sisters involved in the creative process seems like it could lead to knockdown drag-out fights, Ashley and Bella said there is no such sibling rivalry.
"We're probably abnormally close," Ashley said. "We've always been really tight and don't fight a lot. We do have our moments because we're both stubborn and strong, but we get along extremely well, we work well together, we respect each other and are inspired by each other. I love working with her. She knew what my stories were and what I was experiencing so it's great to have her come in. She's made a name for herself and she's her own entity and own voice in the group."
As they revamped the lineup, the Follettes also evolved to a more mature sound with current pop hits, in addition to chronicling female artists from the 1920's all the way up to today. The group has also added original songs to their show, which will be work shopped with the audience at upcoming performances.
"Our goal is to be creating a lot of original material, so this is our first go at it," Ashley said. "There is always some fun and exciting moments with seven strong females working together, but we reach compromises when we hit rough spots. We're all good friends who respect each other as artists. It's a strong, tight-knit group."
The Follettes will be debuting some of their new material as they start their upcoming tri-state area tour at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre in New York City on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.theduplex.com/~thedup/index.shtml.
With her sister now at her side as part of "The Jersey Follettes," Ashley said the group hopes to continue evolving while shedding the negative baggage that can be attached to a Jersey girl.
"The goal and ambition of the group is still the same, to bring a positive viewpoint to New Jersey and to become a well known name in a tough and competitive market," Ashley said. "We also want to entertain and inspire young girls to be powerful and influential women. Our experiences in this group in just one year have been amazing. We've met a lot of young girls who aspire to be performers and we've met some famous artists ourselves. It's been amazing."
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