She’s Got the Power

The future is exciting for 15-year-old Meili Caputo, the Hilo native who co-stars alongside Katy Perry (and Pikachu) in the pop superstar’s latest music video, ‘Electric.’ Photo courtesy Astania Caputo

The future is exciting for 15-year-old Meili Caputo, the Hilo native who co-stars alongside Katy Perry (and Pikachu) in the pop superstar’s latest music video, ‘Electric.’

The bright young star who plays a teenage Katy Perry in the video for her latest single, Electric, gets a noticeable charge when thinking of the pop princess.

“Katy, she gives good hugs,” says Meili Caputo.

It’s a statement that demonstrates the type of person Meili is. She’s grounded enough to see through the glamour to the person beneath the persona, yet, the fact that she’s received a hug from Perry indicates that she’s accomplished something out of the ordinary.

Meili and her mom, Astania, were part of a “fun environment” during the taping of Electric, Katy Perry’s newest music video. Photo courtesy Astania Caputo

Extraordinary experiences seem par for the course for the rising Waiākea High School junior. The latest — her co-starring role in Perry’s music video — just happens to be the most high-profile. Indeed, at last check, the video had 23.6 million views on YouTube.

“My mom got a call from her friend on O‘ahu saying they were looking for a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that could play the guitar,” recalls the Hilo native.

Just one — or three — problems: she is a brunette; she has green eyes; and she can’t play the guitar.

However, one thing you learn about Caputo after chatting with her is that she is as driven and professional as she is charming. The problems could be dealt with — a hair color change, contacts and some guitar lessons from dad Mike.

“We sent ahead and submitted what we needed to submit, then they called me and said, ‘Your daughter’s the front-runner,” says mom Astania.

They knew it was a music video, and later came the news that it would be for one of popular music’s biggest stars.

“When I found out it was Katy Perry, I was shocked,” Meili says.

“Six days from finding out, we were on set,” Astania adds.

Meili says that she and Katy Perry have more than looks and a knack for performing arts in common. Both were nicknamed “turtle” by their mothers. IMAGE COURTESY ASTANIA CAPUTO AND THE POKÉMON COMPANY INTERNATIONAL

Once on O’ahu, Meili’s days were filled with fittings and a trip to the hairstylist to get those golden tresses to match Perry’s.

Filming took two 12-hour days, with just occasional breaks for lunch and hair and makeup touch-ups.

“On set, it was a very fun environment. It was nice to spend time with everyone. I got to know the cast really well. They were all college students (and) they told me about the jobs they’d done,” Meili recalls.

The song and video commemorate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon. Pikachu, along with its younger counterpart, Pichu, make cameos in the video. IMAGE COURTESY ASTANIA CAPUTO AND THE POKÉMON COMPANY INTERNATIONAL

Everything about the video, which was filmed at Kualoa’s Moli‘i pond (Perry also filmed scenes at Diamond Head Lighthouse), was a tightly held secret; Meili still had no idea what the song would be, as it hadn’t been released.

“I actually had to learn the song in an hour,” she explains. “I was in hair and makeup on the second day and they walked up to me, asked if I had headphones. I said ‘no,’ so they brought me headphones and they said, ‘Can you learn this song in an hour?’ I was iffy at first, but I got it.”

The video, which commemorates Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, features Perry and Pikachu going back in time to nudge the younger Perry (played by Caputo) toward her future musical success. Younger Perry is busking at a farmers market — she’s singing along with the lyrics to Electric — with Pichu (a pre-evolved form of Pikachu) by her side.

The empowering message in the song is similar to the wisdom Perry shared with the 15-year-old.

“Hanging out with Katy Perry was really nice,” notes Meili. “She told me about the industry and asked my mom about her job. She said that the industry’s hard, and you have to believe in yourself.”

A pivotal scene in the video shows Perry putting a leopard print jacket in Meili’s line of sight to ensure she’ll pick it up. She goes on to perform at a talent show with her new coat, and ostensibly, on to her destiny.

Apparently, the scene does have some truth to it.

“She gave me a gift — that leopard jacket I wore in the video. She gave it to me because she hopes it gives me luck,” Meili explains.

“In her teenage years, Katy’s mom gave her a leopard jacket and it brought her luck.”

Among Meili’s goals are to attend New York University, work on Broadway and maybe do some TV acting or launch a singing career. She’s already a veteran of community theater productions and has even toured China.

Not that Meili will need luck. She’s been performing for years now as a singer, dancer and actor in community theater productions. In addition to singing for audiences on a tour through China, she’s starred as Princess Jasmine in Center Stage Dance Alliance’s production of Disney’s Aladdin, Jr. at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Performing Arts Center. She also played Dainty June in Palace Theatre’s production of Gypsy. Both productions were directed by Larry Reitzer, a television writer for such shows as Ugly Betty and Melissa & Joey, and someone whom Meili views as a mentor.

“I saw Meili perform in a talent show at the Palace Theatre and was immediately impressed by her incredible voice and women and her desire to work hard and push herself — and then, push herself even further — impresses me every day.”

Now that the video’s out there, Meili’s been pleasantly surprised by the reception.

“I got a lot of support from the fans, too — the KatyCats were great. I don’t know how they found out it was me, but they knew before it was out.”

As for her future goals, Meili wants to continue performing. She’s taking college classes this summer with plans to graduate with her associate’s degree when she finishes high school.

“I want to go to NYU to study performing arts and get my bachelor’s … I really want to do Broadway, but afterwards, I see myself doing movies or TV shows or possibly a singing career,” she says.

There’s little doubt she’ll get there, given her focus and the support from her family, which also includes younger brother Cashton.

“Hone in on your craft and don’t chase stardom,” Astania says, relaying the advice she gives her daughter. “Stardom will be there for you, if you hone in on your craft.”

In the short-term however, the Hilo girl plans to keep busy as a regular teenager (she loves going to the skate park and hanging out with friends at the beach), while indulging herself in other activities, including dance and martial arts classes.

“I just started boxing,” says Meili. “I wanted to protect myself when I’m older.”