The Richmond News spent 30 minutes with Estella Celeste Banez and we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of all her talents.
Singer, ventriloquist, podcast host, jewelry designer, business owner and activist - these are just some of the titles held by the nine-year-old Richmond resident.
Estella will take the stage at Saturday’s Celebration of Lights, where she will be singing popular English and Filipino songs just before the Philippines makes its debut in the annual fireworks competition, .
“I love to sing. And it makes me happy, and it also makes the people happy. I also hope that God’s happy, too,” she said.
For Estella, her autistic brother is her main inspiration.
“He knows a lot about music and he can play the piano by ear. He can play the guitar by ear. He can play many more. And music is the way that we communicate.”
Estella, who began performing when she was four, was invited to perform at the event by the Philippine Consul General.
Although she is no stranger to facing large audiences, Saturday’s performance will be Estella’s largest yet with more than 400,000 spectators expected at the event.
The number is a “small amount,” said Estella, who briefly mixed up 400,000 with 40,000.
Estella’s mother, Kaye Banez, on the other hand, suspects Estella is still in denial. The third grader still has a ways to go on her math journey, she added.
Unfazed, Estella said she is planning to draw on the energy of her fellow Filipinos during her performance.
Show me the money
Well-versed in all music genres, Estella also has other hobbies up her sleeve.
She has been working on her ventriloquism skills with a puppet she got from Santa Claus, as well as producing a podcast series, Estella Says!, which is set to make a return in the fall.
Estella is also a staunch advocate for the autism community.
Not only did she collect photos of kids affected by the B.C. government’s decision on cutting back autism funding and meet with legislators, she also produced a podcast episode on the issue.
But wait, there’s more.
“My other hobby is being a businesswoman,” said Estella.
She started her first business, Oh My Bling, when she was five years old. For her launch, she held a fundraiser for the Richmond Christmas Fund by organizing a fashion show showcasing her self-designed jewelry to her kindergarten classmates.
Estella recently started her second business, Oh My Bows, selling eye-catching and multifunctional bows.
“My bows aren’t just for hair. They’re useful for curtains. You can use them for a dog leash or a bunny leash or a cat leash. Or (as a) snack clip,” she explained.
“If it’s a hot day and you’re wearing a bow on your head, and it’s so hot that you’re melting in the car, take out your bow and just fan yourself.”
And what motivates Estella to juggle her businesses and hobbies?
“I really want to make money,” she said, adding she’s been investing her earnings in either silver or ice cream.
Catch Estella on the Celebration of Lights’ Morton Park stage at English Bay at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday, July 29 for her 30-minute set.
“There will be snacks there. So if you get hungry, just go to the snack stand and come right back. So (I) hope to see you there!” she said.