When Priscilla Star Diaz told her father she wanted to be a performer, he did all he could to help achieve not only his child's dream, but also his own long-deferred one as well. Their journey is chronicled in a new documentary, "P-Star Rising." The film highlights the peaks and pitfalls of both the music business and family relationships.
Filmmaker Gabriel Noble first saw Priscilla Star Diaz perform at 2 a.m. in a New York City nightclub.
"She was 9 years old," he recalls. "She was given five minutes to rap on stage for a crowd that was twice her size and three times her age. And she blew the crowd away and blew me away."
Abandoned by her crack-addicted mother, the talented youngster, known as P-Star, was living in a homeless shelter with her father, Jesse Diaz and her older sister. Jesse Diaz had a promising hip hop career in the 1990s but was derailed by drugs and a prison sentence. When Noble met the family, Diaz had served his time and was struggling to care for his daughters and make a better life for them all.
"It was really not until Priscilla was 9 that she tells her dad, 'Dad, I'm going to bring you back into this music business,'" he says. "He begins to train her; how to hold the mic, how to have stage presence, how to do interviews, how to hold herself tough in front of people even though she was this silly little girl. When she is on stage, she is fierce."
Fascinated by her talent and compelling family story, Noble asked Diaz if he could follow Priscilla with his camera, documenting her life. That four-year journey is chronicled in "P-Star Rising."
"I was so young. I really didn't know what was the point of filming me all over the place," she says. "But I did know it was going to be fun. I did know it was cool to have a guy with a camera follow me all over where I am. (He) followed us when we were living in the shelter. He filmed me when I was sleeping, eating, getting ready to go back to the club and perform."
Though it was fun, P-Star says, there were some embarrassing moments.
"When we were watching the movie for the first time, I was like, 'Why did they catch me sleeping like that?', 'Oh, I look horrible,''' she says. "But that's the best thing about the movie, it's all real."
Hip Hop hopes
The documentary follows the family as it moves from one bedroom in a shelter to a four-bedroom apartment, from getting food stamps to going on shopping sprees. But Noble's film also captures the many sacrifices of that journey -- long rehearsals and late nights. P-Star, now 15, says it also tested her relationship with her father.
"It was very tense at points where I couldn't really talk to my dad because he really didn't want to listen," she says.
"He really starts to lose himself in the music, being so excited that he is back, that the limelight is back on him and his daughter, he loses his responsibilities as a father," Noble says. "That's really the story we captured, Jesse's struggle between wanting the best for his girl in the music business but also being a fit father. [In the film, there are] a lot of ups and downs and a lot of moments where the family almost fell apart. It was really beautiful and important to see a family come back together and rebuild."
Family and business arguments, Noble says, were among the toughest moments he caught on camera.
"There were scenes where they were completely broke because they spent all the money the music label gave them on fur coats and diamonds, kind of what a lot of people do when they came from nothing and are given a check, they blew it," he says.
The documentary also chronicles the search for their mother, an addict who suffers from HIV, who hasn't been in their lives.
"We heard she was in Brooklyn and we went several times and looked, physically looked on the street," Noble says. "In the movie we do actually find her, which is a bittersweet moment of reunion for the family."
P-Star says she hopes to be a positive role model for young kids, as entertainer Jennifer Lopez was for her.
"She actually inspired me in the movie 'Selena' when I really made that decision of becoming an entertainer. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to be something. And I really want the whole world to see my story," she says. "I really want the whole world to know what I went through and understand I never gave up. And if you have a dream, it might be the same thing I was doing, but just don't give up."
Pricilla's star is still rising. She's getting ready to start filming her third season of the children's TV show, "The Electric Company" and is touring with the show. She just released a new single, called "Daddy's Little Girl," featuring R&B singer Tony Sunshine. She says she's determined to work hard to achieve her dreams - for her father and for herself.