Tina Arena : biography
Early life and struggles
Arena was born to Giuseppe and Franca Arena, Italian immigrants living in the Melbourne suburb of East Keilor, Victoria. She has two sisters, Nancy and Silvana. Franca runs a rest home for the elderly while Giuseppe worked for the Victorian Railways for 20 "odd" years and is now retired and currently assisting Franca with the retirement home.MMM Tina Arena website. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. Her family calls her Pina which evolved into her stage name, Tina. Arena entered Essendon’s St. Columba’s College, Melbourne in 1980 and graduated in 1985.St. Columba’s College, Melbourne. Retrieved on 13 December 2012. As a child, she would listen to Spanish, Italian and French songs that were in her family’s record collection. Arena had always possessed a powerful voice and her penchant to sing big ballads became evident when at 5 years old, Pina (a name she was called when she was yet an unknown singer) sang at her cousin’s wedding. She was the flower girl at the ceremony and urged her father to approach the host so that she could perform a song. At the wedding, she performed Daryl Braithwaite’s You’re My World and it was Arena’s first taste of public recognition. Tina Arena was quoted as saying:
Arena has also expressed that her father initially didn’t want her to enter show business and wanted a university degree for their daughter and Arena said that her mother, was "dubious initially". Her mother also said that "as long as you understand it’s a big commitment and we all have to adjust our lives to accommodate this dream of yours – as long as you appreciate that we will take it, we’ll do it." Arena replied, "Absolutely, all I wanted to do was perform."MMM Tina Arena website. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. In the end Arena’s parents gave in. She soon went on to compete in television talent contests, winning three out of four that she participated in. After one performance, she was asked to be a permanent member of the cast of Young Talent Time. Almost overnight, she became known as "Tiny Tina" with a big voice.ABC Talking Heads. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.Answers.com. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.
Johnny Young, the host of the show also wanted to change her name when she starts appearing on television. Tina said: "I appeared on Young Talent Time as a contestant in the mid-’70s. Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to vocals. Wednesday was dedicated to publicity. Thursdays and Fridays were dedicated to learning the configuration of the show. Saturdays consisted of about 14 hours going live to air on Saturday night at 6:30. My full name is Filippina Lydia Arena. I was called Pina for short. Of course, Pina Arena was not an incredibly elegant name for TV. John Young was actually the gentleman who suggested to my family and myself in the ’70s to change the P to a T."ABC Talking Heads. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.
After wowing the public for seven years through Young Talent Time, Arena had to leave the show as she was approaching her 16th birthday. This was the program’s regulation to give way for younger new talents.
Arena went on to lead a normal life after leaving Young Talent Time. She went to school and was able to get her HSC (higher school certificate) and was hired later on as an insurance clerk. Arena realized that having a normal day job is not her fulfillment. She resigned from her work after only three months and pursued music.Sing365.com. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.
This was the era wherein she would start facing the personal struggles to achieve her musical dream. She goes on to approach and market herself to various Australian recording companies doing demos and performances but to no avail. She was instead told to lose weight and even change her name. Arena said of her struggles:
Voice, singing style and musical influences
Arena’s singing style is characterized as between R&B and Ballad.Answers.com. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.smh.com.au. Retrieved on 19 June 2013. Numerous media joints and Arena’s musical contemporaries have praised Arena’s skill as a world-class singer. Music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll said that Arena "has a voice that can give you goosebumps" while news journalist, Kate de Brito says that Arena’s voice is "smooth and musical even when she talks."MMM Tina Arena website. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. Cameron Adams of the Herald Sun says that Arena has a "beautiful voice telling a beautiful story."liveguide.com.au. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. William Yeoman of The West Australian commented that "Arena’s voice is redolent of both youthful pop and mature cabaret."waso.com.au. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. Limelight Magazine says, "Tina Arena is a performer with a supreme voice, boundless range and energy, and charm to spare."limelightmagazine.com.au. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. Kelsey Munro of the Sydney Morning Herald says that Arena’s voice is "strong, smooth and pitch-perfect."smh.com.au. Retrieved on 19 June 2013. According to Heidi Maier of Tom Magazine, Arena’s voice can be described as "remarkably strong". She also said, "Tina Arena has a powerhouse voice and when she hits her marks, she hits them with forcefulness and verve."tommagazine.com.au. Retrieved on 14 June 2013. Spiritworks Australia says, "Whether she’s singing spine-tingling renditions of contemporary classics by Lulu, Dusty Springfield or Blondie or her self-penned hits Sorrento Moon, Chains or Burn, Tina Arena is acclaimed as one of the world’s most versatile and magnificent vocal interpreters. Her voice is smooth, rich and streaming with emotion."spiritworks.com.au. Retrieved on 14 June 2013. The Queensland Music Festival team says, "Tina sparkles with vivacity and class, possessing an outstanding vocal range and a voice that belies her petite stature – endlessly powerful and always resonant with heart and honesty."QMF. Retrieved on 14 June 2013. Time Out magazine had a brief description of Tina’s voice as it says, "Tina Arena truly boasts two incredible assets – her voice and her versatility…"QMF. Retrieved on 14 June 2013. Melbourne’s 89.9 Light FM declared that Arena is "undisputedly one of Australia’s finest voices".Light FM. Retrieved on 14 June 2013. Sharyn Hamey, an online music reviewer says that "Arena has an angelic, beautiful and a powerful voice."rockclub40.ning.com. Retrieved on 26 June 2013. Many Australian celebrities have also praised Arena’s vocal prowess with Delta Goodrem saying, "Her voice has strength whilst keeping its feminine warmth to draw you in." Melbourne singer/songwriter, Michael Paynter hailed Arena as "simultaneously the most natural and supernatural female Australian voice ever. She is technically and emotionally perfect, but somehow always has enough of a sniff of imperfection and rawness to make you not only believe every word, but be hanging off them too." Ricki-Lee Coulter also says that "She has so much control and power". Missy Higgins also commented that, "Tina Arena is one of our best singers ever. She could sing the balls off anyone, and she’s miniature." Brian Mannix says, "Tina Arena has a tasteful voice. She sells the lyrics with her big voice but never over-sings." Birds of Tokyo frontman says, "Tina Arena can sing the s— out of anything, and do it in four different languages!". Anthony Callea added, "Technically, she is faultless and her tone is unique and warm. I love that she goes against all the ‘singers’ rules’ – I’ve seen what she eats and drinks before a gig!"news.com.au. Retrieved on 14 June 2013. Darren Hayes also made an effort in letting the public know that Arena’s voice is one of his favorite voices in Australia through Twitter.dailytelegraph.com.au. Retrieved on 23 June 2013.
Tina Arena’s musical influences include Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Aretha Franklin and various Italian singers. She also admitted that in a non musical perspective, Princess Diana inspired her and said "She was a great role model for women…"musicianguide.com. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.ABC Talking Heads. Retrieved on 14 June 2013.