If you have the internet, by now you've likely heard the work of 12-year-old Nicole Westbrook, the former St. Louis-resident whose single "It's Thanksgiving" is ticking steadily toward 10 million views on YouTube. (If not, please catch up with the rest of the class here.)
She's been dubbed the new Rebecca Black, the much maligned teen behind "Friday," another song that went viral a year ago for being the "worst song ever."
But unlike Black, who laid low for months after the song earned her so much unwanted attention, Westbrook decided to own her infamy and hit the media circuit. She's performed on Good Morning America and Access Hollywood, and given several interviews.
We caught up with her by phone in her New York City hotel room just after she wrapped a segment for Anderson Cooper. As soon as we heard her voice, two things became clear right away. First, she is super, duper twelve. And second, man, for a tween, she seems to be in total control of her image. Click through for the conversation.
Jessica Lussenhop: So, is it true you guys moved from St. Louis to L.A. to pursue your career?
Nicole Westbrook: Yes, we moved about four years ago and it was just basically to pursue my career. And my mom just moved her job so it worked out really good.
How long have you wanted to be in show business?
Probably since I was about seven. I don't know what it was, but I just knew I wanted to be in show business and I took a few acting classes. And we just ended up moving out here, which was awesome.
How did you guys meet Patrice Wilson [the producer and songwriter behind "Friday" and "It's Thanksgiving," and head of PMW Live]?
We did that seven months ago. I met Patrice at an audition for a pilot for an upcoming show and he was in the casting. He had called my mom and I a little later that day and wanted to shoot a video with us. We had recorded a song called "Smile" and in the song it had a little section of rap in it. And Patrice had originally wanted to do it, but asked if I wanted to try it and I guess now I'm a rapper!
But it went really good and I also recorded a rap song. And Patrice had this great idea for a Thanksgiving song and wanted me to sing it. So that's just basically how I met Patrice and how I sang the Thanksgiving song.
When did he come up with the idea to have you star in a YouTube video?
He didn't have this idea about the Thanksgiving video until after I'd met with him. I think he wanted to do it at first, but then decided it was better for someone of a younger age to do it and had asked me. And I'm just so grateful that he asked me. It was so much fun. And, oh my gosh, ten million views.
It's doing very, very, very, very well.
Obviously the most famous person he's worked with before is Rebecca Black and her video did really well too. But she also had some trouble -- she had to leave her school and stuff like that. Were you ever worried about any of those things happening to you?
No, I was never worried about that. Probably because I never thought this video would blow up so big. But I really just stayed away from all the negative comments which is -- I think it's really good because I haven't really come in contact with anything negative and so it hasn't made me feel very sad or depressed. I haven't been bullied at school. A lot of people in school are really excited for me, which is so, so great.
Had Patrice warned you about anything like that? He's obviously dealt with this once before. Did anyone give you any advice in case that happened?
Yes. He was so nice and he always checks in on us, asking how our family is doing and how we're taking it. And honestly we're taking it really well and he's just so great. He's always saying you know, 'Don't read the comments,' and I'm really glad he told us that because I haven't, and I'm really just not worried about it.
That sounds like good advice. So what's next for you?
As I mentioned, I did record a rap song too, which was very funny. We're shooting a video for that very soon -- this is going to be really exciting -- probably really soon from now. Maybe around a week or two from now? And that'll be out online maybe in about a month probably. In 2013, in the beginning of 2013.
Do you want to stay in music or is your hope that you'll segue-way into acting? What's your ultimate goal?
Well, I originally moved out here to act and I also love to sing. But really, I just love to act and want to continue acting as well as singing.
So what's your family going to be doing for Thanksgiving? Are you coming back to this area?
We would love to come back to St. Louis but we're not. We're going to come back for Christmas, but I think we're going to go down to San Diego. My mom's side of the family is down there and so we're going to go down there for a few days, and just celebrate Thanksgiving down there.
Do you have any advice for other people, girls or boys your age, who want to do this kind of thing and sort of how to deal with some of the pressure?
I guess just, it doesn't matter if you're from St. Louis or New Jersey or if you're from anywhere really. If you have a dream, to follow it. You never know what could happen, because I never thought that I would have that many hits on YouTube or ever have my own song. And it's really worth it and it's amazing and to keep on chasing your dreams.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Nothing more than how much fun it was. Just 'hi' to everyone in St. Louis. I know I miss you guys. And happy Thanksgiving!
Final note: Westbrook says her new song "Smile" should be on iTunes soon and in addition to today's broadcast of Anderson Cooper, watch for a performance on the tech blog Mashable.