Estrella overcomes obstacles to realize stage dream

LIHUE — Estrella Barnett has been singing her whole life, hoping for an opportunity.

But it was only when disaster struck that she was able to reassess herself — not only as a performer, but as a person.

“I was in a really bad car accident a year ago, last August,” said the Kilauea native, who uses Estrella as her stage name. “I basically changed my life around and got sober, from everything in my life.”

Estrella made that decision not only to support herself, but also her 7-year-old daughter, who was involved in the accident.

Fast-forward to the present, and Estrella is thriving.

“As soon as I turned my life around and started doing the right things, the doors that God have opened up in my life has made it effortless. I’m doing the right things, and every single day there’s a new opportunity in my path. It’s a huge lifestyle change,” she said.

Estrella, 34, will be performing on stage with Makana tonight as a special guest at the Koloa Plantation Days Sunset Hoolaulea at the Poipu Beach Athletic Club — her first performance as a singer on Kauai.

Makana and Estrella have been working together for the past couple of months and getting to know each other’s voices. And the chemistry that they have developed in recent weeks shows in their performances, said Estrella.

“For the first time, I feel super comfortable singing with someone because our voices totally connect when we sing together,” she said. “He’s giving me an opportunity to sing and pursue my dreams alongside of him just because of how well our voices are connected. It’s super exciting.”

Raised in Kilauea, Estrella said she used to roller-blade around town with her Walkman, singing out hit songs from Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. She graduated from Kapaa High School where she used to sing in the school’s assemblies and perform for KPAC (Kauai Performing Arts Center). She also participated in Brown Bags to Stardom before going off to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she played soccer for the Rainbow Wahine for a short period.

She then moved to California to learn more about music before returning to Kauai, where she finds solace in her music.

“I ran with music to get away from my sadness,” she said. “But now I go to church and focus on family and people. I have a daughter, and just being available and shining light on those who experienced pain in the past is somewhere I want to go with my music because I was in such a dark place in my life.”

Estrella performed with Makana for the first time two weeks ago on Maui. She knows performing on Kauai will be a whole different story.

“I’ve done performing in musical theater and randomly getting up with someone who’s singing somewhere, but this is my first big show,” she said. “Everyone knows me, so I better do good.”

Tonight’s show is from 5 to 8:30 p.m. The show is free and open to the public.

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