Bubble Gum Babes

Four South Florida girls hope to follow Christina and Britney to the top

"They call us Smurfs!" she says. Brittany chafes at the Montessori routine. She doesn't like meditation time. She refuses to run track during gym class. She'd rather jog in the evenings. Her friends say she's a rebel, but her mature demeanor and thoughtfulness reflect Montessori values.

The master plan "is to become a superstar," she says, "to get recognized eventually for my own feelings and thoughts and what I have to give to the world."

To that end, on Mondays, she takes guitar lessons. On Tuesdays, it's acting class. On Wednesdays, she studies voice. She's free on Thursdays. Friday or Saturday, she travels to Popstarz hip-hop dance classes in Fort Lauderdale or South Miami. Then, of course, there are rehearsals and performances with the Funn Club and the PopStarz teen dance troupe.

Danielle, Emmi, Kelsey, and Brittany
Colby Katz
Danielle, Emmi, Kelsey, and Brittany
Clockwise from upper left: David and Mark Watson watch the Funn Club from the sound booth; Danielle, Emmi, Brittany, and Kelsey sing "Beginning End" in rehearsal; Danielle is hoisted into the air by her cheerleading squad at Coral Springs Christian Academy; and Danielle performs on Broadway in Les Miserables as a child.
Colby Katz
Clockwise from upper left: David and Mark Watson watch the Funn Club from the sound booth; Danielle, Emmi, Brittany, and Kelsey sing "Beginning End" in rehearsal; Danielle is hoisted into the air by her cheerleading squad at Coral Springs Christian Academy; and Danielle performs on Broadway in Les Miserables as a child.

Today, she has just returned home from her Monday guitar lesson, where she showed the teacher her new purple Fender electric guitar. The Mullens spent $675 on the instrument and an amplifier. Brittany's plan is to learn all the Funn Club songs on the guitar and then play it in shows. "They don't even know I have a guitar yet," she says of Mark and David. "They know I'm looking at an electric, and they keep asking me if I'm getting any good. Their main concern with me playing the guitar is that it would be too much."

With a little prompting, she straps on the guitar and stands under a pink, flowering, silk tree to sing the first song she ever wrote. She strums the guitar as she talks about the number. "It was one of those afternoons when I wasn't doing much and, you know, I was thinking about how this year was one of my hardest years because all of my friends left my school. I was kind of sad and lonely, but at the same time, it was kind of an independent thing for me."

She stops and starts and then sings, "Was I something for you to hold onto?" She hits the wrong chord and stops. "Sorry, sorry," she says and then starts again. "'Cause I want to run to you, but I can never seem to get through to you."

Her mother, Cendy, says Brittany has restyled the frothy pop song that features her voice on the Funn Club CD. Brittany plays the beginning verses of "Stop the World," turning it into a plaintive ballad with more dramatic pauses than the Funn Club version and more-elastic phrasing. "It's not kid pop," Cendy says.

Although Brittany works to develop her own ideas and sound, she says she's comfortable with the songs and image the Watsons have crafted for the Funn Club. "I think it's really good for kids. I can't get the songs out of my mind. And they send good messages."

She expects the Funn Club to have a limited shelf life. But if the band makes the tween scene and then transitions into mainstream, she'd be happy. "I'd just ride it," she says.


For the girl the Funn Club has nicknamed "Ghetto," Emmi Kozulin has a rather refined background. She speaks six languages, including Russian, fluently. Her father, Alex Kozulin, is a successful pianist and singer who with his wife immigrated from Israel to Berlin. Luminaries such as Rudolph Nureyev visited the family when it lived in Berlin, where Emmi was born. As a child, she was tended by two nannies. Her father allowed only classical music in their home.

The Kozulins came to Florida when Emmi was 6 years old. Alex planned to perform here, but then he decided to return to Germany, where his reputation and his career were well-established. By that time, Emmi's sister, Shiri, was enrolled in a fine-arts program, and Carmella wanted to stay with Emmi in the United States.

From age 4 to 13, Emmi studied Russian classical ballet technique. She took classes five days a week. But as she became more Americanized, she gravitated toward hip-hop dance. Her ballet teacher gave her an ultimatum: either ballet or nothing. She took hip-hop.

These days, Emmi says, Missy Elliott is her favorite singer. She shares a North Miami Beach apartment with her mother. They rent a unit in a complex with a United Nations of tenants. The grand piano and artwork are in storage. Emmi's new baby-blue moped sits in the living room next to the sofa.

Emmi has a deadly serious side. When the band performed in Virginia, the girls couldn't sleep. Emmi told them the story of the Holocaust. She says she did it to scare the others, a reaction she enjoys. But Danielle says she was deeply affected. "It was very sad," she said. Emmi also wrote a poem imagining she was a child who died on September 11, 2001.

And on her computer, Emmi composes complex techno and trance music. She says performing is in her blood. But if she doesn't become a professional singer, there will be other options. Entertainment lawyer would be one choice. "If I get in an argument, I can make you feel this small," she says, illustrating by holding her thumb and forefinger a half-inch apart.

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