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In the Era of COVID, Premios Juventud Plans to Pull Off an Awards Show

Greeicy rehearses on August 9 for the 17th-annual Premios Juventud at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.EXPAND
Greeicy rehearses on August 9 for the 17th-annual Premios Juventud at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.
John Parra for Premios Juventud/Univision

Rather than rehearse for her Premios Juventud performance on stage at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Colombian pop star Greeicy — one of four female artists taking part in the award show's tribute to Selena airing Thursday, August 13, on Univision — mostly practiced alone in her hotel room. It wasn't ideal, but few things are these days.

"The only rehearsal with all of us will be the day of the show," Greeicy tells New Times over the phone on August 7, two days before recording the pre-taped performance. "Usually for award shows there are rehearsals during the three days leading up to the show and then again the day of. I'm doing rehearsals over video. They sent me videos of dancers in masks, and I practice in my hotel. Everything has been digital."

The social distance-friendly rehearsals are hardly the only change to this year's Premios Juventud format. Owing to the COVID-19 risk involved with large social gatherings, the Latin music and culture awards show, co-hosted by Julissa Calderon, Ana Patricia Gámez, Francisca Lachapel, Borja Voces, and Sebastian Yatra, will have no red carpet and no fans in attendance. Instead, the mostly live show will include a virtual audience made up of fans and frontline workers who will connect from their homes via Zoom.

Maria "Uji" Fulgueira, the executive producer of live events for Univision, says planning for Premios Juventud began in March. The Spanish-language network initially hoped the show would go on as usual but soon realized changes would need to be made.

Did Univision at any point consider canceling Premios Juventud?

"It did cross our minds," Fulgueira says. "But because we felt very comfortable with all the changes we were making and the protocols we set in place, we felt this was something we could do. We're doing testing on everyone that comes into the venue. Apart from that, facemasks are mandatory. We have temperature checks and Plexiglass enclosures in different spots for everyone that needs to stop and talk. And we'll be well below 50 percent capacity.

"It's going to be different but will keep the spirit of what Premios Juventud has always been, and that's celebrating youth through love of music," she adds. "Music sometimes gets us through our days, especially during these times. That's why we felt it was important to bring this show to the people."

The location is certain to raise some eyebrows. After all, South Florida has been a COVID-19 hotbed. But Fulgueira says organizers never considered moving Premios Juventud to another site. The show has always taken place in South Florida (usually at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables), and they wanted to keep it that way.

Besides, many of the artists taking part reside in South Florida, which makes the Seminole Hard Rock's Hollywood location convenient.

Greeicy, however, had to travel from her native Colombia, something she admits was no small feat.

"Everything is harder during these times," Greeicy says. "I thought it would be too difficult to travel to Miami. The airports are closed in Colombia. But Universal [Music Latin Entertainment] made it happen, and I flew with Sebastian Yatra. It was a privilege to be able to fly."

Greeicy explains that she had to take a blood test before leaving Colombia and then a swab test while in Miami and that she'd have to take another test upon returning to Colombia this past Monday — not that she was complaining.

The "Destino" singer and telenovela star is thrilled that she gets to honor Selena's 25-year legacy in the music industry with fellow female artists Natti Natasha, Danna Paola, and Ally Brooke. The pre-taped performance will feature each singer covering a song by the Queen of Tejano followed by a group performance — presumably while social-distancing. Other artists scheduled to perform at Premios Juventud include J Balvin, CNCO, and Pitbull.

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The show not only marks Greeicy's first time performing on stage in months but also her first time traveling for work since the lockdown began. She says she had spent the time off enjoying her home — something she rarely gets to do — and working on herself. The 2019 Latin Grammy nominee for Best New Artist has also used the forced time off to fine-tune her sophomore album, which features the pop ballad "Los Consejos." The album was supposed to be released over the summer but is now tentatively scheduled for October.

Still, Greeicy says she was antsy to get on the Premios Juventud stage and do what she loves, even if she was a little nervous.

"It's a privilege to be able to do this type of show during these times," Greeicy explains. "There have been moments when I've wondered, When will we be able to get back on stage? I feel like this is going to be like the first time all over again."

Premios Juventud 2020. 8 p.m. Thursday, August 13, on Univision.

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