When Dreams are Born
BelieveU Founder Nicole Julius Launches a New Generation of Artists
In a world where dreams, opportunity and struggle have an equal chance, there are those whose special talent stood the test of time, the Mozarts, Madonnas and Picassos. Their innate desire became our soul’s guiding light. Through passion and relentlessness, they changed our world. BelieveU Founder Nicole Julius, a non-profit organization in Palos Verdes California, has taken on the challenge to pass that talent torch to a new generation of artists. In the same spirit, Julius’ vision is noble and relentless too. All children regardless of background, she believes, should be given a chance to grow as artists. Especially those whose artist’ eye lights up just a little brighter.
The young talent that Julius discovers or encourages in the realm of art embrace her as a real-life fairy godmother. Her BelieveU mission is to close the gap between financially disadvantaged young artists and those which through family background or understanding have more flexible ways to afford or access the industry. Julius also realizes that sometimes the children themselves or parents aren’t able to recognize that special talent, so she takes initiative. “It makes me feel bad. Why didn’t she have the opportunity and the other “girls” are in piano class, if “she” has a special talent in music?” said Julius.
The Palos Verdes resident founded BelieveU in 2017 although the first opportunity to reach out came five years ago when she inspired a former colleague to place his then four-year-old son James Archila in art class. “He was a very smart boy and very sensitive to the music. I wanted to do something, so I kept talking to him. I was constantly nagging him. He then said, ‘because of you I put my son in a drawing class. He did fantastic! He always brings artwork to post up on the walls.’”
“I was just so happy to actually see that I can push the parents to do something for their children even if they’re not that interested,” said Julius.
Jessica Xue, the 11-year-old ballerina that could throw kung fu and karate moves at the age of three, is also a BelieveU artist. “I have known Jessica since she was born. Because she was very tiny, her parents asked her to practice kung fu. She was three and a half. I was laughing. It’s too soon for her to protect herself!” said Julius.
When Xue showcased a variety of moves and splits that constituted a great foundation for ballet, Julius suggested she take a class and gave her daughter’s keyboard to learn piano. Today Xue has won 17 ballet awards and travels to competitions sponsored by BelieveU. She has participated in Showstopper dance shows since the age of six, won a double platinum place in the ballet category and third place for overall in the 2018 Showstopper. Xue also won a silver prize in the 2015-2016 and 2017 Overseas Taoli Cup Dance Competition. This year BelieveU sponsored her attendance to the San Diego International Film Festival along with the other student artists.
Another child that Julius has taken under her wing is Leianna Lynn Dunning, eight years old, whose love for music has given her the strength to overcome on-stage shyness. Many at this stage give up, blaming a lack of natural charm or talent. BelieveU has a different outlook. Art takes nurturing and a lot of patience. The sponsored singing classes for Leianna build the much-needed confidence that allows a young talent to grow. She composes or writes lyrics to her own songs and has also learned to sing in Vietnamese from her grandparents. Two months ago, Leianna recorded a sample song at the Soundworks studio in Burbank titled ‘A Million Dreams’ and performed the national anthem during the San Diego International Film Festival.
“She brings a lot of emotion and it melts people’s hearts,” said Julius. “If I see the kids have talent, I talk to the parents. I want parents to be aware of it, how precious their children are.”
Julius flourishes with enthusiasm at the idea of art. Although, those she has inspired on this path and that have seen her create the BelieveU initiative wonder, where does it come from? As a young girl in China, Julius had one dream, to study music. In China, unlike the United States, extracurricular activities weren’t as popular, especially not western music. There were other social obstacles. Studying erhu, a traditional string Chinese instrument, also proved difficult. “My teacher said, you have longer fingers, right beats and those kinds of feelings. But my mom said, it’s Chinese tradition, you should not be too close to a male teacher. That is how she felt. I am a young girl and he is a male teacher. As the culture, we should not see each other,” said Julius.
Her desire to take singing classes was also countered by a teacher who didn’t share the same vision. “He said, ‘your sound is not like a young girl’s. It is deeper.’ I felt sad. I was only five years old. You have a dream and want to be part of the singing group, but the teacher tells you that you’re not good enough. What can you do?”
During her middle school graduation ceremony, Julius finally had a chance to perform as part of the school choir and in her own words, “it felt exciting!” She then made the decision to admit into the Xi’an Art School, an arts high school in the city of Xi’an, China. While dreams soared high, Julius had one more obstacle to overcome. Her heart was filled with passion and hope but she was still a novice in music. After a few long months of grueling guitar lessons from her brother, with whom she had made a siblings’ pact, a music and dance audition facing a tough committee and 200 other students, Julius admitted into the Xi’an Art School. Her dream, at least for the next three years, had come true. “I had the guitar on my body. I looked like I was a real guitar player, but I wasn’t. I was proud of myself,” said Julius with a smile.
Later she graduated from the Xi’an University of Finance and Economics, worked in business development for the past decades and after beautifying and restoring homes in the real estate market, today she is a realtor in Palos Verdes. It allows time to pursue her lifetime passion for art through the mission of BelieveU.
Decades later after completing her specialized high school music studies, an estimated 40 million children are learning piano in China. Julius is a local refreshing perspective for a (our) society that sometimes, especially among art programs budget cuts, doesn’t always recognize, appreciate or grow a talent that stands before its eyes. “In China most of the students know how to play one instrument. The parents put most of their income into the kids’ education. China school is not free. Parents have to pay for school. Parents have to pay a lot of money for kids to go to school. And they have to pay a lot of money to take afterschool music classes. But they are willing to do it, because that is how they see their kids’ future.”
“A lot of friends are engineers and behind the scene they are pianists. Sometimes, I wonder how does it connect? Music empowers and balances your brain. It generates new thought process patterns.”
Julius struggled for many years as a child to hold on to the dream to study music. Her message today is to believe, in yourself and especially in the next generation of artists. To find the talent that flourishes within each unique child and nurture it to grow. With two spades in her favor, her relentlessness and art passion, Julius hopes to grow BelieveU into an international organization and movement that invites each young artist onto the stage of their dreams.
Photography by Tom Barette.