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May 26—Estella Kirk's had lots to keep her busy lately, including writing and recording two new songs, pondering a new music video shoot and preparing for the Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen Pageant in Tulsa.
Oh yes. She also studied for her school finals as the end of school neared.
Estella takes it all in with a smile. She simply applies herself to whatever task is at hand before moving on to the next one.
During the past year, she's been especially prolific.
"I have some new music coming out soon," said Estella, who recently turned 16. "There's one song that's pop-Christian and one song that's just pop."
She's already thinking about a possible video-shoot.
"Hopefully, we'll shoot a video — hopefully here," Estella said.
That's all still in the planning phase, though. As Estella spoke with the News-Capital; she and her mom Lisa Kirk, had another appointment that evening — this one for a sendoff party for the Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Pageant that would be held June 7-11 in Tulsa at the River Spirit Casino. Her send-off event at the Puterbaugh Gardens would serve as a dress rehearsal for the pageant, affiliated with the Miss Oklahoma Pageant.
Estella won the right to compete by being named the Miss McAlester Outstanding Teen, during the 2019 Miss McAlester Pageant, won that year by Samantha Donato. Neither Estella nor Samantha got to compete at the state level in 2020, because of the state pageant's cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, Estella got another shot at this year's event.
Along with everything else, Estella's found time to do some modeling, with her work set for an upcoming publication in the Fab UK magazine, published in the United Kingdom. For the magazine, she modeled clothes created by designer Nancy Vuu, with photos for the UK spread shot by Mary Jurkiewicz of Mary Rhae Photography inside the Aldridge Ballroom in McAlester
Estella has a knack for being prepared for opportunities when they come her way. She began learning to play guitar three years ago after first trying another instrument.
"I started playing piano, but it didn't click," she said. That's when her grandfather, Delane Arrington started to teach her some guitar chords— and it began coming together. Today, Estella has both acoustic and electric guitars — but she prefers the acoustic.
Estella recorded her two new songs in Atlanta, Georgia. Both were cowritten with Jan Smith and Abe Parker. "Sweeter Than Honey" is the pop release, while "Safe in You," is the contemporary Christian song.
"They're recorded; the songs are done and mastered," Estella said. She didn't expect them to be released until after she completed the pageant competitions this summer, when she will have more time to devote to their promotion.
She dials up a version of the yet unreleased songs to offer the News-Capital a sneak preview. Both have bouncy, catchy melodies with unique production flourishes. Although they may later become part of an album, for now Estella said they will first hit the airwaves as single releases.
In McAlester, Estella is part of the worship team at King's House on Wednesdays. She's also a motivational speaker and her mom, Lisa Kirk, said any church that's interested can obtain more information at Estella's website at www.estellakirkmusic.com or on Instragram at estellakirkmusic.
Asked about her musical inspiration, Kirk cited Lauren Diagle, Tori Kelly and the collective group of performers known as Hillsong Worship.
Estella will be a junior in the fall with Epic Charter School. Along with her high school classes, she is already taking college classes from Oklahoma City University and is a member of the National Honor Society. And, of course, she's always writing music.
Writing came naturally to Estella, but she said she had to work at it.
"When I first started writing songs, I wasn't very good," Estella said. Even so, she continued. "I wrote and wrote," she said.
Estella's writing eventually reached the level where she began releasing her own music. She previously worked with a production team in California, but now she's turned her attention to the east
Estella's pleased to be working with Smith, a singer, songwriter, producer and vocal coach out of Atlanta, Georgia. Affectionately known as Mama Jan Smith, she's worked with artists including Justin Bieber, Usher and Rob Thomas. Smith garnered a Grammy nomination with co-producer Brandon Hamilton for producing the Diane Warren song, "Born To Be Somebody" — featured in the documentary "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never."
Estella has collaborated with other writers on several of the songs she's recorded.
"Most of the time, I write 30 to 40 percent of the song," she said. "I try to write a lot," she said. "I've been wrapping up school. There for awhile, I was writing every day."
Estella also had a busy 2020. In the spring, she released a song and video to help spread hope during the pandemic. Titled "Shelter in the Storm," it saw a worldwide music and video release, including on Estella's YouTube channel. It opened with scenes depicting what people experienced during the pandemic, then transitioned ed to the hope and strength that can be found by turning to God.
Estella hopes it continues to inspire those struggling against adversity.
"It could apply to the hardships of facing an illness or even having a fight with a friend," she said.
Estella released a five-song, faith-based EP titled "Bright Side" last November — and she didn't have to search very far to find some enthusiastic cast members for that video shoot. Some of her friends from the McAlester and Eufaula areas served as guest stars for the video, shot in McAlester.
"Bright Side" — both the song and the video — has a message that Kirk wants others to hear regarding peer pressure.
"It's about staying on bright side," she said.
In addition to her fans in the U.S., Estella has followers in other parts of the world, including a large following in Poland.
Her EP "Bright Side" and other merchandise is available at The Galleria in Downtown McAlester, with "Bright Side" also available on Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes and Pandora, along with Amazon and streaming platforms.
Lisa Kirk, asked about her daughter's achievements, spoke of what hels make them possible.
"I'm proud of her work ethic and how hard she works," Lisa Kirk said. "She takes home schooling so she has time to work on her music. She's a very hard worker and has good values. She stands up for what she believes.
"I want the best for her," Lisa said. "I want her to be happy and stay true to who she is."
Lisa Kirk said Estella learned a lot by competing in the Miss Outstanding Teen McAlester and the Miss Outstanding Teen Oklahoma competitions. "It's helped with her public speaking and her platforms," Lisa Kirk said.
Estella had just turned 14 when she won the Miss Outstanding Teen McAlester crown. She may have had an inkling of things to come when she was selected as the Miss McAlester Star crown at the age of 9. Estella said the Miss Outstanding Teen McAlester pageant is the only one she's entered prior to the Miss Outstanding Teen Oklahoma competition.
She looked forward to competing again this year and glad she can help spread the message in her pageant platform, especially where it relates to teenaged girls. Estella's message advises young people to "Choose Wisely."
"Teens spend an average of seven hours a day on their phones," she said, citing studies showing strong links between heavy social media use and increased risk of depression, anxiety and other issues.
"If we are consuming over seven hours of something, we have to choose wisely to make sure we are surrounding ourselves with positive messaging and images," Estella said.
She delivers another message to young people.
"I tell them that God has designed them for a purpose, so they will know their worth."
As for future goals, Estella's already working on those.
"I hope to inspire as many people as I can and reach as many people as I can," she said.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.