Andra Day, the voice behind the Serena Williams Beats ad, is the latest born-on-YouTube star

Chasing a smash hit.
Chasing a smash hit.
Image: Reuters/Adrees Latif
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The new Beats commercial featuring Serena Williams went viral over the weekend, thanks to its inspiring depiction of the tennis pro in a cathartic training session. But the clip’s other star is Andra Day, whose song “Rise Up” provides the soundtrack.

Day, 30, isn’t quite famous just yet, but, at least judging by her Google Trends chart, she’s about to be. Her career path to date follows a model that’s becoming more and more common—groomed by pros, raised on YouTube.

For the past two years, Day has been releasing cover versions of famous songs by other artists directly to YouTube. Her first video, for example, was a rendition of “Uprising,” by British rock band Muse—not a group often associated with soul artists

Other videos followed, like a cover of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and a mashup of Marvin Gaye and Notorious BIG.

Day is no amateur, however. After getting discovered at a performance by the wife of Stevie Wonder, the San Diego native was introduced to Adrian Gurvitz, a Grammy-winning songwriter-turned-producer. Gurvitz, along with Jeffrey Evans at Buskin’ records, helped her produce the videos, which eventually caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records, one of the biggest labels in the music industry. Her album debut was released on August 28th—just days before the Beats commercial hit.

Her path resembles that of Justin Bieber. The 21-year-old singer was discovered by Usher and aspiring music mogul Scooter Braun, who gradually helped build up his YouTube following before scoring him a deal with Island Def Jam in 2008. His 2009 debut record My World has sold 5 million copies to date.

In media interviews, Day has gone on the record discussing how YouTube has played an important role growing her career.

“Obviously, I have a heart for YouTube and artists who make it that way,” she told pop culture blog GlobalGrind in 2012. “It breaks the mold. It forces labels to take a chance, and to really say, ‘We have to invest in this if we want to survive.’”