In the early 80’s, Freestyle music was born. And one of the top groups to emerge from the era was Pajama Party. With their hit “Yo No Se” (I Don’t Know), Pajama Party has been performing to sell-out crowds since then. We got into bed (literally!) with the girls from Pajama Party; Marialisa Marino, Janine Acquafredda and Rachel Castro to talk about music, performing, and why they can truly be themselves when they are Pajama Party.
How did Pajama Party come to be?
So the song was around before the group?
Janine: That’s right. The song made the group.
The original group had different members.
Marialisa: The original group was Jennifer McQuilkin, Suzi Ranta and Daphne Rubin-Vega, who was an original cast member in the Broadway musical Rent. She also is my sister-in-law! [laughs] I came into the group very early on.
Marialisa: I was a Club MTV dancer. I had done the Club MTV tour, and Bob Gordon, who was then the manager of Pajama Party, asked me if I could sing and gave me his card. I auditioned and got into the group right away. At the time, I was studying theater and education at Brooklyn College.
Janine: I came into the group in 1995. I had been singing backup for another Freestyle singer, Lisette Melendez. I got the call from Peggy, and I got into the group.
Rachel: I filled in for Nicole, who had been doing choreography for the group. When Janine couldn’t do the show, Nicole would fill in. But I have been singing and dancing since I was in 4th grade.
Janine: They call us the female Menudo! [laughs] We leave the group; we come back to the group. We never go away.
What has the progression been like from the early days of Pajama Party to today?
Janine: Our hair is a lot flatter! [laughs] When I came into the group, this was always the group. We have an amazing chemistry together.
Rachel: You don’t have to fill in the last girl’s shoes. You bring your own energy and talent to it. No matter who is in the group, though, it still has that original essence.
Marialisa: It’s going to sound corny, but the original essence of the group is that everyone has a good heart and a good spirit.
Rachel: We’re like family.
Janine: With a drop of crazy!
Marialisa: It’s easy to sing, so everyone can sing along. Plus it’s really catchy.
Rachel: People who grew up listening to Freestyle love it, and even people my age love it, too.
Tell the truth: Do you ever get tired of singing it?
Marialisa: Never! When we perform the song, the electricity in the crowd is amazing. It’s so exciting. And everyone is singing along; we don’t even have to sing. We give them the microphone. It has crossed so many age ranges; I have an uncle who lives in Florida who tells me, “I hear ‘Yo No Se’ at least twice a day on the radio!”
Where is Pajama Party today?
Marialisa: We’re still performing, and we’re working on new songs. Now that I’m just dipping my toes back in the water, I feel like I can work again.
Janine: It was hard to get us all on the same schedule. Marialisa was having her babies, Rachel was graduating, I was getting married…we were in all different stages of life. But now we’re ready.
Being the only mom in the group, do you find it hard to be in Pajama Party and be a mom to your two children, Luciana and Vittorio?
Marialisa: I’m just getting over nursing my son, and I’m slowly getting my identity back. I have so many mixed emotions and feelings. I want to continue the fun and the love that I have for this group. It’s hard, though. Like, right now, I’m sitting here with you but I hear my son crying in the next room and I just want to run and take care of him. But I still feel fun and flirty and feel that I could be sexy again. I thought I would never get back to it, but I’m starting to come back to myself and my love of performing.
Rachel: Performing is something that keeps me at bay from having a nervous breakdown! I work two jobs and go to school; being able to have that outlet where I can sing and dance is great for me. In a situation where nothing is my own, this is the one thing I want to do that is just for me. I can be myself and not have to appease anyone else.
Janine: I can’t get away from being in Pajama Party! It’s like I have two lives; there’s regular Janine, and then there’s Pajama Party Janine. If I weren’t part of the group, I would feel like something very important and very special was missing.
Marialisa: We’re going to start recording again, and I’m starting to separate myself from Mom to Marialisa. Pajama Party brings me back to myself. And I’m excited for whatever comes our way. We’re all looking forward to writing and collaborating, and to see where that takes us.
Rachel: Pajama Party is a part of us. It’s who we are, and who we are meant to be.