Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 19.54.14

Japan’s 140-member supergroup AKB48 is holding its second annual draft next month, in which sub-teams will choose new members from a draft of 48 young hopefuls. And among the finalists is one of the youngest potential members the group has ever seen.

Unlike the rest of AKB48’s members, who are in their teens and early twenties, 11-year-old candidate Maria Imamura is still in elementary school. But that hasn’t held her back in reaching the finals of the draft, a huge event which will be televised on May 10th.

Upcoming event AKB48 Group Draft Kaigi 2015 is only the second AKB48 audition to be held in this new draft style. Team Captains from each of AKB48’s sub-groups will choose new members from the pre-selected finalists. Imamura’s presence on the shortlist has drawn attention not only because of her age, but also because at just 130cm tall (4’3″), she is small for her age – 17cm (6.6 inches) shorter than the average Japanese girl in sixth grade.

▼ A shot from the pint-sized star’s audition performance.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 18.43.34All screenshots: AKB48/YouTube

In her candidate profile, Maria lists karaoke, gymnastics and dance among her hobbies. Her father influenced her interest in the pop group, she says, adding that she has wanted to be an idol since she was 5 years old, when she first attended one of AKB48’s meet-and-greet events.

If Maria is drafted, it is likely to be into one of the younger sub-groups such as Team 8, a sub-team made up of young representatives from each prefecture in Japan. Team 8 hit the headlines earlier this month when they signed 12-year-old Karen Yoshida as their newest member.

▼ Watch little Maria perform for the judges in this audition clip.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 18.43.30

▼ In her profile video, she says the audition was the first time she had sung in public, and cites Miyuki Watanabe as her favourite group member.

11 years old seems pretty young to be thrust into the limelight, especially in a group whose members are much older than her. But Maria seems to have her parents’ full support – and is there any right age to become a pop star, really?

Sources: LivedoorAKB48 Official Site
Featured image: AKB48/YouTube