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Kiwi talent’s: time to shine

Mayhem and magic await the hopefuls.

We’ve seen drag queens and divas face off against an embalmer and a silage worker, heard tales of tragedy and witnessed tears of joy. We’ve even seen someone who could be New Zealand’s answer to Susan Boyle. Welcome to The X Factor.

Renee Maurice has been billed as New Zealand’s own Susan Boyle.

Being backstage at the hit TV3 show is like walking into Glee. Kids face the wall, tapping their fingers as they ready themselves for the most important two minutes of their life.

Others sit in groups, giggling, shaking, and, in some cases, crying before they’ve even begun.

Clearly for some, entering The X Factor is a laugh, while for others, it’s quite literally the moment they’ve dreamed of their whole lives.

Stan has quickly become the ladies\’ man, with girls queuing up to have their photo taken. But the singer is madly in love with his girlfriend, Brittany Cairns.

And while the brutal process of being paraded, judged and eventually culled will leave a trail of broken hearts and crushed spirits, for one person it will mean a new start, a new career and a place in New Zealand’s TV history.

Walking out onto the huge theatre stage to a roomful of expectant faces which include the glamour panel – judges Stan Walker, Mel Blatt, Ruby Frost and Daniel Bedingfield – is terrifying, which is why newly single host Dominic Bowden is on hand to help the wannabes.

“Dom and the crew have to do a lot of calming down!” reveals a TV3 source. “Most people have family or friends who are as nervous as they are, but Dom’s neutral so he can help with the wobbly voices and giggling fits – and he’s there to give a hug at the end if it’s needed, which it often is.”

While the judges have their own distinct personalities, Mel has quickly established herself as the “queen of mean”, a title she seems perfectly happy with.

“I want to try not to make people cry, but my judging style is honest,” declares the former All Saint. “But the level of talent has really surprised me. It’s definitely exceeded my expectations – it seems there are a lot of people in New Zealand who can actually sing.”

At 64, Dunedin based Connie Raffills is one of the oldest in the competition. \’I thought you were magical, you have such a warm, yet powerful voice,\’ enthused Ruby.

Despite her pull-no-punches style, Mel has quickly acquired plenty of fans – including fellow judge Ruby Frost.

“Ruby’s loving being with Mel – she grew up listening to the All Saints, so it’s a bit of a big deal for her to be on the panel with her,” the insider reveals.

While the girls are making friends, the boys have been busy.

“The fans may think Stan’s the hottest, but it’s a tie between Daniel and Stan as to who’s the loudest when they are off air,” says the source. “Dan is slightly crazy and has an incredible amount of energy – he never stops. We never quite know what to expect, especially where Daniel’s concerned!”

The four judges are currently behind closed doors on retreat, readying the chosen few for the next stage of the competition.

“We’ve already seen some massive highs and huge lows – both backstage and on stage,” says Daniel. “But of this I have no doubt – right here in New Zealand, we are seeing some worldwide stars.”

Exhiberant drag queen Ashley Tonga was a huge favourite, and made the most of her success at getting into boot camp, insisting on a huge hug from Dom.


Created by “Mr Nasty” Simon Cowell, the programme has spawned a bunch of stars, including One Direction and Leona Lewis. It’s now made in several countries, including Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Lithuania.


Contestants don’t win any actual cash – the prize is a new car and a recording contract with Sony NZ.


Over 6000 people performed at pre-auditions in 27 New Zealand towns.

One million viewers tuned in to the first two episodes.

The show attracted 15,000 Facebook fans and was trending worldwide within 60 minutes of going on air.

The most popular online contestant clips from the show to date are Te Ao Te Huia’s duet with Stan Walker, “chicken man” Mitchell Wahl’s rendition

of Can’t Help Falling In Love and diva Ashley Tonga’s Proud Mary moment.

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