When she walked into the open auditions for Season 6 of YTV's The Next Star and performed a bit of One Direction's Little Things, Paige Prescott figured she'd get a polite response, a few words of encouragement and a quiet, dream-dashing, "Thanks for coming."
As it turns out, Little Things turned into a pretty big thing.
Now that she's in the youth-focused talent competition's Top 6 group of finalists, the 14-year-old Winnipegger is a much bigger believer in the idea her musical talent might just take her places.
"I've learned that I don't have to shy away from things," Paige said this week in a telephone interview from Toronto, where she remains as The Next Star's Top 6 begin their frenzied musical journey toward the show's Sept. 22 finale. "I learned that if I put my all into something, I can really get something good out of it. And I've learned what I want to do when I get older -- and performing and being on the stage is exactly what I want to do."
Viewers who have followed The Next Star's sixth season (the series airs Mondays on YTV) since its July 15 premi®re have watched the show's latest Winnipeg-born finalist gain confidence and maturity at a rapid pace.
Described at the outset as shy by judges Keshia Chanté, Mark Spicoluk and Tara Oram, Paige has blossomed and didn't surprise anyone by being selected for the Top 6.
"I was pretty scared at first; I didn't really talk much. It was really hard for me at times," said Paige, who has been singing since she was a small child and in recent years has taken up the guitar and mandolin. "But as the competition went on, I made some really good friends. The entire journey has been amazing. It's such a big experience, and I feel like it has taught me a lot about how you really have to keep pushing and break out of your shell.
"There's a lot of pressure -- 'Am I going to get through? Am I not going to get through?' -- so through the entire week, you have to try your best and show people that you want to do this, that this is your dream."
Starting with her flight to Toronto to join the show's Top 12 field of finalists, everything about Paige's TV-star experience has been the best possible kind of eye-opener.
"I had never been on a plane before," said the recent graduate of Highbury School, who will begin Grade 9 at Dakota Collegiate this fall. "So when they said, 'OK, Paige, you're flying to Toronto,' I was like, 'What? What do you mean?' It was so amazing, and Toronto is HUGE -- there are so many things you can do here. I love it."
Tourist explorations of Canada's biggest city will have to wait, however, because the next six weeks will be a whirlwind of rehearsals, performances, coaching sessions, image makeovers and public appearances. Unlike many other reality-competition shows that include week-by-week eliminations of contestants, The Next Star keeps its Top 6 intact right through to the finale, which celebrates all its competitors at the same time it crowns the season's winner.
"I think we're really lucky that the Top 6 gets to experience it all together," said Paige, who cites Taylor Swift, One Direction and Ed Sheeran as her main musical influences. "It's really fun, and I'm looking forward to the whole experience -- all the learning, all the performing. And the makeovers -- I'm really excited about them, too."
Paige is dedicating her time on The Next Star to her parents, both of whom died during the last two years but who always supported her musical dreams (Paige and older sister Hannah are in the care of their aunt and uncle, who are also big supporters of Paige's musical adventure).
She's hoping to garner a lot of support from her hometown (viewers can vote for their favourites at nextstar.ytv.com); to that end, Paige will return to Winnipeg on Aug. 24 for a meet-the-fans/autograph-signing appearance (2 to 3 p.m.) at Sears in Kildonan Place mall.
She said regardless of the outcome of The Next Star, this experience has convinced her that music will play a big part in her future.
"After seeing what this is about, I just love it," said Paige. "I want to keep performing. I've been to a couple of concerts (including the recent Swift/Sheeran extravaganza at Investors Group Field), and I've seen how happy they are when they're performing, so that would be my dream -- to go on a tour and perform in front of a lot of people."
You can see a sample of Paige's performance on The Next Star at http://wfp.to/Vpi.
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