The judges on New Zealand’s Got Talent have had only praise for the pint-sized parcel of talent that is Jessie Hillel, but the 11-year-old singer knows she has a hard road ahead of her before the show’s finale. “Practise, practise, practise” is Jessie’s motto as she gears up for her final performance in a few weeks.
And as the stakes get higher, her family are doing their best to support her through the pressure. Jessie is the youngest competitor to reach the final so far and her mum, Susan, knows that being in the public eye means Jessie could, just like the adult competitors in the finale, face some criticism.
But Susan and her husband, Rabi, think they have prepared their daughter well for the very grown-up realities that come with being in the limelight. “I’ve told Jessie that in life you have to be open to both positive and negative experiences,” says Susan.
“When you perform, there might be people who like you and some people that don’t like you, but you’ve got to honour other people’s opinions and just learn what you can from it.”
Not that Jessie has had any negative experiences so far. The bubbly Wellingtonian is already a sensation as the public falls in love with both her genuine nature and beautiful voice. “It’s all kind of cool,” says Jessie.
“When I’m walking around sometimes, some people stop and stare at me open-mouthed – so I just wave. “People are saying really supportive things though,” she adds.
Jessie has a strategy if she ever faces the negative aspects of fame, such as online trolls. “I’d try and let it pass and forget it really,” she says. “I love singing and I’ve really enjoyed being on the show.”
Should she win NZGT, Jessie says she would like to record an album, go on tour and travel the world “singing a song in every country”.
Susan says she’s prepared Jessie for what will happen in the final, good or bad. “I’ve told her, don’t worry too much about the outcome, it’s not in her hands. All she can do is sing. So she should just go out there and enjoy it.”