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Mary-Jess Leaverland made world headlines for being the British student who won the Chinese version of the X Factor. She was voted the winner by an audience of 70 million who watched the programme, called ‘I Want To Sing To The Stars.’ The prize money was not the grand million pound record deal it is here in the UK, but a treasured trophy and the equivalent of £1,000. Unfortunately she was not able to accept the rest of the prize – to record a song written especially for her, because she only possessed a student visa. Her first chance to become a recording artist shattered at her feet.

She soared to victory singing Sarah Brightman’s ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ and Mariah Carey’s ‘When You Believe’, making them both her own; her voice sounding both pure and wise at the same time. It’s an extraordinary voice. Mary-Jess comes from a long line of singers: her grandmother a semi-professional classical singer and her mother a powerful pop, rock and country singer.

Singing was always Mary-Jess’ dream but feeling she needed to have an interesting alternative, she decided to study Chinese at the age of 12; her school offered it as an extracurricular GCSE.

“French wasn’t my best subject and so I was surprised that I took to Chinese so well. It caught my attention with all the different tones. Each word had its own tune. So in a way, my musical background helped.”

Mary-Jess is 21, has a delicate fresh-faced complexion, wisdom beyond her years, looks gorgeous, speaks Chinese and is happy to demonstrate the different tones of Mandarin on demand, as she did when asked to sing live on BBC Breakfast TV, looking completely undaunted by the sudden storm of media attention.


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