For the past seven years Ivy Grace "Ayegee" Paredes has been entertaining the crowds in Dubai, but this week the single mother from the Philippines took her singing to The X-Factor UK stage, where she wowed the judges with her vocal talents.
On Sunday night’s episode 33-year-old Paredes auditioned for the reality singing competition and received four yeses from the judging panel, which includes producer Simon Cowell, television personality Sharon Osbourne, pop star Nicole Scherzinger and entertainment manager Louis Walsh.
Singing a cover of Whitney Houston's 1990s hit All the Man That I Need, Paredes's soaring voice impressed the judges, who were all applauding after she hit her last note.
“Oh my God — what just happened?” said Cowell. “That was more than amazing. It was incredible, I mean incredible — one of the best we’ve had.”
“You did yourself proud,” said Osbourne.
Walsh praised: “It was sensational. You’re like a little diva.”
Asked why she came all the way to England to audition for the show, Paredes replied: "The X Factor can provide me the stepping stone that I need for my future, because this is for my two-year-old daughter."
After the judges unanimously advanced her to the next round, Paredes took off her heels and ran out of the audition room cheering, bumping into presenter Dermot O’Leary on the way, who told her: “It’s like you were possessed by Whitney.”
Later, Scherzinger told her fellow judges: “That right there is wanting it and fighting for it. Usually singers get tired during the second half of the song, but she just kept getting better and better.”
Born and raised in Southern Philippines, Paredes has been singing in contests since she was a teenager. She's appeared on several reality singing competitions on Philippine television, including the show Talentadong Pinoy, a localised version of the international Got Talent franchise. Earlier this year, she won the UAE's Global Pinoy Singing Idol competition - a singing contest organised by the Filipino radio station DZMM.
Back in 2009, Paredes left the province of Bukidnon to try her luck in Dubai, where she has been a regular performer at the Regent Palace Hotel and the Comedy Junction Bar in Al Mamzar. Despite being a trained midwife, she has chosen to focus on singing as a career.
Last May, Paredes flew from Dubai to London to audition for the new season of The X Factor UK. The programme started allowing international contestants during its 12th edition last year, when the Filipino girl group 4th Impact finished in fifth place overall.
“Last year, I was watching 4th Impact on the show and I was really inspired,” says Paredes. “If they can make it, I can do it too. I am not getting any younger. But I can still be on stage and that’s why I am here.”
In an interview after the show, Cowell said: “I kind of find it flattering that people all over the world have come here to audition for us.”
Paredes has advanced to the next stage of The X Factor UK competition, which will air next week on September 17 and 18. During a round called bootcamp, the roster of successful auditionees will be whittled down to about 60 contenders.