She may have been disqualified from The X Factor UK, but Ivy Grace Paredes remains in high spirits.
Speaking to The National, Paredes says she is grateful at the outpouring of support she has received from around the world, particularly from fans in the UAE.
She plans to thank them in person with a show in Club of Asia in Wafi Mall on October 21.
“I feel so loved. Thank you for giving me your full support, especially those from the Philippines and the UAE,” she said.
The 33-year-old has been living and working in Dubai since 2009. Last May, she flew to London to audition for The X Factor UK, where she impressed the judging panel of television personality Sharon Osbourne, producer Simon Cowell, pop star Nicole Scherzinger and entertainment manager Louis Walsh. After three rounds of competition, Paredes made it to the top 24 stage but was forced to withdraw last week after failing to attend the filming of the show's next round in the United States due to visa issues.
According to the British tabloid The Sun, her visa application "was rejected 'point blank' over an issue in her past". A spokesperson from The X Factor UK said in a statement: "Unfortunately there was an issue with her application being approved which meant that she was not granted a visa in time and sadly had to withdraw from the competition."
On September 28, Paredes expanded on her disappointment with an official statement regarding her X Factor exit.
“After the delay in the issuance of my visa, I was not able to continue in the competition. Though I am devastated with this kind of exit, I am still hopeful for the future. I left UK with a little heavy heart. I did all that I can. I know I gave the best that I could. In my heart I did not lose the battle. Perhaps, this is not the right time to show to the world my full capacity as a singer yet,” she said.
"To The X Factor UK; especially to my mentor Sharon Osbourne for her unfailing support, Simon Cowell for the opportunity which millions did not have … the chance to hug you; thank you very much! You changed my life."
Before her disqualification, Paredes – a single mum of a 2-year-old daughter — had been considered as a fan favourite to win the title. Cowell hailed her as “one of the best we’ve had” in the competition.
During a round dubbed the six-chair challenge, aired during the month, Paredes stunned the judges with a soaring performance of Whitney Houston's power ballad I Have Nothing. The panel and the live audience gave her a standing ovation.
Scherzinger told her, “Ivy Grace, I know why you left the Philippines: because your voice is way too big for the Philippines alone – it’s meant for the entire world to hear.”
Paredes was supposed to advance to the next stage of the competition, called the Judges’ Houses, but failed to secure a visa to fly to Los Angeles, California, where the round was being filmed. She was a firm favourite to secure a spot on the final 12, who will be competing on the live weekly shows before touring across the UK after the season ends.
“Can’t find the words to express how I really feel,” Paredes posted on Twitter last week upon her disqualification.
Her fans have also expressed their disappointment on social media, with some questioning the programme’s decision to disqualify a contestant for missing what they considered a relatively peripheral stage in the competition. The entertainment website Unreality TV wrote: “Why couldn’t she sing via Skype? Does she really have to be in the same physical location? Surely exceptions could be made.”
Born and raised in Southern Philippines, Paredes has been joining singing competitions since the age of 9 in the town of Malaybalay, Bukidnon. At 14, she left school to work as a singer to support her family. Earlier this year, Paredes won the UAE’s Global Pinoy Singing Idol competition, a singing contest organised by the Filipino radio station DZMM.
Paredes left the province of Bukidnon in 2009 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. Signed as the resident music act at Rocky's Cafe at Regent Palace Hotel earlier this year, Paredes resigned from her job last May to fly to England to try her luck on The X Factor.
Asked during her audition why she came all the way to the UK 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 2-year-old daughter."
She added: “I will not stop singing and touching everyone’s hearts and inspiring all of you. That’s all I can promise you,” Paredes posted on Facebook this week. “I love you all! My voice will be heard by all in God’s perfect time.”