NZGT runner up makes Indian headlines

20:46, Dec 03 2012
Jessie Hillel
Wellingtonian Jessie Hillel, 11, performs during the final of New Zealand's Got Talent.

An 11-year-old Wellington girl who came second on New Zealand's Got Talent is creating headlines in India.

Jessie Hillel was the runner up to 15-year-old school girl Clara van Wel.

Sub-continental media, which love Indian diaspora stories, have given space to Jessie, a Malayali girl from Kottayam in the southern state of Kerala.

While her parents are bound by contract not to give interviews, her grandfather O M Mathew, a former professor of political science, said the competition was hard for his little Jessie.

He told The Hindu his granddaughter emailed soon after the show. 

"It was an awesome experience," she said. She was happy to come second.


The Hindu says Jessie had become a sensation in New Zealand with a big fan following.

Her grandfather said she started singing at the "age of 2 or 3" had been practising since the age of 5.

The past few weeks had been hard for her.

He said her favourite Malayalam song was Pacha Panam Thathe. She was practising hard day in and day out, he said.

"The child will have to take everything in her stride now and focus solely on music," he said.

The Times of India (TOI) says the Oruvattithara family, who call Jessie one of their own, had been praying for her success.

Her elder sibling Julie is a talented pianist, holding the distinction of performing for New Zealand's parliament members.

"The girl has music in her blood," the grandfather told the newspaper.

They noted he was a former national executive member of the conservative Hindu grouping Bharatiya Janata Party and members of the family were trained Carnatic musicians.

Wellington Malayali Association secretary Jomin Antony is quoted by TOI saying Jessie's feat is a rare one, since not many talented Indians have tasted such success.

"She made us proud. All Malayalis in Wellington want her to win the competition and celebrate on Sunday," he said.

Swaroopa Unni, a Malayali from Dunedin, said: "Jessie is confident and a very talented girl. When you see her hearty smile, her melodious voice, it seems like a wonder."