Winning New Zealand's Got Talent came with more prizes than Upper Hutt's Renee Maurice bargained for.
The 23-year-old's face splashed across the country's newspapers caught an old school friend's attention - and led to an engagement.
"I guess you could say I got a husband out of the competition."
While the fame has slowly worn off, and a Sony recording contract did not come to fruition, wedding plans are keeping Maurice busy these days.
"Sony had the option to sign me based on my original songs, and I just wasn't the right fit. I was fine with it, and I just took it as an opportunity to take the money and go and further myself in a way that I wanted to."
After the show finale in December, she received a Facebook message from Joe Taylor, an old school friend from Queen Charlotte College, in Picton. A month later the pair met up and "hit it off".
On St Patrick's Day, Taylor, who plans to take Maurice's name when they marry, took her to a jewellery store in Blenheim and told her to pick a ring she liked.
"I thought I was just picking a gift, so I was just looking in the case for something modest, and then I turned around and Joe was down on one knee with a ring proposing to me."
Taylor, 25, already had Maurice's parents' blessing. His own mother was at the store when he proposed.
The couple plan to wed in 2016 and are currently living with Maurice's parents in Upper Hutt.
Taylor said he was "blown away" when he saw she had won the talent show, which he never watched on television because he was working late shifts at the time.
"I saw something on the Marlborough Express news and thought, 'I know that person.' I started looking her up and was blown away by what I saw and had tears and everything."
He didn't expect anything other than a possible friendship to come from it. But within a couple of months of their first date, he decided to take the leap and ask Maurice's parents for their blessing.
Maurice continues to tutor singing and said she got a few more students after her TV success.
"I had one 9-year-old boy come along and he was just completely starstruck and I basically had to take him by the shoulders and tell him I was just a normal person."
After winning a new car and $80,000 in the talent show, Maurice immediately gave $5000 to her parents, who have both been ill.
She put half of what was left in the bank and then in April headed to the United States on a month-long trip with a friend to fulfil her dream of seeing a Broadway show.
"I ended up seeing two in the end - Chicago and Matilda."
Other than the odd performance at various venues around the country, life is very similar to before she entered the show. Maurice is actively pursuing a music career in the US.
"I would like to get to the point where I'm doing what I love and able to support myself doing it."
While NZGT seems like a distant memory some days, at other times it's all very familiar.
"The fame is humbling and I still get people walking up to me and telling me they voted for me.
"That's a really nice feeling."
- The Dominion Post
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