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Exclusive: Cyrus Villanueva on winning The X Factor Australia crown

Cyrus Villanueva, a 19-year-old student from Wollongong, a seaside city in New South Wales, Australia, took home The X Factor Australia crown after a two-day grand final.
Cyrus Villanueva winning The X Factor Australia. Courtesy Seven West Media
Cyrus Villanueva winning The X Factor Australia. Courtesy Seven West Media

The wonder boy from Wollongong has done it.

Cyrus Villanueva, a 19-year-old student from Wollongong, a seaside city in New South Wales, Australia, took home The X Factor Australia crown after a two-day grand final on Monday and Tuesday.

“This is a dream come true,” he told The National in an exclusive interview.

Villanueva, whose father is Filipino and mother is Australian, auditioned for the singing competition last summer while fresh out of high school.

“I have always pondered the idea of entering a show like this, but I never thought I would,” he said. “I took this competition one step at a time and I’ve worked as hard as I can to get where I am today. The X Factor has been a blessing to me.”

As the youngest on the competition, he consistently impressed the judges and the viewers with his musical prowess, charisma and unassuming attitude.

Villanueva came into the grand final as the front-runner among the remaining three acts. He was the only contestant to never have been included in the competition’s bottom two, which is determined by a public vote.

A few days before the final, Villanueva returned to Wollongong with mentor Chris Isaak to reunite with his family and friends, as well as to perform in front of a hometown crowd.

“People were pushing and pulling at me – to get to Cyrus,” quipped Isaak.

During the final, Villanueva performed The Weeknd’s Earned It, which he covered during his first audition. He also sung Labrinth’s hit ballad Jealous and an original pop track titled Stone, which is now his winner’s single and available for download on iTunes.

“It was absolutely ridiculous,” said judge Dannii Minogue about Villanueva’s final performances. “You are made for this. There’s been a level of perfection in your performances tonight that nobody can deny.”

Fellow judge James Blunt added: “I hope you’re singing out there on the radio waves – you deserve to.” In earlier rounds, Blunt dubbed Villanueva as “the man that everyone has to try to beat”.

Guy Sebastian told him: “I hear nothing but nice things about you from the crew and from everyone backstage. And it’s just great to see somebody so talented and so nice. You deserve all of the success.”

Villanueva told The National: “It is so humbling to receive the support that I’ve been getting. My job as a musician is to bring joy to the people who listen to me. That’s what makes everything worthwhile.”

Isaak, his mentor, recalled the first time Villanueva took The X Factor stage: “When he came for his first audition, it was just his guitar and that million-dollar smile. As soon as he finished singing, Guy turned and said, ‘That kid can win this whole thing.’ Guy, you were right.”

After Villanueva’s final performance on the show, the 59-year-old American rocker fought back tears as he addressed Villanueva.

“That’s it for me mentoring you, I guess. It’s sad for me in a way because I had so much fun working with you. I have learnt so much from you. You know, I might ask back for that handkerchief I gave you early on when you started crying.”

Villanueva became emotional earlier on the show after being asked by host Luke Jacobz about the support he has received from the public.

“I am so grateful for my fans,” Villanueva told The National. “So a massive thank you goes out to everyone who has supported me and enjoys my music. You are all the reason why I love what I’m doing.”

Villanueva has won a recording contract with Sony Music Australia. His win is also an achievement for Isaak, whose X Factor stint marks as his first time coaching on a reality-TV singing programme.

Placing second to Villanueva on the public vote was blues singer and young mum Louise Adams, mentored by Blunt. Folk-duo and real-life couple Jess & Matt, mentored by Sebastian, came out on third. Minogue’s entire team was eliminated before the final.

The two-day finale also featured performances by Rudimental, Jason Derulo and Kylie Minogue, who sung with her sibling Dannii – their first live television performance together in three decades.

Earlier in the season, the teams of Sebastian and Minogue filmed an episode in Abu Dhabi, where they visited a host of locations, including Yas Waterworld, Yas Mall, Yas Links, the Observation Deck at 300 in Jumeirah Etihad Towers and the Saadiyat Beach Club. It was also in the capital where the two mentors announced their finalists.

Last year’s edition of The X Factor Australia was also won by a singer with a connection to the Philippines: 16-year-old Marlisa Punzalan, whose Filipino parents immigrated to Australia in the 1990s.

artslife@thenational.ae

Updated: November 24, 2015 04:00 AM

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