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Oh, Maria!

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From the moment Maria Laroco stepped onto “The X Factor UK” stage, judge Simon Cowell already knew she is Filipina. It could be her skin color that gave her away, but more importantly it’s because he saw in her a star in the making.

Maria Laroco (mb.com.ph)

Maria Laroco

Even host Dermot O’Leary asked Maria’s companions: “Is there anyone in the Philippines who can’t sing?” – clearly a nod to how the reputation of Pinoy singers precedes them.

When Simon himself asked Maria why Filipinos are so good in singing, she quipped, “It is because of our water!” Later, when Maria got eliminated, the famed British judge asked Maria to bring some water from the Philippines for him when she returns to the competition.

Yes, you read that right: Maria will again try her luck on “The X Factor UK” next year, in fulfillment of her promise to Simon.

In an exclusive interview with Bulletin Entertainment in Manila, Maria revealed that Simon even dared her: “He told me, ‘Make sure you come back next year because if not, I will be the one to ride in a plane and get you from PH!”’

‘Roller-coaster ride’

It was five years ago when Maria felt she was at home under the bright lights of international stardom. “Someday, I’m going to be up there,” she told herself while watching an episode of “The X Factor UK” with her ever-supportive mom.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be an international superstar, and I want to be big!” the young lady answered, when asked what gave her the strength to travel the miles and perform before the British judges. “This is my dream!”

Maria blew all four judges away at “The X Factor UK,” two weeks into the new season with her rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain” during the live auditions – a song she was not familiar with.

She then won a spot in the Six Chair Challenge with Whitney Houston’s “Queen Of The Night.” As the competition is mere weeks away from the live shows, the Judges’ House kicked off with Simon’s house in Malibu, which saw the contestants battle it out for a slot.

Unfortunately, Maria had to stay behind in England citing issues with her American Visa. She was granted the opportunity to perform via video link – a first in the show’s history.

It wasn’t that simple, however, as Simon revealed each of the potential finalists should perform in front of some of the biggest producers and songwriters in the world.

And that’s when Maria got eliminated from the show.

“But this is not the end of my dreams,” she said with conviction. “We just want to take everything positively. I know there is something else that will come out.”

Maria recalled her best moments in the competition. She described it as one “roller-coaster ride that has lots of ups and downs.”

“This is a life-changing moment for me. I’d been auditioning in the show for three years. When I got accepted, it felt surreal, like, I was speechless over what just happened,” she said. “I learned a lot from this competition. It’s a dream come true that I was able to represent the Philippines in the international stage. Not everyone is given the chance to do, that’s why I feel proud of myself.”

Maria Laroco performs infront of media during her homecoming celebrations (mb.com.ph)

Maria Laroco performs infront of media during her homecoming celebrations

Asked about the experience of meeting Simon in person, who is known for being strict and frank, even labeled a “dream crusher” at one point, Maria finds him to be a good person.

“He’s a good man, I can tell that just by looking at him. I always watch ‘X Factor’ since I was a little kid and many see him as a terror judges. But I get him, I get his humor. It’s a big achievement for me to meet him,” she said.

She also expressed heartfelt gratitude to all her supporters.

“I wouldn’t make it this far without everyone who cheered for me. Thank you so much for believing in me,” she said. “I’ll continue to work hard to make my dreams come true. Please continue to support me. I promise to have more in store for all of you in the future.”

The X Factor UK airs first and exclusive, same day as the UK on Blue Ant Entertainment every Sunday and Monday at 7:55 PM. Blue Ant Entertainment is available on SKYcable channels 53(SD) and 196(HD), SKYdirect channel 35, Destiny Cable channel 53, and Cablelink channels 37(SD) and 313(HD).

Never stop believin’

At a young age, Maria was certified kontesera. If there’s a barangay singing competition, she’s there.

Her first national TV appearance was on “The Voice Kids” in 2014. A three-chair turner, she got into the team of Lea Salonga. Maria used the name Giedie Laroco back then.

Maria, whose musical influences are Morissette Amon, Sarah Geronimo, Jessie J and Ariana Grande, believes having the guts makes her stand out among the rest. She can do all sorts of musical genres.

“I think the reason people like me is that I always sing from the heart. I sing like it’s the last performance of my life.”

She hopes inspire other young artists.

“I want to encourage the youth to not be shy about what they can do. They need to show what they are capable of, what talent they have. Never be shy about their talent,” she noted.

Does she have a mantra before she performs? “I pray. I know God always sings with me.”

Maria just recently finished high school. She dreams of being an actress, too.

Asked to name a song to best describe her journey as a singer, Maria picked R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
“I believe I can fly/I believe I can touch the sky/I think about it every night and day/Spread my wings and fly away…”

Fly high, Maria.

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