Hayley Westenra

At age 16, Hayley Westenra inked a five album 3 million pound deal with Universal Music, scored a No. 1 debut album on the New Zealand pop charts and became the fastest selling debut classical artist in her hometown.

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By Lennat Mak

Hayley Westenra has all the makings of a sweetheart. At age 16, she has inked a five-album 3 million pound deal with Universal Music, scored a No. 1 debut album on the New Zealand pop charts and became the fastest selling debut classical artist in her hometown. Despite the imposing achievements, Hayley remains as candid as a regular 16-year-old would be, sharing her family photo album that she brings along everywhere she goes.

"That's me and my sister Sophie," Hayley points to a picture of them, each clutching a mike in their hands, singing to the hearts of the crowd that had gathered around them. "We used to bring a little amp, a CD player and a couple of microphones and we would just start busking in town," she reminisces with a twinkle in her eyes.

And as she flips through the album of photos -- little brother Issac smiling with wind in his hair, Christmas gatherings, dollhouse in the backyard, acting in her very first play, singing in front of a grand audience, you'd realise how far this young lass of Christchurch, New Zealand has come. It all started with her first performance in a primary school Christmas play called The Littlest Star.

"Hayley was just six and and all she'd said to me was, 'Mummy, I need my ballet gear.' So we went along and found that in fact she was the star of the show -- the littlest star," said Hayley's mum, Jill.

Encouraged by her teacher who discovered that she was pitch-perfect, Hayley started taking up vocals and piano lessons, and mastered the skill of reading music by seven. At 11, she appeared in more than 40 stage productions, sung on TV shows and countless major concerts. Then, she went busking. This little weekend activity actually helped Hayley to pool enough money for a demo album that she recorded in 2000. Only 1,000 copies were pressed. Other than friends and family members, Hayley included record companies in Australia and New Zealand on the mailing list as well. Recognising a talent when they see one, Universal New Zealand quickly snapped up the young singing sensation.

Reception of Hayley's debut album was great. It made its first splash at No. 1 on the pop charts and turned triple platinum in New Zealand. A Christmas album My Gift To You later, Hayley is all ready to take on the international charts with her third album Pure that saw her working with producer Giles Martin, as well as his father Sir George, otherwise known as the fifth Beatle. Backed by Hayley's ability to paint a scenic sonic soundscape with her angelic voice and the production work of the Martins, Pure became a hit in the U.K., a place where Hayley currently spends most of her time at. According to the U.K. press, sales of Pure outshines "anything Charlotte Church has managed -- or Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli or Russell Watson, for that matter."

With the success she achieved so far, would she go incognito and busk on the streets again if she has the chance?

"Definitely!" said the all smiling Hayley eagerly.


Catch Hayley Westenra on MTV Asia where she will be telling us all about her favourite things as well as her favourite music videos on MTV Southeast Asia at the following times: -

October 10, 2030
October 15, 1600
October 21, 1230
October 25, 0100

*Please note that the above showtimes are in Singapore time only.

© MTV ASIA 2003


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