I could be anyone, I'd choose to be me
By Alun Prichard, Daily Post
is completely normal. And when her age and achievements
are considered, it becomes obvious just how extraordinary
that statement is.
At 17, singer Hayley is
her native New Zealand's biggest selling artist ever
- her last album, Pure, hogged the Pacific nation's
number one spot for 18 weeks.
She is the youngest ever
ambassador for Unicef and had sold well over a million
albums not long after turning 16. In UK chart history
she holds the record for the fastest selling debut album
of any classical artist ever.
To put that in context,
her records flew off the shelves quicker than Charlotte
Church's Voice of An Angel, Aled Jones's Walking In
The Air and anything Bryn Terfel, Pavarotti, Bocelli
or even housewives' favourite Russell Watson have ever
Yet she is a happy, down
to earth teenager, totally without ego and in no danger
of ever acting like a diva.
In fact when the interview
has to be rescheduled and lands on a Saturday afternoon
in the middle of her only fortnight off in the whole
year, there are no Elton John tantrums, just a polite
But the reason for her
compliance soon becomes clear.
"I'm supposed to be
studying for my exams," she says conspiratorially.
Hayley, who performs in
North Wales next week, is sitting her GCSE exams this
week and has been given time off to study, although
she admits to being glad of anything that can excuse
her from her revision.
"I've been like a
prisoner in this room... it seems that as soon as I
get up I go over to the table and go over formulas,"
she says then corrects herself, "formulae".
"I had one two-hour
maths exam yesterday and I've got another one on Tuesday
and English on Monday and Thursday. It's horrible,"
she says with a laugh.
Ever since Hayley's success
outgrew New Zealand she has been travelling all over
the world, but to keep her feet on the ground and her
schoolwork up to date, one or other of her parents have
been with her every step of the way. And unlike the
other teenage singing sensation she's often compared
to, Charlotte Church, Westenra is perfectly happy with
her parents's involvement.
Christchurch, New Zealand
is still where she calls home but the demands of her
work now see her spending more and more time abroad.
"I don't really feel
like I'm based anywhere at the moment but I'd say London
is probably my second home. I really like it here and
spend quite a lot of time here."
London is perhaps her international
base but Wales figures prominently in her heart, and
it was at Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival in 2003 alongside
Jose Carreras that she was first introduced to the British
"I do have some Welsh
blood through my great-grandmother and I absolutely
love Wales. It's very much like New Zealand so it feels
kind of like home when I'm there," she says with
But while her body is in
London, her heart in New Zealand and her thoughts in
Wales, it is America where she has recently been making
headway. Hayley has just returned from an extensive
tour of the country performing at venues such as Carnegie
Hall. While there she also recorded a song for a new
Disney movie, Mulan 2, appeared on US TV show American
Dreams, and a one-hour special on her, entitled Great
Performances, will be shown across the States next month.
She has achieved so much
that if it were not the youth in her voice, and her
appreciation for sitcom Friends and rock band Coldplay,
it could be forgotten that she is still too young to
drink or even vote.
Yet, the whirlwind of success
that she is currently in the centre of comes as no surprise
to Hayley. She says with a slightly nervous giggle that
the life she has earned is pretty much what she expected
when she started on her journey toward stardom. "Gosh,
I think this is how I imagined it would be. Occasionally
it's harder than I thought it would be, because it's
sometimes crazy with flights and fitting in performances
here and there which almost seemed impossible, but yeah
I think it is how I expected it to be."
And in direct contrast
to so many celebrities who fail to find happiness in
their successes, Hayley says: "If I could be anyone
in the world, I'd actually choose to be me, where I
am right now, because I'm so excited about what I'm
doing and I'm loving it totally."
On reflection, the opening
statement must be false. Hayley, is level-headed, polite,
quick to laugh and thoughtful - she is nothing like
a normal teenager.
Hayley Westenra is at the North Wales Theatre, Llandudno
on Wednesday at 7.30pm.