The X Factor star, Shanaya Atkinson-Jones was back in her home town of Newton Aycliffe on Friday to sing for a playground full of parents, pupils and staff at Sugar Hill Primary School, where Shanaya’s mother, Belinda works as a social learning mentor.
Shanaya, who sang Say Something by A Great Big World in her debut on the hit ITV show, took time before the performance to speak to The Crier.
“I’ve just always sang,” she said when asked when she realised she could sing. “I didn’t realise I was any better than anyone else, but people started to tell me I was quite good and that I should pursue it further.
“It really started when I played Joseph in the school nativity and people kept approaching my mum saying ‘your daughter should be a singer’.”
The quietly spoken Shanaya says that being given the boy’s part while in an all girl school was the catalyst that helped her realise there was power in her voice.
Soon she was entering and winning talent contests, beginning with the inaugural Aycliffe’s Got Talent before graduating to Open Mic UK where she came second overall.
It was there she was spotted by head of talent at Syco Entertainment, Barney Addison, who suggested she go along to a private audition in Middlesbrough.
“A couple of weeks later I got a phone call saying I could be in front of The X Factor judges very soon,” she says, matter of factly.
Meeting Simon Cowell and The X Factor team, she admits has “been like a dream. The night I was given six yesses,” she recalls, “I went to bed, woke up the next day and thought it was a dream.
“But it turned out to be real,” she chuckles, almost still needing to be convinced.
Since the show, Shanaya says the local community has been very supportive. “I can hardly move in Tesco now for well wishers,” she says. “I have lots of new followers on social media and try to reply to everyone.”
Proud grandparent John Atkinson, president of Shildon AFC, says that Shanaya’s success is a delight: “Hopefully something good comes of it and she finds a career in singing that she loves so much.”
“It would mean everything,” says Shanaya of winning The X Factor. “It’s everyone’s dream, isn’t it? Even people who can’t sing dream of it.”
But regardless of the outcome of this adventure, Shanaya says she is now set on a singing career: “I’ll never stop singing, regardless of what happens. Even if it’s just pubs and clubs, I’ll still sing.”
With a manager and professional voice coach now employed, the music world seems to believe that we will be hearing a lot more of Shanaya’s powerful and soulful singing in future.