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I’m just Tisha Gittens

....a girl who can sing
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Tisha Gittens went from being the competitor who consistently got harsh comments from the judges to the runner-up and winner of $150,000. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

Now that it’s over, 19-year-old Tisha Gittens, second place winner in the recently concluded Digicel Rising Stars 2013 competition, is still getting used to the random compliments and hugs she receives when she walks down the street.


“I feel so blessed because the experience was nothing short of a dream come true,” she told the T&T Guardian.


The former head girl at St Joseph Convent, St Joseph, said part of the $150,000 prize money will go towards her tertiary education as she plans to study international relations at UWI St Augustine, and the other part will be invested in her budding music career.


Gittens placed second behind this year’s winner Ancil Valley.


But even as the petite Cunupia native is celebrating her achievement, looking back, she said she almost did not make it into the competition.


“It was probably just my season because a lot of things went wrong,” said Gittens.


With a bold smile that displays evenly white teeth; a soft spoken Gittens explained how forgetting her national identification card at home almost cost her the audition.


“I only noticed it was missing when it was near my turn to audition,” she recalled.


She was eventually able to audition just mere minutes before the session ended.


“My mom had to leave San Fernando where the audition took place to go home and get my ID card. She made it back just minutes before the auditions closed. It was really a close call,” she said.


If that was not enough, Gittens who previously entered the competition two years ago but was unsuccessful, was told her audition was weak. She was allowed a second chance which landed her among the final 12 contestants.


“I sang two songs, Yolanda Adams’ Let Us Worship Christ and Bonnie Raitt’s Something To Talk About. The latter is what really gave me the judges’ nod. Looking back I can safely say the stars were truly lined up for me,” said Gittens.


Once her foot was in the door, she wasted no time in marketing herself. She campaigned from her home town to San Fernando, and also visited a few primary and secondary schools to gain support from the public.


“Because your success in the show relies solely on public votes, you have to really sell yourself,” said Gittens.


Gittens described herself as the most inexperienced performer in the competition, as many of her competitors were seasoned performers. She said she really had a difficult time in the early stages of the 12-week show.


“The very first two live shows I got some not so good reviews from the judges. It was even said that of the 12, I was the only one to continuously get unfavourable reviews. I mean others got constructive criticism too, but by far mine was more elaborate,” said Gittens.


She also had to deal with negative comments from the public who would sometimes post distasteful comments about her singing on the show’s Facebook page. This helped Gittens develop a thick skin and instead of buckling she took note and bucked up.


“I worked really hard vocally and on my stage presence with the help of vocal coaches Shelly-Ann Aqui and Vanessa Briggs. I also took all the advice given by my mentor Johnny Gonsalves who was also a judge. I really wanted to improve my chances in the competition and to also prove all the cynics wrong,” said Gittens.


Her hard work paid off as in the end Gittens made it to the top two in the competition.


“Each stage was different and challenging, but I listened and learned and each time I would come harder and stronger. I would try to do something different with my voice, costumes and my performances, even if it meant including props. This really impressed the judges and it felt good when they told me they saw the vast improvements,” recalled Gittens.


At the end of the show, she said coming second felt like first.


“I got exactly what I wanted which was to be recognised in the local music industry and the competition was the platform for this. I was also happy for Ancil because we both worked hard and he was like a big brother to me throughout the entire competition. He encouraged me many times,” said Gittens.


Asked what the entire experience taught her, Gittens said she knows now never to second guess herself as well as to make what she has work for her.


“I did not really believe that much in myself. I think now I am confident enough to accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I am no Mariah Carey or Celine Dion, I am just Tisha Gittens....a girl who can sing. And I want people to be able to look at me and say because of what you did I am inspired and encouraged,” said Gittens.


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