Last year she narrowly missed the chance to sing at Junior Eurovision, finishing as runner-up at Ireland’s national selection.
But on Sunday evening Zena Donnelly proved she didn’t get bitter — she just got better — by winning Junior Eurovision Eire 2016.
Looking edgy and fashion forward, the 14-year-old starlet delivered a stirring performance of her song “Bríce Ar Bhríce”, which moves from ballad to pop-folk ditty. The overall feeling is one of optimism and hope — feelings that always go down well at a kids singing contest.
Zena, who beat out stiff competition from fellow finalists and Junior Eurovision hopefuls Walter McCabe, Hannah McNicholas Roche, Cliona Nic Dhomhnaill, Lasairfhiona de Brun and Amy McGrath, was selected by a panel of music professionals.
They were permanent jury members Fiachna Ó Braonáin (of the Irish band Hothouse Flowers) and Pauline Scanlon (a singer of contemporary and traditional Irish music). And special guest judge and Eurovision 1992 winner Linda Martin.
While the Irish-language element obviously gives this local flavour, the jury went for a poppier sound than in 2015, when they chose the operatic entry “Réalta na Mara” from Aimee Banks.
Zena may be young but she isn’t inexperienced. The rising star performed a solo at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Royal Gala Performance, and she even sang with the late and great Whitney Houston in Dublin’s 3Arena.
Her impromptu performance with Whitney is beyond amazing, and you need to watch it right now. Clearly taken aback by Zena, Whitney steps back and laughs and just enjoys the show. The performance demonstrates just how strong and brave this young lass was even then. Despite turning red and standing next to one of the world’s greats, she takes her moment and runs with it. Zena, Warrior Princess!
What do you think of tonight’s decision? Was Zena the right choice? And what do you think about runner-up Amy McGrath?
Let us know in the comments section below!