A 12-year-old Melbourne schoolgirl has dazzled global audiences and judges to take out third place at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2018.
Jael Wena, from Doreen in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, also won the jury vote at the Minsk Arena in Belarus on Sunday night.
“I cannot believe tonight, I am absolutely overwhelmed,” Jael wrote in an impassioned, excited Instagram post after her win.
“To get third place overall tonight is absolutely unbelievable, is absolutely insane.”
Wearing a silver sparkly dress and air of confidence, the Year Seven Hazel Glen College student belted out her song Champion on the Minsk Arena stage, watched by a TV audience of an estimated 2 million.
She was chosen to represent Australia at the 2018 Junior Eurovision after winning the Fast Track Talent Showcase three years running.
“When I found out, I was screaming,” she told Fairfax Media earlier. “It feels amazing. I can’t believe I [was] chosen to represent Australia for this big event.”
The Junior Eurovision winner was decided by an online audience vote and by the national juries, which are made up of three music industry professionals and two children from the 19 other participating countries.
Poland won the competition with 215 points and France came in second with 203. Jael scored 201 points.
After the verdict, Jael said the competition had been a lifetime’s highlight.
“Thank you, thank you for the best experience of my life,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I am so humbled by, and appreciative of, tonight’s events, every individual involved in the making of tonight, and every single person who has supported Australia over the past 48 hours.
“I never thought I could have the backing of so many, from all the corners of Europe and of the world.”
She also thanked everyone who had supported her, including her parents (who travelled to Belarus with her), her manager YoYo Music and youth broadcaster ABC ME.
“Your love and support has pushed me further than I ever thought I could go, and I am forever grateful for every day you all help me achieve my dreams.”
Jael’s parents were with her backstage when she heard the results.
“You nailed it, darling. This is incredible,” her father said.
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The year seven student often performs at assemblies at her college, where middle school principal Anthony Oldmeadow was “absolutely blown away” the first time he heard her sing.
“Like most people, you relate it pretty quickly to her age and there’s that thought of ‘My goodness, that doesn’t sound like a 12-year-old,” Mr Oldmeadow told The New Daily.
“She’s done some performances for us here but it certainly is a different perspective seeing her on stage, over in Belarus. We’re thrilled for her.”
While she’s still not yet a teenager, Jael has a mature work ethic.
“I can’t wait to get back to work when I get home, working on songs and sharing my passion with you all even more. I’m more motivated than ever because of this incredible time in my life.”
Last year, Australia’s Isabella Clarke also placed third at Junior Eurovision.
“We congratulate Jael on an outstanding, inspiring performance and result. She’s shown herself to be a true champion,” said Libbie Doherty, ABC Acting Head of Children’s Content.
Jael’s Junior Eurovision performance will air on ABC ME at 6pm on Monday.