Meet teen Pinay in top 12 of 'X-Factor USA'

By Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Nov 05 2013 08:51 PM | Updated as of Nov 06 2013 04:51 AM

HOLLYWOOD, California – In her first interview since making it to the top 12 of “The X-Factor USA,” Filipino-American singer Ellona Santiago talked about the challenges she faces while competing in the internationally aired reality talent search.

Speaking exclusively with ABS-CBN News, Santiago also shared how her father's favorite Tagalog song got her into singing.

This week, Santiago will compete with her fellow “X-Factor” finalists.

“This time it's the voting rounds, so America needs to vote for us. They're pretty much holding our fate in the competition so hopefully I get all the votes,” she said, laughing.

The 17-year-old singer said it's difficult juggling her senior year school work and competing in a big TV show, but she does her best with the help of her family especially her constant companion, her sister Olein.

But during last Saturday's rehearsals, the young singer broke down in tears.

"Before I got mentored by Demi [Lovato], I kind of broke down on her. I was keeping it in. I was trying to stay strong but I was just exhausted. I was so tired, and I just had to let it out. And she was there for me,” Santiago said.

“She gave me a talk, just saying that, 'It is really this hard. To get where you want to go to, you need to really work hard. It will be difficult. But in the long run, you'll look back at it, you'll be proud and be glad that you did what you did,'" she said.

Santiago said she's working hard so that she could give her parents a better life and to repay them for giving everything to her and her siblings.

She added that she is also inspired by fellow Filipinos who have been expressing their support for her in social media.

Asked if she knows any Tagalog songs, Santiago said, “When I was 3, I started singing because of my dad. His favorite was Jessa Zaragosa, and the first song that I actually sang was 'Ibigay Mo Na.' It's kind of awkward but it's the first song that I listened to!”

She hopes that the big Filipino community in America will also support her.

"Tulungan n'yo po akong matupad ang aking pangarap. Please vote for me," Santiago said.

This Wednesday, the top 12 “X-Factor” contestants will sing Motown songs. Viewers can then vote for their favorites to advance in the competition.