LONDON, England - A 9-year-old Filipina singer has been axed from reality show Britain's Got Talent (BGT) despite being hailed as a "little diva" at the auditions, much to the shock of her parents and British media.
Arisxandra Libantino from Nottingham was tipped as a favorite in the competition after delivering a rousing performance at the Birmingham auditions.
She belted "And I Am Telling You" by Jennifer Hudson in front of the judging panel including Hollywood star David Hasselhoff, comedian Michael McIntyre, and actress Amanda Holden.
"Are you really 9 years old?" Hasselhoff was reported saying. "You are the best singer we have had on the show. You are so sweet. You owned that song. You channelled the diva. Great job."
Holden added: "You have the biggest set of lungs ever for someone so small. I can’t believe it. You are a little diva in the making."
Miss Libantino was also popular with the audience, who gave her a standing ovation.
The aspiring singer was quickly hailed as "Mini-SuBo" in the British press, which compared her to Susan Boyle, who was discovered in the same show through her now famous rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream."
Despite widespread support, Libantino was dropped from the show on the eve of the last round of auditions, which means that producers decided to exclude her audition from the program.
Media reports suggest that this was due to "lack of time" in the series, adding that not all auditions are shown on television.
A source told The Sun: "It's odd a contestant so good will not be shown when so many rubbish acts go through."
Stephen Mulhern, presenter of Britain's Got More Talent, also told the publication: "They've never done that before."
The young schoolgirl received remarkable comments from the judges, a positive reaction from the live audience, and walked away with 3 "yes" votes, all of which should have been enough to give her a chance to appear in the show.
Her parents Elma and Aristotle, who both originally from Nueva Ecija in the Philippines, are baffled by what happened.
|Arisxandra Libantino performing at a cultural festival in England
"We're confused," Elma told ABS-CBN Europe. "I don't know what to say. I was there at the audition with the audience and what the judges said about her were really good. We don't know what happened."
She continued: "We were over the moon. She had a great audition, even the [TV] crew said that. Most of them knew her, and they said she was good."
"We're disappointed," added Aristotle, who also admitted he felt "hurt" by the decision. "We were expecting her to get into the semifinals and for her audition to be aired on TV. The audition was really good. We were very happy. Everybody expected her to go far in the competition. I heard a lot of people say that she could be in the finals."
The Libantinos were initially told by the BGT team that their daughter’s audition will be aired at some point in the series. They waited for confirmation for weeks, but were disheartened when media reports confirmed otherwise.
Never give up
Amid the controversy, Libantino remains passionate about music and performance. She told ABS-CBN Europe: "I want to be a singer. I want to show everybody my talent. I enjoy it when I’m singing in front of people."
She wants to follow in the footsteps of her idols: music legend Whitney Houston, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, who started her career from a similar talent show called American Idol.
Since auditioning for the show, she has become a YouTube sensation, attracting thousands of online hits. She also caught some media attention from the likes of Metro, The Daily Mail, and The Telegraph.
Libantino and her parents are currently exploring their options. They also said they may try to audition again for BGT, though they are still unsure at this stage.
BGT has yet to comment on the issue.