“No, I can’t breathe.”
These were the words of Justine Afante, a 13-year-old Filipina, when asked how she felt after winning The Voice Kids 2020 UK. Seven-year-old Filipina Victoria Alsina also joined Justine in the grand finals.
Justine, who lives in the city of Swansea, Wales, has been one of the crowd favorites since she sang “Never Enough” for her blind audition. Her stirring, powerful version of the track from “The Greatest Showman” impelled the coaches—will.i.am, Pixie Lott, Danny Jones and Paloma Faith—to turn their chairs. She eventually chose Pixie as her mentor, the singer best known for her hit single “Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)” and her rendition of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Lorde’s “Royals.”
“I am in so much shock," she blurted out, amidst a flurry of emotions at the near end of the mostly-virtual show. “They were all so good, and I didn't think I was going to be the one.”
In the grand finals, Justine again wowed the judges—and the voting audience—as she belted out Beyoncé’s “Listen.”
Though The Voice may be the biggest stage she has ever performed on, Justine has been gearing herself up for this triumph.
In an interview with WalesOnline, Justine revealed she has been singing since she was around two years old. Eventually, as people began to notice her talent, people started asking her to sing at parties. But the first party she remembers singing at was for her own 7th birthday.
Justine’s mother, Renea Afante, told ITV that Justine sings all time, even in the bathroom while taking a shower. Renea added, "Sometimes I have to say to her, ‘Lower it down because the neighbors will hear you,’ or ‘It's too loud.’ And sometimes I have to say, ‘Stop it, you have to rest.’”
Last year, Justine sang the anthem for her city and county’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
A student of Bishop Vaughan Catholic School, Justine was raised by her Filipino parents in a very spiritual environment. The Afantes are active members of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Swansea—the same parish where her brother is an altar boy. In fact, Justine’s regular singing activities during mass and other events organized by the church may have helped sharpen her vocal chops.
She is also a former student at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School, who was actively supporting her during her run in The Voice.
In her ITV interview, Justine said that after winning, she wants to do more singing, and probably make a career out of it. “But I think singing in The Voice Kids UK has been a dream come true—and I don't want it to stop.”
As the grand winner, Justine will receive a bursary, or a grant, for her musical education, that’s worth £30,000 (or around PhP2 million). The grand finalists will also get a free family trip to Universal Orlando Resort, Florida.