With no immediate career prospects or any idea of what she wanted to do with her life, Jackie Thomas was ”just going with it”.
Now the 22-year-old former meatworker has a record deal, a new car and a future in the spotlight.
After being a hot favourite to win the first X Factor New Zealand from the get-go, it seems incomprehensible that the Greymouth singer initially thought she did not even have the talent to enter.
”I didn’t think I could sing. I didn’t think I was any good,” she said.
”My mum made me enter.”
After a gruelling contest that saw her lead the voting polls for seven out of the 10 weeks of the competition, Thomas was crowned victorious in front of her fans, friends and family in Monday night’s final.
Despite a whirlwind couple of days packed with media appearances and recording sessions, Thomas said she was still ”in shock” over her triumph.
”It was amazing and I can’t even explain it. I didn’t expect it. It was definitely the best moment of my life,” she said.
”I just can’t say thank you enough. I didn’t realise going through that I had that much support.”
Thomas’s single, It’s Worth It, has shot to the top of iTunes, and her album is set for release on August 9.
It is a long way from the West Coast, where Thomas grew up and until this year worked in payroll at the meatworks with her father.
”I had no plans. I was just going with it, so it’s awesome to have a path now,” she said.
Now her mind is firmly set on carving out a career as a musician, but she wants to conquer her homeland before she looks overseas.
”I’m thinking I’m going to try to make it big in New Zealand first. I’m taking baby steps,” she said.
”I am proud of myself and I’m so glad that I made [Greymouth] so proud. I know that they are my biggest fans down there.”
Linwood-raised runner-up Whenua Patuwai, on the other hand, has accelerated a career in music that he had always been striving for.
Now back in Christchurch, Patuwai said he would take a week or so to ”recharge his batteries” and then hoped to start recording some music with contacts he met in the competition.
He also has show mentor and New Zealand singer Ruby Frost’s backing, after she told him to ”just give us a text if I ever need help”.
”I’m definitely not stopping now. I’ve just got to carry on, and it’s all about working hard,” he said.
Christchurch boy band Moorhouse are also itching to get into the recording studio after being ousted from the show in fourth place.
Band member Brock Ashby said that while yesterday was spent catching up with friends and family, the quartet would regroup today to ”start songwriting and planning our future”.
”We’ve got to make the most of the exposure we got from X Factor … and we want to say thank you to the fans and everyone, so hopefully we’ll sort out some appearances [in Christchurch],” he said.
”We want to be picked up. We can’t wait to see what happens.”