British singer Rita Ora has an eye for New Zealand talent. First, she had her head turned by director Taika Waititi and now she is turning her red chair for Kiwi singers on The Voice Australia.
Ora's romance with Waititi went public while she was filming the Aussie series earlier this year and on Friday evening, NZ audiences met the first Kiwi singer Ora buzzed into the competition on TVNZ 2.
Evile Laloata was only two verses into Fix You by Coldplay, when a delighted Ora buzzed and turned her chair.
"I'm still lost for words, I felt so overwhelmed in disbelief that she turned her chair for me. Having her hear me sing meant so much to me," Laloata tells Spy.
Flattered as he was, the 21-year-old from Christchurch ended up choosing Australian R & B singer Jessica Mauboy as his mentor, saying he felt he had more of a connection to her musical journey.
"I have grown up listening to Jessica's music and I felt like she would be the perfect mentor for me to work with," he says.
It was a proud time for Laloata, knowing he wasn't just doing the show for his friends and family but for his culture and country too.
"I never thought I would be on a global television show like The Voice. I've met so many amazing artists along the way. The support from my family, friends and the worldwide Polynesian community was overwhelming," he says.
Spy understands in the next few weeks Ora again turns her chair for another Kiwi — 24-year-old Ella Monnery from Auckland. Monnery and Laloata were already good friends before they went on The Voice.
"Ella actually called me one day encouraging me to apply for the show, not knowing I had already accepted the opportunity. All I can say is that Australia is not ready for what these two Kiwis are bringing this season."
Monnery appeared on the 2020 season of the show and made it through the gruelling Blind Auditions and battles, before jetting home to New Zealand to prepare for the final rounds. But Covid closed borders and her dreams were dashed when she couldn't get back into Australia.
"It felt so surreal to come back and finish what I started on The Voice stage where I made lifelong friends," says Monnery.
Spy can reveal Monnery also works with Mauboy, whom she says is lovely and very down to earth.
"Being a Kiwi on a huge International show like The Voice was massive, as we don't have anything like that over here. I didn't want to take the opportunity for granted and I wanted to do myself and my country proud and showcase a glimpse of the amazing talent we have in New Zealand."