When Arihana White-Ututaonga gets up on stage these days, it's not just to fulfil her dream of performing.

She also does it to show the person who attacked her and almost cost her vision, that they gave her an undeniable strength.

This week - less than two months after a brutal attack which left her partially blind and with broken bones across her face - the Rotorua teenager performed in the live auditions of X Factor New Zealand.

Today she will sing at the White Ribbon Celebrate Whanau Day here in Rotorua.


Her performances won't surprise the doctors and nurses at Waikato Hospital who treated her after the assault. She spent a week there undergoing two seven-hour surgeries to help repair her eyes, which were split open and required more than 20 stitches. Despite it all, one of the first things she asked for was her guitar.

She can see objects close to her but her eyesight is blurry, she has trouble making out objects, and needs help walking around kerbs.

The 16-year-old, who has just completed her Certificate of Contemporary Music Performance at Waiariki Institute of Technology, has been singing for as long as she can remember - but her initial X Factor audition was one of her first solo public performances.

She said the assault probably helped spur her to audition and gave her an added strength.

While the case is still before the courts, Arihana hoped the person who attacked her would see her performing and see her strength.

Arihana said she had to tell producers at the initial audition of the assault, as her mum Renee White had to lead her out on to the stage because she couldn't see properly.

For Ms White, seeing her daughter's strength after the assault has been amazing.

"She's an inspiration to young girls. After what she's been through most people would be crying in bed.


"She asked for her guitar when she was in hospital and she sang for the nurses," Ms White said.

Arihana doesn't want to let the assault define her but was conscious that it was now a part of her story.

She said many of her wider circle of friends and extended family weren't aware of what happened, and she often had difficulty when people called out to her in the street, as she couldn't see who they were.

The future prognosis for her eyesight was up in the air - Arihana was confident it would improve while doctors weren't making any promises.

Arihana said either way she was determined to continue with her music.

X Factor aside, she plans to return to Waiariki next year to continue her music studies, and hopes to one day be a recording artist similar to Jennifer Hudson or India Arie.