This article may not be about the mother of all grand gestures, but it’s certainly about a mother making a grand gesture on UK television. This is how it went down. A full-time mother, Claire, 33 from Liverpool, walked on stage for her Britain’s Got Talent 2023 audition. She says she’s accompanied by her daughter Tia, and since Tia helped her through some hard times, she’s giving her spot to her.
Claire says that it’s her way of saying that Tia is fabulous. With Claire tearing up, Tia is soon ushered on stage. Tia has her hand over her mouth so we can’t quite judge her emotional state. Is she startled by her mother’s announcement? Is she shy? Is she awed and made nervous by the size of the audience? You can’t really tell what she’s feeling. The judges sagely give Tia time to compose herself.
When 15-year-old Tia Connolly re-emerges she is a different person. This time she doesn’t cover her face. Tia struts out smiling. She says she started singing at about four and usually sings in the shower, “So this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done”. She sings Whitney Houston’s I Didn’t Know My Own Strength. While she lacks Houston’s seemingly effortless high range, she certainly belts out the song. One commenter writes: “Goosebumps the moment she started singing. Oh my God.”
Many YouTube commenters commend Connolly’s mother Claire. Tom Ten writes: “What a mom & what a STUNNING VOCALIST her daughter is. And mom remember, to be a full-time mom is a full-time job and you are great at it.” Chumphrey states: “So glad to see how much this mom believes in her daughter. This kid is one powerful singer.” The Hayes comment on Tia’s stage presence: “She knew exactly when to pull the mic to and from her mouth like she’s been on stage for years”. What happened in the next round?
That is Tia Connolly’s semi-final rendition of Katy Perry’s Fireworks. She has a big voice and again she belted out the chorus with gusto. Connolly didn’t make it through and judge Simon Cowell copped some flak for telling her that she had advanced past the audition stage “not because you’re the best singer in the competition, but because you’ve got guts.” He also said that his advice would be for her to spend a few years in a singing group “with some friends and then, who knows.” Some BGT talent viewers took to social media to call out Cowell’s “meanness” to a 15-year-old, others praised him for his honesty and good advice.
There is more to this story. Like hand grenades, grand gestures have a nasty habit of blowing up. Immediately after Claire/Tia Connolly’s audition, some BGT viewers smelled a rat. In a headline, the Irish Mail announced “fans accuse mum and daughter of ‘faking’ sweet moment”. In support, the publication quoted tweets: “They don’t need to lie and set up the ‘giving my audition to my daughter’. Transparency is important. It’s #BGT people I have a problem with. It’s actually using Tia and her mum as pawns,” is one. Another goes: “This whole thing with the mum giving up her audition to her daughter seems SO fake.” More damaging than these suspicions was the revelation that Tia Connolly was not simply a “shower singer”, but a TikToker and Instagramer with an impressive following. The following tweets from the BGT Twitter account were quoted in The Sun: “Hmmm not performed before? Nearly 40,000 followers on Tik Tok”//”Def scouted for the show, mum and daughter have an insta account with 39k followers.” Still, being popular on Tik Tok or Instagram isn’t against BGT rules.
Whatever the truth, Claire giving up her audition set Tia up. After the grand emotional gesture, Tia’s chances of going through the audition round were bolstered, which prepared the ground for Simon’s comments after Tia’s semi-final performance.
There is another matter which is perhaps more pertinent. Performers are selected for BGT auditions. You need to apply before the closing date and submit video recordings or be otherwise vetted to be invited to audition. The invitations are not transferable. I can’t get some well-meaning person to audition on my behalf. Come to think of it, maybe I should give Ed Sheeran a call. He makes a habit of being very nice.
During the hoo-hah after Claire/Tia Connolly’s audition, details were revealed in the press about Claire’s troubled past, but we won’t dwell on that other than to note that very public grand gestures can have unintended consequences. While Tia was clearly a more experienced singer than she let on, there is no real evidence of bad intentions from the mother and daughter. If anything, it all seems more like a hare-brained moment of inspiration by a BGT talent agent.
The Music Man wishes Claire and Tia Connolly good luck for the future. If you would like to see more from Tia Connolly, you can subscribe to her Instagram.