Justin Degryse was a young teenage boy in Belgium who loved to sing in his bedroom for his own pleasure. He didn’t have any aspirations to sing for an audience. In fact, he didn’t even tell anyone that he liked to sing as he found it too embarrassing.
Thankfully, his mother saw things differently. She knew that her son had talent and that he should share this with the world. “Sometimes I’ll hear him singing in his room,” she said. “He’s too afraid to let others hear him.” So, in 2020, she signed him up for The Voice Kids, which had been on Belgium TV since 2014. In an interview, Degryse explained his song choice, “Lovely” by Billie Eilish. “I think the song is about embarrassment,” he said. “I can relate sometimes.”
Having never performed in front of anyone before, Degryse was now in the Blind Audition stage of a huge national competition. He would have to fight past his embarrassment to sing to the judges – as well as a million Belgian viewers! This would be a significant challenge for anyone, but for a shy and insecure thirteen-year-old, this would require deep reserves of bravery.
He began the performance with a confidence that belied his nerves. As he reached the falsetto chorus, the first judge spun around in her chair. The teenager’s eyes widened in astonishment. Then another chair turned. Shortly after that, the other two chairs turned at the same time. Degryse finished his performance knowing he had won the approval of all four judges. As the crowd stood to cheer long and hard, one of the judges remarked, “That’s what they call a standing ovation!”
Following this were astonishing scenes as the judges fought to recruit Degryse onto their team. Gers Pardoel stood on his chair to be seen above his rival judges. He pleaded with Degryse to join his team, reminding him that he had mentored the previous year’s winner. Looking to go one better, Laura Tesoro went on to the stage to put a proprietary arm around the teen sensation.
In the end, it was decided that they would let Degryse make his choice with a touch of theatre. The judges sat back in their chairs and turned their backs to the stage. Degryse then made his way slowly forward to the judge of his choice. Tesoro’s show of enthusiasm paid off as she was selected, celebrating with all the rapture of a lottery winner.
Degryse went right through to the finals, with performances of songs such as “How Do You Sleep” by Sam Smith and another Eilish number with “Bellyache”. Though he didn’t end up winning the competition, he had well and truly defeated his insecurity and embarrassment. No longer confined to performing in his bedroom, Degryse had announced himself on the national stage and become a star. If you would like to see more from Justin Degryse, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel.