Romain Virgo reminisces on Digicel Rising Stars
Six years ago you would not have known his names; you would not have cared whether he could sing or not. Six years ago, he could walk the streets of Jamaica unnoticed ... but after winning the Digicel Rising Stars competition in 2007, life for Romain Virgo has changed.
Now, the 23-year-old artiste is famous for hits like Love Doctor, Can't Sleep and Who Feels It Knows It. His birthplace, the little-known community of Stepney in St Ann, was put on the map as Virgo won the hearts of Jamaicans and the million-dollar prize.
Although it's been six years since he took the coveted title over runner-up Jodian Pantry, Virgo says he remembers the final performance show like it was yesterday - "A moment that words can't explain ... . I remember just looking up and all I could say in my mind was thank you God for this. It is surely a moment I will always remember as long as I live."
Virgo, who held the title of the youngest contestant to win Digicel Rising Stars until 2010 when 16-year-old Dalton Harris won the competition, added that he had a wonderful experience while competing. "It was like family," he says, noting that he never forgot about the competitive nature despite having fun with his fellow contestants. The man from St Ann is also eternally grateful for the exposure Digicel Rising Stars gave to his little community.
Romain Virgo is a living testimony to the fact that the Digicel Rising Stars does not only prepare you for competition, or a performance every week ... but it prepares you for life.
It was this sort of assistance which helped Virgo transition from a Digicel Rising Stars winner, to an international artiste. "They didn't just prepare you for each Sunday but also in terms of how to handle the pressure that comes with stardom. So things like how to handle interviews and your fans and just about everything that would give you a start in becoming a rounded artiste."
After winning the contest, another challenge presented itself: How would he make his name in the music business? Of course, it was a commendable feat to win the coveted Digicel Rising Stars title, but now it was time for the real work, without the help of the Rising Stars team.
"It [Digicel Rising Stars] was very good exposure, the entire Jamaica knew who Romain Virgo was but it was very hard trying to find that first big song and to break away from doing cover songs. People always go crazy for the covers from Digicel Rising Stars, but then came the time when the pressure of wanting to hear original songs from the fans".
When asked about this year's crop of contestants, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association Artiste of the Year for 2012 had this to say: "It's hard to really tell who is going to win yet. They just need to step out of their shells a bit more and know, at the end of the day, it's a competition."
After admitting that he started his Digicel Rising Stars journey as a "shy guy", Virgo had some insightful advice to give to the 2013 contenders. "I advise them not to choose songs based on their recent popularity but songs that every single Jamaican can relate to and songs that fit their voice. If they should check the past winners and see the songs they chose, most of them are old soul - just a little idea".