She’s performed for Dame Julie Andrews, written two musicals and has a number-one song.
It’s an impressive résumé, but New Zealand’s Got Talent semifinalist Renee Maurice is still waiting for her big break – and the Upper Hutt singer is adamant that this time, she’ll win.
The 22-year-old unsuccessfully auditioned for the first season of NZGT and was eliminated from the boot camp stage of The X Factor NZ, despite impressing judges in the audition stage with her rendition of Céline Dion’s It’s
All Coming Back to Me Now.
But it’s Renee’s difficult, and at times tragic, past which has helped her become a determined and confident woman who refuses to quit.
“I have a lot of scars – physically and mentally,” she says.
At the age of 10, she was in a car crash which claimed the lives of her grandmother and great uncle.
She has also endured three operations for a heart condition – the last of which went horribly wrong three years ago.
“I was left with blood clots in my leg, which I had surgery to remove, but that then caused nerve damage in my leg. It felt like my foot was being put through a vice.”
Incredibly, it was during her recovery from nerve damage that she penned a 20-song musical about the deadly fire at Seacliff Mental Hospital in 1942, which claimed 37 lives, in an effort to raise awareness about the tragedy.
Despite her difficulties, Renee has never let the challenges she’s faced affect her future.
At the age of 15, she performed for Dame Julie Andrews after she was sent to Los Angeles on behalf of the children’s charity StarJam, where she volunteers.
“I got some wonderful feedback from her,” says Renee. “She said my performance was very moving and beautiful. After you hear that, you kind of don’t need anyone else’s opinion!”
And her talents don’t stop at singing – an accomplished songwriter with 200 tracks in her back catalogue, she once wrote a song called For The Love of Saula, about X Factor mogul Simon Cowell’s relationship with former judge Paula Abdul.
It reached number one on the Australasian MP3 charts and stayed there for 10 weeks.
But there have been other tragedies and health scares that have rocked her close-knit family – mum Patrice suffers from epilepsy and dad John also has heart problems.
“I think I’m due for something positive,” she says with a laugh.
“I know what I’m good at. It’s singing. If I’m not singing, I don’t know who I am and I can’t do anything else, so that’s what drives me.”
Renee, a musical theatre fan who cites Bette Midler and Whitney Houston to be among her favourite artists, is stoked to be on NZGT, especially in the wake of her X Factor performance.
“This show is a better fit,” she says. “I wasn’t what they were looking for. At the end of the day, I want to be true to myself.”
About Kelly Bertrand
“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”more of this author