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How Aja Neinstein won the Perez Hilton singing competition

Tags: Arts Aja Neinstein Can YOU Sing Chandelier Perez Hilton Sia
Aja Neinstein

Ten-year-old Aja Neinstein of Toronto won Perez Hilton’s annual worldwide singing competition Can YOU Sing? this year.

“We asked the world for their best covers of singer-songwriter Sia’s Chandelier and we got Aja Neinstein. Her voice is major! And we love the stripped-down piano interpretation of the song,” wrote Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger, upon announcing Aja’s win on July 14.

“Aja started singing as soon as she could speak,” her mother, Michelle Neinstein says.

She was certainly singing as far back as she herself can recall, Aja said in an interview. “I remember singing Disney’s Ariel songs at age two. By age four, I started performing on stage and people would tell me I have that something special.”

A number of people have helped her develop that special quality.

Alex Moses of Act One Academy has worked with the tween since she was six years old. “I work with thousands of children a year,” he said, “and I can confidently say that there is no better 10-year-old female singer in Canada today. I’m thrilled that she won the Perez Hilton competition.”

Zack Werner, former Canadian Idol judge has worked with Aja at his Idol School for two years.

“Aja has a gift as a vocalist, but she also has a deep artistic understanding of what she is singing and a huge energy and passion for it,” Werner said.  

“Her love of music right now is so broad. She is beyond traditional pop and little-kid music,” he added.

Mark Feldman has also been working with Aja, teaching her to play piano and how to accompany herself while singing. 

Practising five hours a day, she is passionate and dedicated to her craft.

“Aja is a powerhouse. She is vocally able to belt it out. For most singers, that’s one of the hardest things to achieve, but she is already ahead of the curve,” Feldman said.

The winning video and choice of the song Chandelier were the brainchild of Aja’s voice coach, Marla Joy. An accomplished musician, Joy has toured with Prince and Mary J. Blige and has been coaching Aja for the past year.  

“Aja is an insanely talented young girl – her raw talent is completely undeniable. I had an idea based on where Aja was vocally and where I knew she could go, while making a statement doing it,” Joy said.

In the original Chandelier, artist Sia paired the song with a video of a young performer dancing while wearing a platinum wig that resembles Sia’s signature hairdo.

“I had Aja in the same wig and body suit and created a stripped-down version of the song with a singing instead of a dancing girl,” Joy said.

Joy brought a team together: Jody Litvack, who produced the winning video, and Kibwe Thomas, who did the piano arrangement and audio.

“Although the content of the song was mature, Aja understood the underlying emotion, [and this] allowed us to become more creative in shooting the video,” Litvack said.

With the focus on having fun and building Aja’s portfolio with online presence, the fact that the video existed was, in itself, a fluke, as it was only after completing the video and tweaking the final editing that the pair discovered they had inadvertently created the perfect entry for Hilton’s competition.

“To our complete surprise, the first thing that popped up on the computer screen was Perez Hilton’s Can YOU Sing Chandelier Competition. It was the first week of July and submission was due by July 14. It was bashert,” Litvack said.

The twist to the story was that Aja did not know her parents had agreed to submit the video to Perezhilton.com. She was not told of her win until her family brought the news to her at camp on visitors’ day.

“My dream when I am older is to be a famous singer and actor,” Aja said. “I’m happy my parents submitted the video. My mom told me we may even go to New York City and meet Perez Hilton. I would tell him I am a big fan and thank him for choosing me.”

With more than 17,000 video views to date, a tweet from Perez Hilton to Ellen DeGeneres that she must have this girl on her show and a further tweet directed to Aja inviting her to visit him in New York City, Aja’s dream of being a famous singer may also be bashert.


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