THIS time eight weeks ago no-one had heard of Hollie Steel.
But now more than two million people have viewed her Britain’s Got Talent audition on YouTube.
The 10-year-old, from Huncoat, captured the hearts of the nation with her rendition of I Could Have Danced All Night, dressed in her mini ballerina tutu. Amanda Holden and Kelly Brook were in tears and the audience took part in a standing ovation as Hollie auditioned in Manchester for the competition.
She even won over TV’s Mr Nasty Simon Cowell, who from day one said she had a “fantastic voice” and told her she would “sail through” the competition.
The pupil of Oakhill College, Accrington, who grew up with her family off Pendle Way, Burnley, before moving to Huncoat, touched everyone’s hearts when she broke down in tears during her semi-final rendition of Edelweiss after forgetting the words.
She was voted through to the final and came within a whisker of being able to perform in front of the Queen but it was dance group Diversity who took the crown.
But the dream didn’t stop there and now the pint-sized performer is preparing to travel around the UK for the Britain’s Got Talent arena tour — and already she’s starting to feel like a superstar.
She has been asked for her autograph in the street, signed pictures of herself at school and every day she is recognised whereever she goes.
“I feel like I'm a bit famous now," she said. "People keep looking and waving at me in the street. I say 'hi' but I’m a bit embarrassed.”
Her mum Nina says Hollie is taking it in her stride but she is making sure to keep her feet firmly on the ground.
“She’s still a kid afterall.” Nina said. “But it’s been lovely to receive so many letters of support for her. We’ve had letters just addressed to Hollie Steel, BGT, and they’ve reached us.”
After travelling down to London on a luxury coach, Hollie and her mum, Nina, joined by the other contestants have spent the last week rehearsing at The Apollo, in Hammersmith and staying just around the corner at The Novotel Hotel.
“The hotel is really posh,” said an excited Nina, 37. “And the food is really good at the rehearsals. We go down at 9.30am and do the run-throughs. Then at lunch they have these on site caterers. All the parents keep saying if we carry on eating so much we’ll go home a dress size up.
“They are really looking after us. Throughout the tour Hollie has a tutor for her school work. She has been writing a bit of an autobiography/diary type thing, too.”
Hollie has made friends with fellow singer Shaheen, 12, dancer Aiden, 11 and 12-year-old Sally from 2 Grand who, Nina revealed, Hollie will sing a Sound of Music medley with on the tour. Hollie says meeting her new friends has been the best part of Britain’s Got Talent.
She said: “I want to see them when the tour is over but they live really far away.”
But Nina, who works as an audiologist at St Peter's Centre, in Burnley is making sure Hollie puts in enough all-important practice time.
“Hollie is doing a solo in the first act," she said. "She’s doing her audition song, “I Could Have Danced All Night”. She really wanted to do that for the competition and I wished she had now. It might have made all the difference — but Simon Cowell didn’t like it.”
Determined there will be no tears on stage this time, Hollie said: “I dont think I’ll cry again. I’ve been Annie before in theatre and being on stage isn’t as bad as telly. Just before I went on the time I cried someone told me there weres 15 million people watching.”
Nina added: “Everything on TV was all focused on camera work. Hollie is better at this because of her time with Basics theatre school in Colne.
“But in the second act she’s doing a completely new song called I Have Confidence from The Sound Of Music, which she’s been learning for just three days. It’s a lot to ask when she’s only 10. But everyone is in the same position. Julian said to me he’d never even heard of one of his songs.”
Nina is extra proud of Hollie because she is the youngest person on tour.
“We practise in the hotel room before we go for tea, especially the dancing. She’s got to learn to use a hand-held mic, which she keeps moving around so you can’t hear her!”
The tour kicked off yesterday, and tomorrow it comes to Manchester, where Hollie’s friends and family will be in the audience. Over the course of the next month she will perform a total of 24 shows to crowds the size of which Hollie has never seen. And the tour also brings a different type of first for Hollie as the youngster makes her first trip on an aeroplane when the tour goes to Ireland. The Belfast show, on July 1, will be an extra special one for Hollie because she celebrates her 11th birthday that day.
Dad Jason, who also works for the NHS, and 15-year-old brother Joshua, who are at home in Huncoat, cannot make it over to Ireland and Nina and Hollie agree that, aside from all the excitement, it is tough leaving their family behind.
Nina said: “We’ve never have been away from home this long it’s strange really. We keep ringing to see of they’re OK.”
“It’ll be the best birthday being on stage but I cant wait to see Josh. He cheers me up,” added Hollie.
It is her brother she has to thank for her success. He convinced their parents to let them audition for the talent contest, although the judges were not impressed with his tap dancing, nor his singing of Fly Me to the Moon. But the schoolboy has pledged to try again next year.
“Josh isn’t jealous of Hollie. He’s proud of her. We all are,” Nina added.
l See Hollie in Britain’s Got Talent 2009 at the Manchester’s MEN Arena on Sunday at 6.30pm. For tickets contact 0844 847 2277.