Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

It's time to lay off my Andrea, says Voice winner's mum

Voice UK final Andrea Begley
Voice UK final Andrea Begley

Andrea Begley's mother Anne has laughed off criticism about her star daughter's unexpected win of The Voice UK.

It's been just three days since the gifted 27-year-old from Pomeroy won the BBC talent search competition, yet the knives are already out.

The visually impaired singer, who has only 10% vision, maintained a presence in the bookies' top five favourites to win the show since the second series launched in April.

But she stunned viewers and her mother when she beat Carnmoney fashion student and hot favourite Leah McFall on Saturday night.

Some 8.7 million viewers saw Andrea being crowned champion after she secured the majority of the public vote and won a lucrative record deal with Universal.

And while she has received widespread support from fans across the UK and Ireland, the Tyrone woman has also been the target of some less than flattering comments from TV critics in national newspapers.

In her first newspaper interview on her birthday yesterday, Anne Begley laughed off the negative comments circulating about her daughter's ability to perform with a disability.

"I am around long enough to know you take the rough with the smooth," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"If Andrea can laugh at her disability and some of the knock backs she's had we can cope with anything. She's embracing it all, taking it in her stride and will live the dream for as long or short as that may be."

Much was made by viewers of Anne's reaction as she sat stony-faced after Holly Willoughby announced Andrea had won the show.

Explaining her reaction, she said: "I was totally stunned. I was absolutely not angry or upset.

"As a mother you can see a difference coming into your life already; I can foresee changes.

"We are a very close knit family, always around Andrea, so all those emotions were going through my head."

Meanwhile, disability charities in Northern Ireland have hit back at the criticism levelled at Andrea.

Rosaleen Dempsey, children and youth services manager for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Northern Ireland, of which Andrea is a committee member, said: "We've all seen the disparaging remarks about Andrea's sensational win on Saturday night, but the fact remains, she received the most votes because the majority of voters loved her voice.

"RNIB NI would like to congratulate Andrea and we're confident that with her fabulous voice and tenacious personality, she will go far."

Those thoughts were echoed by a spokeswoman for Disability Action.

"Andrea has demonstrated her huge talent over the past number of weeks and we wish her every success in the future," she said.

"Anyone commenting negatively in relation to Andrea's disability should think about the very positive attitude that Andrea has and deal with their own prejudices."

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