'I used to be painfully shy but now I've found my Voice'
Belfast-based beauty Nerissa More was given a massive confidence boost by her foray into the world of modelling and now she's showing off her incredible singing style with a stint on Irish talent show
Her name means mermaid or sea nymph in Greek, and it was the moniker Shakespeare chose for his merry wench in The Merchant of Venice. Now, through The Voice of Ireland, Nerissa Moore is hoping to become a household name for her power vocals - despite the fact she was too shy to speak at school.
The Belfast-based model and jewellery sales assistant scooped the dashing judge Bressie, aka musician/producer Niall Breslin, as her mentor last Sunday, when she performed a strong, country-tinged version of the MGMT hit, Electric Feel, for her 'blind audition', singing to the back of the big red chairs. While the other judges commented on her linear approach to the song - they, of course, prefer the formulaic slow build-up to a huge crescendo - the strapping former rugby player praised Nerissa's voice and song choice.
"You have something there," he told her. "We've a lot of work to do but that's what I like - a singer you can push."
Bressie's was the only chair to swivel for the 24-year-old, but she says she would have picked him as coach even if all four had pitched for her. Now she's set to go through to the all-important live shows.
"I thought it would be unusual to sing a song by an all-male band; it has weird lyrics and thought it would get their attention," she says. "I found their remarks really helpful and I've learned so much since the blind audition, which was two months ago.
"Bressie has taught me to breathe and his song choices are right up my street. He's very passionate and tells you straight how it is - and he's not bad looking either! He's massive - six foot five or so. I couldn't reach my arms up to him when I had to give him a hug after the audition."
Although she has written a couple of songs, Nerissa never sang on a stage before The Voice audition, but she has uploaded her rich rendition of Christine McVie's Songbird from Fleetwood Mac's seminal album Rumours, a song better known to her generation through the late Eva Cassidy's soaring version.
"Aye, I just did that in my living room, not very glamorous," she laughs. "I went from that to singing in The Voice. I saw the application form online and just went for it. I might have looked cool on stage and I was grand all day, but when I had to stand waiting to go on at the side of the stage, I got really nervous. I thought I'd forget all the words and never get through it.
"You've to stand on the stage in silence for about five seconds before you start and it feels like forever. I was a nervous wreck, but once I got into it, it was a real adrenalin rush. I didn't even realise I was through at first, but when I listened back, it wasn't too bad. I'll get to prove myself properly in the battle-of-the-singers part of the show in a few weeks."
The chosen contestants have three rounds and nine songs to get through before gaining entry to the live shows on The Voice. Critics have lambasted the seemingly phony rivalry going on among the judges on both the Irish and UK formats, with some speculating that they have picked their acts ahead of the blind auditions, and know the winner way in advance - an allegation levelled at The X Factor and given credence by co-presenter Ollie Murs' gaffe in his premature announcement in an edition last December.
Nerissa didn't meet the Irish judging panel - former Westlifer Kian Egan, Una Foden from The Saturdays, former S Club Seven singer Rachel Stevens and Bressie - until her on-screen audition.
"I sang first of all in a room with the producers and they taped it, but I don't know if the panel heard any of us in advance," she says in her strong north-west twang. "I was star-struck the first time I saw them at the audition and when we had a lunch with them after that. Rachel and Una are so beautiful and very glamourous. Rachel is like a wee doll."
Given the high stakes, Nerissa is under pressure to present a positive visual image to the panel. She has been using her experience in modelling with CMPR to style herself for the series, and opted for a high-necked vintage blouse with lace front for her audition.
"The dress was from Forever 21 and I added a long scarf I bought in Turkey and wore a pair of boots from Penneys," she says. "I don't want to go for a real clean-cut or glam image. I prefer an alternative, earthy look to match the music. I'm keeping it real."
Nerissa's lookalike sister Michaela (25) and brother Shane (26) have been accompanying her through The Voice process so far, but her parents, Jackie, who is originally from Derry, and Brenda, from the tiny Donegal/Londonderry border village of Killea, won't be coming until the live shows.
"They're too nervous," she laughs. "Dad's a welder and mum's disabled, so she doesn't work. She lost a leg to cancer before I was born, but she didn't let it affect her life. She gets on with it. It will be good to have my whole family there in the later stages in Dublin.
"Shane and Michaela was backstage for the blind audition. She looks like me, but she's not like me at all. I've been on at her to do modelling, but she's just not interested. Shane's an online editor and he's been on at me to do something like this for ages.
"And my cousin Gary Gamble, who's a DJ with Highland Radio, has been really encouraging. He was one of the few people I told about it, in the early stages. He was really surprised - he never thought he'd hear me singing on stage in a million years."
Nerissa, whose boyfriend Sean O'Hara is a Garda in Letterkenny, had her first modelling experience when she was crowned the face of the City of Culture 2013 in Derry. She went on to model for Cathy Martin in Belfast Fashion Week and was a finalist in the Sunday Life's 2014 Cover Girl competition. At 5ft five and-a-half inches, she is one of CMPR's smaller models and like the equally petite Joanna Cooper, the current Miss Universe Ireland, she bears a resemblance to the famous Cara Delevingne.
"People say that, I think it's just the eyebrows. They grow like mad and I have to pluck them every day. And I got tweets after The Voice last Sunday saying I look like Paloma Faith - that's a new one for me. But for modelling, being this height is frustrating. I was turned down for jobs in London because of it, which is a pity because I get a real rush from it. It's not as bad in Belfast, they're not as picky."
Nerissa gets her dark colouring from her father, her pixie features from her mother and her singing voice from her granny.
She first moved to Belfast to work as a supervisor for the fashion store Coast, and when she began modelling, her former primary school asked her to come back and give a talk. Given that she was too shy to speak in class as a youngster, the invitation was ironic for Nerissa.
"I was painfully shy, I just couldn't talk. It used to annoy me, 'cause I knew I wasn't really like that, underneath. But I've well snapped out of that now. Modelling has given me confidence to push myself forward. It's funny, I'm actually a bit of a tomboy, not vain at all. I like nothing better than to come home and wash the make-up off my face, put my hair up in a bun and get into my pyjamas."
These days, Nerissa works as a retail assistant for Argento jewellery, as well as modelling.
"You get to learn quite a bit about jewellery in the job - I hadn't a clue exactly what sterling silver was before, for example. Some days I think I'd like to work my way up in Argento and become a retail manager, other days I think I'd like to become a professional singer.
"Whatever happens, I'd love to keep on modelling. I just take every day as it comes and don't take myself too seriously. I believe fate pushed me down the modelling path and then the singing path. I wear a bracelet every day that has 'everything happens for a reason' engraved on it. I live by that."
Nerissa's hits and misses
Personality Type: I like comical people; dislike negative people.
Singer: Love Lana Del Rey; dislike Britney Spears.
Style: I like Olivia Palermo's style; hate '90s glam fashion.
Actor/actress: Like Natalie Portman; dislike Adam Sandler and his put-on lisp!
Model: Barbara Palvin, a L'Oreal model who has made it despite being small. Dislike Naomi Campbell. She was horrible on The Face, shouting at the models.
TV show: I like Only Fools & Horses. I hate EastEnders - so dreary.
Food: Love Chinese; dislike nothing. I'd eat anything!
Drink: Like water; hate apple juice.
Physical characteristic: I like my hair as it's thick and grows so fast; dislike my height.