Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Andrea Begley: One contestant on The Voice was so rude about my blindness

Co Tyrone singer reveals the highs and lows in her new autobiography

Andrea Begley photographed at Dean Street Studio, London, 7 August 2013. Photo by: Carsten Windhorst / FRPAP.com
Andrea Begley photographed at Dean Street Studio, London, 7 August 2013. Photo by: Carsten Windhorst / FRPAP.com
Danny O'Donoghue, Andrea Begley, Holly Willoughby
Danny O'Donoghue, Andrea Begley, Holly Willoughby
Andrea Begley, winner of The Voice pictured back at home in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone Northern Ireland before the final.
Andrea Begley, winner of The Voice pictured back at home in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone Northern Ireland before the final.

The Voice winner Andrea Begley has revealed how a rival contestant on the singing contest rudely shoved her face into hers during tense show rehearsals.

The visually-impaired Tyrone talent writes about the breathtaking ignorance she endured at the hands of a fellow finalist in a new book about her life.

I Didn’t See It Coming tells the remarkable story of how the Pomeroy woman with the angelic voice defied the odds to win the top BBC talent show last June.

Andrea — visually impaired since the age of six and now 90 per cent blind — has never allowed her serious sight problems to get in the way of making her dreams come true.

Among Andrea’s achievements are:

  •  Grade A in three A-Levels including the third highest score for politics in Northern Ireland
  •  Becoming the first blind law student at Queen’s University; and
  • White-water rafting in Peru in 2010.

But Andrea, 27, also writes touchingly about how advancing eye problems eventually robbed her of her sight and how some people don’t understand how to engage with her.

She wrote about The Voice: “Most of the contestants were really helpful, especially bearing in mind that they had their own competition to concentrate on.

“However, this one particular contestant didn’t really seem to get it and she kept coming up to me and asking really blunt questions.

“One day she said, ‘So what can you actually see?’ To which I replied, ‘Well not very much, just out

lines, colours — it’s all very blurry’.

“Then she said, ‘Well can you see this?’ And she pretty much shoved her face right into mine! She was literally right up in my face, her spatial awareness was not great!”

But the level-headed Northern Ireland woman refused to be ruffled by the unidentified rival’s rudeness.

“I remember Hannah (Andrea’s sister) and me had quite a giggle about if afterwards and a few of the other contestants did too,” she added. “I think they were a bit surprised that she actually did it.”

Mischievous

Andrea also told how humour helps her cope with her eye problems — which has left her with 10 per cent vision.

She revealed how she made her Voice mentor, The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue laugh uproariously after suggesting to him that she wanted to call her debut album ‘Blind As Folk’!

And Andrea showed just how mischievous a sense of humour she has — while using new talking software on her computer laptop.

She said: “I have to be honest and say that because the voice is electronic — it sounds a bit like Stephen Hawking — for the first few days after I got the speech software my main source of entertainment was to type curse words and stupid sentences into it, just because I thought this was absolutely hilarious.”

Her wickedly funny side was also revealed when she teased semi-finalist Karl Michael about seeing his striptease in a BBC dressing room!

She revealed: “Karl came in at one point and he said, ‘Andrea, would it really matter if I got changed in front of you?’ — thinking I would obviously not be able to see anything.

“I said, ‘Not a bother’, but when he had finished I said, ‘Karl, this is the point where I reveal that actually I can see quite a bit and in fact I just saw ALL of you getting changed!’”

Andrea, who beat the bookies hot favourite — Newtownabbey woman Leah McFall — to win The Voice, is philosophical about those who claim a sympathy vote helped her to take the title.

Frustrating

“It is frustrating and disappointing at times and you can be a bit peeved off when someone points to the visual impairment as being the reason why I did well,” she said.

“But it didn’t really annoy me as much as it might have because I expected that I would get that feedback.”

And she displayed the same level-headed Northern Irish attitude after being told that Leah McFall’s star mentor will.i.am had stormed off set after her win.

She added: “I am being completely honest here when I say it didn’t really bother me... I genuinely didn’t feel any sense of bitterness or annoyance at all.

“He is entitled to do and say what he wants and he was never anything other than a gentleman to me in person.”

 

Andrea Begley will sign copies of I Didn’t See That Coming (BBC Books - £7.99) at Eason’s, Donegall Place, Belfast at 1pm on Saturday, November 2.

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