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X Factor winner Vierka Bierkova: From pop sensation... to the Cultra hotel

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Three years ago she was a superstar singing to thousands of adoring fans. She had a recording contract worth thousands of euros and the world was at her feet.

But today Vierka Bierkova, a Slovakian X Factor winner, is more likely to be turning bedsheets than topping the charts, as the 19-year-old is now working as a house keeper at the five-star Culloden Hotel — earning little more than the minimum wage.

“It’s different,” she told the Belfast Telegraph, speaking through an interpreter.

The 19-year-old was catapulted to stardom in her home country after winning the Slovakian version of X Factor in Bratislava in 2007.

First prize in the Searching for a Superstar talent show saw Vierka scoop a major recording contract with Sony BMG Recordings. However, after releasing just one single, that potentially lucrative deal was terminated and she never released a full album.

“I was just 16 when I joined the Slovakian version of X Factor. I really liked singing and music and I didn’t really think about winning, but the judges really liked my singing and my style,” she said.

“I was just a student at the time and was playing a few small performances — children’s days, small occasional festivals and so on. I was the favourite to win from the start. It was amazing and everybody recognised me. On one side it was very difficult, being just 16 and having journalists looking into everything in my life and everybody knowing me.

“But my parents covered me. My dad was my manager and he tried to protect me.”

While few in Northern Ireland would take a second glance, some of the migrant workers, including a number of colleagues at the Culloden, recognised Vierka from her former television success.

“Some people are from Slovakia and they know me,” she said. “They are surprised to see me working in the Culloden. Like in the UK, everybody in Slovakia watched the show.”

Since moving to Belfast in 2008 she has held down a string of menial jobs, including a stint as a checkout operator at KFC.

“KFC was good — that really helped my English because I was on the till,” she said.

“I miss the showbiz life a little but I trust that this is a good start for me for my new career. I have to get money for more recording sessions,” she added.

Sitting in a Belfast cafe, accompanied by her father, Vierka declined to divulge details of why her music career took a nose dive.

“We came here for a few reasons — to keep the family together,” she said.

“I wanted to learn better English, which will help me more in my future career. It’s a very different world compared to Slovakia, but it’s not that bad.

“I’m together with my family, but I’d like to restart my singing career.”

Vierka, who is also a talented beatbox performer, is to be the star attraction at tomorrow’s Fabrika Festival picnic in Belfast and she hopes the appearance will help propel her to future success.

She has also entered a Sky talent show called PerformersTV.

“I have no intention of entering the British X Factor — PerformersTV is more professional and it is more popular outside the UK,” she concluded.

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