Jessie Hillel, Wellington-settled girl from Kottayam, is the first runner-up at the New Zealand Got Talent contest.

“It was an awesome experience,” she mailed to her grandparents here about the grand finale of the New Zealand Got Talent contest, after lifting the first runner-up prize on Sunday.

Jessie Hillel, 11-year-old Wellington-settled Malayali girl from Kottayam, was piped to the post by Clara van Wel, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who took home $100,000, a car and recording contract.

Ms. Hillel with her “heavenly voice” was one of the hot favourites with the judges but popular votes turned the tide in favour of Ms. van Wel, reports said. Evan Sinton, another singer, got the second runner-up prize.

Many fans

During the past few weeks ever since she became a sensation, little Hillel had carried a big fan following not only with her angelic voice but also her simple demeanour.

Ms. Hillel who started singing at the “age of two or three” had been practising since the age of five. The runner-up position is just another step in her journey, which appears to be well charted.

She had won the overall championship at the Aim to Fame National Championship of Performing Arts in New Zealand and participated as the nation’s team member at the World Championship of Performing arts at Los Angeles in 2010.

There too, she had to satisfy herself with a second position.

The last few weeks, according to her grandfather O.M. Mathew, a former professor of political science, was hard for his little Jessie.

He said her favourite Malayalam song was Pacha Panam Thathe. She was practising hard, day in and day out, he said.

Her parents, IT professionals who had settled in New Zealand since 1996, who are under contract not to give public interviews, appear to be more focussed in preparing the child to get attuned to the fame the programme had earned her, according to Prof. Mathew.

“The child will have to take everything in her stride now and focus solely on music,” he said.