You might have seen a familiar face on the most recent season of Canada’s Got Talent on Citytv.
Cambridge's Stacey Kay sang and rapped her way to the last episode of the show as one of the top eight finalists, delivering a powerhouse performance.
“It was so cool,” she said. When she was on Season 10 of America’s Got Talent seven years prior, she didn’t think she would make it very far -- and she didn’t. She was eliminated during the judge cuts by Howie Mandel.
So, to make it all the way through this time “was wild.”
“Every time I would make it through another round, I was shocked, because I watch reality TV myself, so it’s just the coolest,” he said.
Even though she didn’t win, she said appearing on national television has done wonders for her career.
“And I got to sing for Simon Cowell, [who] gave me a standing ovation. These kinds of things for sure will help me in my career. So even though I didn’t win, it’s opened so many doors for me, and given me a taste of what it’s like to be on national television.”
Kay received the golden buzzer during auditions -- meaning she got to skip to the next round -- from Mandel, the very man who cut her from AGT seven years before.
“I’m an idiot,” he said during the show. “But I’m also brilliant because of me being such an idiot, you are here tonight!”
But Kay says she understands why she didn’t make it very far on her first reality TV run. “It didn’t work out because I was just so worried about what people thought of me, I was trying to be perfect. And that didn’t work.”
This time around, she showed up unapologetically herself, and it seemed to work.
All her life, people have been telling her to change who she is. Management companies and record labels would tell her to lose weight, ditch the “crazy hair” when she had it dyed pink, to stop rapping and to sing ballads like Adele.
The line of thinking was, “we only know one curvy famous person, and that’s Adele, so let’s try to make you like her. And that’s just not what I do. I love rap, I love to dance, I love to get the crowd pumped up.”
Eventually, it all started to weigh on her.
“I was trying to lose weight. I wrote the worst songs I’ve ever written. I’m not a love song kind of girl,” she said. “And then one day I woke up and realized there was another option: I didn’t have to listen to any of that advice.”
After AGT aired and she began embracing this new mentality, she also started doing motivational speaking in schools across Canada and the U.S., performing and then telling her story.
“I still have my daily struggles with insecurities, but I’ve figured out a way to talk to myself and figure out why I'm feeling this way, and how I can shift my mentality to make my life so much more fun. Because it is so annoying and tiring and stressful to just worry about how you look every single day.”
Kay grew up in Cambridge, and lived there until she went away to college in Oakville, after which she lived in Toronto for around 10 years. But she moved back to Cambridge this year, after missing her family intensely during the pandemic.
While Kitchener-Waterloo has a fairly lively music scene, it can feel lackluster in Cambridge. But Kay says she thinks growing up there helped her develop her own unique style.
“In Toronto, a lot of the singers end up sounding the same and kind of going the same path. So because I was from Cambridge, and we didn't really have a music scene here, what that forced me to do is make up exactly what kind of artist I wanted to be, because I didn't have anything really to compare it to.
“I was definitely born to do this, but also, I have the mentality [that] we have one life to live. I never know if I'm going to be working the next day or not, but I'd rather pick this career because it's fun and creative and scary. This is what I love to do the most in life. So I decided to pursue it and never give up.”
Kay started singing at eight-years-old, and grew up competing in singing competitions until she was 16.
By the time she finished college, she started weaving rap into her performances.
“I always wanted to do it, but I thought ‘oh, I won't be able to actually do it.’ And then I remember one day I said to myself, ‘I'm going to teach myself this Busta Rhymes rap,” she said.
The first time she sang and rapped on stage, her management team told her not to do it. But she pulled her band aside and said that she wasn’t taking it out of the performance.
“I did it anyway, and the crowd gave me a standing ovation.”
And she’s been rapping ever since.
“The most success I've ever seen is when I'm 100 per cent myself. So if I work hard, and am my authentic self, then good things will happen. And that's exactly what happened on this reality TV journey.”
Kay just released a single iTunes and Spotify called Unstoppable.
She also hopes to be hitting the road on tour in the coming year. In the meantime, you can follow her on all social media channels at @StaceyKayMusic.