Singer Nikita Afonso is going to be brushing up on her Portuguese language skills after winning an award for best new talent at the International Portuguese Music Awards last month in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
That’s because her prize is an all-expenses paid trip to Portugal where she will be put under the media spotlight.
“I am not quite sure when I am going yet, but they plan it out for you to do TV, radio and newspaper interviews,” said Afonso, 23, who was brought up in the Okanagan (Penticton) and now lives in Richmond to be closer to the music scene. “I think it will hopefully open up some more doors for me to perform, not just in B.C. but maybe a tour. I’d also love to perform in Portugal. We’ll see. Time will tell.
“I just know that it will be a good thing to speak Portuguese better. I can with my grandparents because they slow it down for me. But the Europeans like to talk quite quickly, so I struggle to keep up.”
Winning the competition is a long way from her very first performance as a four-year-old in a daycare talent show where she belted out My Heart Will Go On, the signature song from the film Titanic made famous by Quebec chanteuse Celine Dionne.
“Ever since then, music and singing just stuck with me. And I took some piano, guitar and voice lessons. Then, in high school, I decided this was a possibility for a career and I took off with it.”
What has made her trek possible, so far, is her family.
“My family has always been extremely supportive of this passion of mine to perform, in terms of driving to and from places,” Afonso said. “My dad and mom would always take me. They even came to Boston with me for the awards.”
In Boston, Afonso said the awards show was top-notch.
“They treat you like a complete rock star,” she said. “They fly you out there and pick you up in a limo at the airport, take you to the hotel and set you up with a driver for the whole weekend.
“It was pretty special.”
For her category as best new talent, the award was different from the rest on the night, as she and the other nominee had to perform on stage in order for a winner to be chosen.
“And there are anonymous judges in the audience who decide,” she said. “I was surprised just to be even nominated, because as someone starting out in this business you apply and apply and you get used to rejection. So, when I got nominated, that was a prize in itself.”
For her performance, Afonso sang an original song she wrote called Frostbite.
“It’s based on someone’s desire to fall and be in love, but can’t open themselves up enough to let it in,” she said.
Back at home in the Lower Mainland, Afonso remains busy honing her talent as a regular on the Vancouver circuit at hotels and casinos, including the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond.