Mavy Santos and her group Miss Tres joined Britain’s Got Talent in 2018. They wowed the crowd, impressed Simon and got four yeses, and yet they did not advance to the live performance. A behind-the-scene look at one of the most popular talent competitions in the world, as told by a contestant to TFEM’s EIC Nats Sisma Villaluna.
“Miss Tres, get ready!”
This is it, I told myself as the floor director called us to the stage. My mind went blank. My hands were cold. The show´s hosts, Ant and Dec, said something to cheer us up but I no longer heard what it was. In my head, we just needed to deliver. And get those elusive four yeses.
Putting on my beauty queen poise and winning smile, I sashayed down the stage right behind Krissy and Mariko. The audience acknowledged our presence with a thunderous welcome. And there we were, inside the jam-packed Hammersmith Apollo, in front of thousands of British spectators, standing before Simon Cowell and having a performance that would soon be viewed by millions of viewers on YouTube. It was surreal.
The auditorium was enormous. The stage was blindingly bright that I could barely make out the blurry faces of the judges. When Simon greeted us, I was starstruck. I had to compose myself, trying not to do something embarrassing onstage. We answered his first question calmly. We didn’t reveal our real voices just yet.
Simon continued, “What´s the dream, girls?” The thing was, we didn’t practice this part: answering questions from the judges. Like, who got to talk first? We just followed our gut but careful not to overlap each other. I listened and waited for my chance to talk. Simon ended the short tête-à-tête with “Good luck! Hope it goes well!”
We took our position, turned around and waited for the cue. With our backs to the audience, I tried to cheer my two girls, “This is it girls, the performance of our lives!”
Using her deep manly voice, Mariko sang the first line: “Spy on me baby, you a satellite…“
The crowd roared. The judges were caught off-guard. Simon was baffled while David Walliams giggled. I could feel my knees shaking. My part was the chorus and I had to maintain the energy. I was going to kick ass.
“Sex bomb. Sex bomb, you´re my sex bomb.”
My musical journey
I started singing in a comedy bar in Malate, Manila in my last year of college. Later, a friend suggested that I did impersonations and lip-syncing. I had never done impersonations before, so I was a bit adamant. In the end, I was convinced to impersonate Asia´s songbird Regine Velasquez. I studied her every mannerism down to her last nuance: the way she talks, moves, and sings. Eventually, not a few noticed our uncanny resemblance. I was christened Regine V. but was later changed to Ate Rej. Ate Rej became such a hit that this act even took me to Holland and Switzerland to perform for the Filipino communities there.
Meeting Miss Tres
Miss Tres had already been an established musical trio long before I joined the group. They had performed at Pilipinas Got Talent and had been in various music bars in Manila. But it was their performance at Asia´s got Talent that made them an internet sensation. I got the surprise of my life when one day, I was asked if I wanted to be part of Miss Tres. One of the members left the group and they were looking for her replacement. Miss Tres´ brand of music is singing using their real male voices while keeping their female appearances. This had been the surprise twist in their performances. I didn’t say yes right away. My voice is not that deep, and I had never used my real voice when I performed. I was only lip-syncing, wasn´t I? And although I can sing, my voice is not as powerful as Mia´s or Mariko´s.
I gave it a try nevertheless and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I instantly gelled well with the Mia and Mariko hopping from one music comedy bar to another. But sometimes, life can be tricky. Bad things happen when everything seemed perfect. Mia died of lung cancer. It was one of the lowest moments of the group. We had to find a new member and we found Krissy.
Britains Got Talent
After Miss Tres´ stint at Asia´s Got Talent, the idea of trying our luck at Britain´s Got Talent was hard to let pass. We couldn´t believe our luck when we got considered for the audition round. We arrived in London at 8 in the evening of January 2018. Not minding the jet lag, we woke up at 5 in the morning to be ready for our 7AM call time.
At first, I didn’t think of it as a competition, I told myself it was just going to be a performance. Not until I saw the giant logo of Britain´s Got Talent did it really sink into me that it was, indeed, a bloody competition. What if we didn’t get three yeses? Or even 2 yeses? I suddenly felt the pressure.
While waiting for our turn, we spent the whole time doing a series of VTRs, talking about our hobbies, our families, random things that could be used as materials in case we moved on to the next round. We were also made to walk down the street outside the auditorium for our introduction video. There were some non-Pinoys who recognized us, shouting “Hey, MissTres!” How cool is that?!
Then back to retouching our make-up, fixing our hair and to filming again. Minutes before we were called, we huddled together to ask for divine guidance, praying not to trip nor forget our lines or steps. Right after the prayer, we just stared at each other and as if on cue, we swore to God that we felt Mia´s presence with us. We offered our performance to her. It was 11PM when our group was finally called. We were extremely hungry but in high spirits.
Backstage, Ant and Dec were very friendly. The staff were very organized, giving us last minute instructions. My heart was pounding. I could hear the girl, a stand-up comedian, performing before us. Minutes later, it was time for us to show the world what we got.
And Simon said…
So, there we were, jittery and jumpy as soon as Simon declared, “Okay, let´s vote!” I held my breath. David shouted, “He´s gotta say YES!” I demurely clapped but deep inside, I felt vindicated. Nobody could imagine how huge the pressure was singing the part that Mia used to sing. How haters considered me “not an original member” of the group. The second and third yeses came from Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden. It was so fast i didn’t have the time to digest them. Then Simon just casually announced, “You got four yeses!” I couldn’t believe we did it. We got four yeses! We were going to the Live Performance!
We were taken to another room for a couple of interviews. We were also made to fill up a form stating a list of songs and costumes and things that we needed for our performances. We got to meet Amanda up close, but I was too exhausted and famished to pull out my phone to take a photo with her. It was already close to midnight when we had our first decent meal since we woke up that morning.
Lessons from our BGT journey
We didn´t get to advance to the Live Performance. We left for the Philippines two days later. It turned out that a 4-yes verdict doesn’t guarantee a slot for the Live Performance. Everybody is vetted through a series of deliberation, and we didn’t make the cut. Our 2-minute video was uploaded on YouTube and as of today, it has 49 million views. Krissy´s part, the song´s bridge, was cut in the final video.
Some people would say that we didn’t know any other song except Sexbomb, which was the song the original Miss Tres sang at Asia´s Got Talent. The truth was that we submitted “Time of your Life” or “Bang Bang” for our piece, but the producer insisted we sing the famous Tom Jones song.
When we joined Britain´s Got Talent, I knew it was going to be my first and last competition. I was on the verge of retiring and I was starting to think of my priorities. But my BGT journey is one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. It taught me that opportunities can come in any form. It can be as short as a 3-minute performance on one of the world’s most famous stages or as long as one´s lifetime. But the most important thing is to enjoy every second of it and by giving it my best shot! Whether I get four yeses or nothing.
Editor´s Note: Mavy Santos is currently based in Barcelona.
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Nats Sisma Villaluna has been serving the Filipino community in Spain for more than 13 years. His volunteer works include teaching Spanish to Filipinos, and as artistic director of the Coro Kudyapi, a group of musically inclined young Filipinos in Barcelona. His passion to serve the Filipino community now extends to other countries in his role as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the new The Filipino Expat Magazine.