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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 October, 2003, 23:48 GMT 00:48 UK
Alex Parks: Reluctant heroine
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

BBC News Online profiles Alex Parks, winner of Fame Academy II.

Considering the wealth of plaudits heaped on 19-year-old Alex Parks, it was little wonder she seemed bewildered by it all.

Alex almost did not enter the BBC talent show
As celebrity pundits fell over themselves to praise to her "unique talent", the former out-of-work clown from Cornwall retained the air of innocence that so endeared her to Fame Academy voters.

For nine weeks, she combined powerfully emotional vocal performances - seemingly beyond her years and experience of life - with a fragile vulnerability that mesmerised the judges - and millions of viewers.

What makes her victory even more remarkable is that she almost never appeared on the show at all. It was left to her father to send in a videotape demo after she was reluctant to enter.

That reticence and an appealing humility stayed with her throughout the two months as she dodged the limelight and continually expressed doubt in her abilities.

It seemed she just never believed she would win.

Her lack of faith was not shared by hundreds of thousands of viewers who lapped up her angst-ridden interpretations of melancholic pop classics - Everybody Hurts, Yellow, I Don't Wanna Talk About It and others.

Alex grew up in a Cornish village
Week after week, she put her own unmistakable stamp on the songs with her soaring, tremulous voice and a genuinely affecting anguish in her stage play.

Inside the Academy, her biggest champion Carrie Grant described her unique singing voice as coming from "the inside out" - meaning that she felt the songs emotionally first, rather than treating them technically.

Alex's family always knew she had a unique singing talent from an early age.

She grew up listening to Elvis and Michael Jackson, and made her first musical performance at the age of 13 when she was on school camp.

Two years later she entered and won a singing competition, winning 2,000. At this time joined a band, One Trick Pony, writing her first song, To You.

Alex Parks
Alex was 13 when she first performed musically
Tellingly, her role models are powerful, independent singer-songwriters such as Ani di Franco, Annie Lennox, Skin and Jimi Hendrix.

She says she prefers her music to be "gentle and soft", perhaps a reflection of her pastoral surroundings on the Cornish coast.

She grew up in the village of Mount Hawke and took part in the beloved local pursuits of surfing and hanging out by the beach.

A former pupil at Mount Hawke Primary School and The Richard Landers Secondary School in Truro, she was in the hockey, tennis and badminton teams. At 15, she was the county champion javelin thrower.

She got nine GCSEs, including drama and graphic design, and started A-Level English literature but gave up to attend a full-time theatre school in Cornwall called The Hub where she concentrated on clowning and physical theatre.

Alex Parks
Alex's powerful voice has won her countless admirers
A member of the St Agnes Players amateur dramatics group, she was in their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream last summer.

The Academy was not her first brush with fame. Actor Steve McFadden (EastEnders' Phil Mitchell), a friend of her father, used to read her bedtime stories when he lived nearby.

Now Alex is starring in a soap opera of her own - one in which she is poised to become a national sensation.


SEE ALSO:
Alex lands 1m Fame Academy prize
04 Oct 03  |  Entertainment
Alex bids for Fame Academy
05 Aug 03  |  Cornwall
Alex odds on for Fame
14 Sep 03  |  Cornwall


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