Denesuliné singer’s powerful voice captivates on Canada’s Got Talent

A 20-year-old Denesuliné singer is in the running for a million-dollar prize after captivating the nation with her powerful voice on a recent episode of Canada’s Got Talent (CGT).

During the broadcast on March 26, Rebecca Strong’s performance of Demi Lovato’s song “Stone Cold” delighted the audience and judges alike as she embodied the song’s lyrics. With all eyes on her, Strong hit each note of the power ballad with precision and applause rang through the theatre as the judges exchanged smiles and appreciative glances.

Strong’s mother was moved by her daughter’s voice as she swayed in the audience next to Strong’s dad, aunt, and uncle.

Upon completing her song, Strong received a standing ovation which brought her to tears. CGT judge Lilly Singh spoke directly to Strong, recognizing her purpose on the CGT stage.

“You’re here on this stage, proving to yourself you’re a singer, showing exactly who you are,” said Singh during the broadcast.

Singh’s address to Strong was accompanied by a question regarding how the $25,000 awarded to the recipient of each judge’s golden buzzer — which also puts the participant through to the next round on CGT — would affect Strong. This year’s show is unlike previous years, with the winning act taking home $1 million — the largest prize in “Canada’s” reality show history.

“Money doesn’t buy happiness of course, but it would change our life,” responded Strong.

The emotional performance wasn’t without humour, as Strong poked fun at her dad’s age, causing him and the rest of her family to laugh in the audience. She mentioned helping her dad retire with the prize money.

Strong is from Stony Rapids in “Saskatchewan,” and resides in the southern city of “Prince Albert.” During Strong’s performance, her mom proudly held a bright orange sign decorated with music notes, saying “Rebecca is from Stony Rapids, SK.”

Fellow CGT judge Howie Mandel spoke to the influence that her presence is having throughout Indigenous communities in “Canada.”

“I think you’re not only making Canada proud but you make your Indigenous culture very proud,” said Mandel.

In the end, Singh used her only golden buzzer on Strong, causing her to become emotional again as golden confetti covered the stage.

Singh then made her way to the stage to embrace Strong and congratulate her and commend her voice. She wasn’t the only one who took the stage, as Strong’s parents both rushed to their daughter’s side and hugged her during her big moment.

The family was excited for Strong’s achievement as their smiles stayed in place while on stage.

“I feel amazing right now, like on top,’ said Strong.

“I’m so proud of her, she’s worked so hard and she’s an angel,” said Strong’s dad.

In an interview, Strong described the first moments at CGT as “scary” as she was alone throughout the first audition process. Those feelings didn’t last long though, as she found like-minded contestants who supported each other during this time.

“I started making some friends and that was one of the best parts was meeting new people who shared the same interests as me,” she said.

“Everyone was very kind and just awesome. I loved it.”

While Strong has seen other contestants receive a golden buzzer, she said it was overwhelming to have her own golden buzzer moment.

“Going on stage was crazy. I was literally fulfilling my dream in that one day,” she told IndigiNews.

She noted having her parents in the audience made it more emotional for her.

“I just wanted to make my parents proud … I’m just happy that they were there with me,” Strong said.

Performing on stage is exhilarating for Strong, who said she loves the feeling of expressing herself through the songs she chooses.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like you’re a new person,” she said, adding that singing is like acting in a role.

“Same with music, you want to play the character of the song.”

While Strong performs covers of different songs on stage and online, she has also written an original piece which she has performed before an audience at the Saskatchewan Music Awards.

She said the melody for the song came to her in a dream and when she woke up, she followed her intuition on the accompanying lyrics.

“It kind of just came to me. There was no overthinking it, it just popped into my head,” she said.

Strong can feel the support through comments on her posts and while meeting people in person. She notes how Indigenous people are proud and confident in who they are and this inspires her while on stage.

“Just knowing that I’m indigenous and up there, I feel more confident,” she said.

Growing up in a musical household enabled Strong to have a connection to singing throughout her life.

At a young age, she was in a band with her father and sisters called Thunder and the Sky Dancers which eventually became The Strong Sisters, where Strong recalls her father acting as more of a manager for the siblings.

In 2019, she went solo and had a video of her singing go viral that same year. While she said the family bands were fun, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in music and this was the time to do it.

“Sober” by Demi Lovato was the song that got Strong noticed in 2019, and another Lovato rendition on a bigger stage at CGT this year only brought her more attention.

“(Lovato’s) music is very deep and emotional and makes me feel something, and that’s what I like to do a lot in my music, is make people feel,” she said.

While Strong is inspired by other artists such as Adele, the support and influence she receives from her family is unmatched. It’s her mother who inspires her to stay hardworking, and she has faith in her dad’s input on her music.

“He has a very good ear for music so I always trust whatever he says,” she said.

She remembers her first solo performance at age five where her dad accompanied her singing with his guitar, calling it an awesome experience.

Singing together with her family will always have a place in Strong’s future. She never gets tired of being with her family, thanks to their tight-knit connections.

While nerve-wracking at first, she’s learned to combat the stage frights and tries her best to savour each moment while she’s performing before a live audience.

“As I get into it, I won’t even remember that I was nervous. I’m just there to perform now,” she said.

Strong is living her dream career, and knows that she can’t let her nerves get to her, as she’s always striving to give it her best every time she’s on stage.

She’s always reminded of the simple yet sound advice she received from her dad; “Do what you do best and If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t.”

She hopes this advice resonates with others and inspires them to follow their own dreams.

“Don’t be scared of what other people think,” she said.

“Don’t let that affect what you want to do because we’re just on earth for a limited amount of time, and you can’t let anything stop you from living and doing what you love.”

She hopes to record and release her original song sometime soon. Her next goal is to tour the country and even perform abroad, so that she can share her music and meet her supporters.

“I just want to do what I do best and perform and inspire other people to follow their dreams,” she said.

This season of CGT began airing on March 19 and is broadcast every Tuesday. The show is set to wrap up with a finale episode on May 14.

Dionne Phillips, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, IndigiNews