Mary-Jess posing with Chinese parasols

I came to Nanjing, China, in 2009 to study Mandarin Chinese as an exchange student from Sheffield University where I was studying Chinese and Music Studies.

My experiences with China completely changed my life. I can’t imagine what I would be doing now if I had not won the show!"

To challenge myself, I entered 民星唱翻天 (Min Xing Chang Fan Tian), a televised music competition in Jiangsu province, with over 70 million viewers.

To my great surprise, I ended up winning! This started a lot of things for me.

I’ve had such a strong love for and strong connection with China that I’ve wanted to include that into my music, and it’s what has shaped my career.

Mary-Jess playing pat-a-cake with a Chinese orphan at a Half the Sky home in China
Playing pat-a-cake with a Chinese orphan at a Half the Sky home in China.
Mary-Jess attending the Chinese premiere of the Paddington Bear film
Performing at the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai and attending the Chinese premiere of the Paddington Bear film.
Mary-Jess meeting HRH Prince William on the red carpet in Shanghai
Meeting HRH Prince William on the red carpet in Shanghai.

I brought out my debut album Shine shortly after winning the show, which won both ‘Album of the Year’ and ‘Best Newcomer’ from classical-crossover.co.uk.

For this album, I worked with some of China’s most accomplished musicians to add a touch of the orient. In addition, I’ve been able to tour with Russell Watson, perform with Sir Tim Rice and Don Black, have numerous national TV appearances in both the UK and China, sing to royalty in Windsor Castle and sing the Downton Abbey theme tune.

My favourite performance so far might be when I sang 'Abide With Me' at the FA Cup Final in Wembley Stadium in front of a live audience of 90, 000 people and a worldwide television audience of 300 million people.

I’m also active as global ambassador for Half the Sky, a charity that supports orphaned and abandoned children in China. I loved playing games and singing with the children; their favourite song was 'Ring a ring a roses', especially the 'all fall down' part!

Note: Mary-Jess is also one of the Leading Lights for the Generation UK: China Network. The Leading Lights are successful individuals who have benefited from their time in China. The Leading Lights are in the best position to demonstrate just how valuable experience of China can be, and why it is so important to remain connected with China and with others who are interested in China.