In her first exclusive shoot and interview, only in HELLO!, The Voice winner Ruti Olajugbagbe reveals how "surreal" it is that she's won the show and got a recording contract – yet still has to go back to college on Monday. "It's surreal because on one hand I'm a normal 18-year-old, studying for my A Levels, but at the same time I'm also mixing with Sir Tom Jones and Will.i.am! I go back to college on Monday. I'm studying music, technology, drama and BTec music performance and I have my exams in June. Then I'm done." Speaking exclusively to HELLO! the singer, whose new single Dreams hit the top of the iTunes midweek charts last week, reveals what she'll be spending the first paycheque she earns from the release of the track on a new guitar.
Ruti Olajugbagbe was crowned the winner of The Voice 2018
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Boy George is among her admirers, and she said: "I've had loads of messages on social media – so many that I haven't been able to read them all. I have over 1,000 left to read. Boy George tweeted about me, which was cool. I don't know what the reaction is out in public because I haven't been anywhere – it has all been such a whirlwind." She also tells us that she'll be recording music for her debut album alongside revising and completing her course work. "I want to make albums. I want to tour. I want to release singles. I want to collaborate with other artists. That's what I want to do. I understand that I'm going to be in the public eye, but I just want to make music. It's really clichéd," says the singer, who is currently single and "not really" looking for love. She added that she is a huge fan of George Ezra, explaining: "I do have a bit of crush on him but I love the way he sounds. I'd love to duet with him."
Ruti with Sir Tom Jones
She revealed that performing a duet with Tom Jones was a life highlight, saying: "I know I'm only 18 but I feel like that's going to be a highlight of my whole life, ever. Singing What a Wonderful World with him was perfect. We connected and people really liked it. People really want us to record it and release it but obviously that's down to Sir Tom." Speaking about the star, Tom said: "As time has gone on she's gained [confidence], and she has a wonderful voice. So natural. She gets her personality through the song."
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In the past The Voice has come under fire for not having produced a big star from its past series. Could Ruti be the one to change all that? "Maybe…" she says, carefully. "But I'll still continue making music even if I don't become what people see as successful. As long as I'm getting a bit of money and making music, I'll be ok." She adds, smiling: "Though it would be nice to win awards and stuff!" She revealed she was already starting to feel like a star, saying: "I'm starting to feel like a celeb. It's fun – I love getting my make-up done. It's so exciting to be doing a HELLO! shoot."
The star with her fellow finalists
Ruti's performance on The Voice wasn't without nerves, and she admitted that she was often nervous on the show. She said: "When the show got to the live stages, I got really, really nervous. But I just let my nerves be. I don't have a ritual – I just have to control my breathing. But I know my nerves are good; they really push me and I want to do well. I get butterflies in my stomach, I feel a bit sick, get a bit sweaty but it happens to everyone. Sir Tom says he still gets nervous and he'd be worried if he wasn't. Kylie [Minogue] was just so lovely. Her main piece of advice to me was to be more confident. She said I sounded lovely but, like Sir Tom, she told me to let go; to not think about the people who are watching me. All of us on the show were concerned about what people would think and what the media would say about us but we were told to just be ourselves. And that if we want to be artists then that's what we have to do."
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