VIDEO: Hallelujah! Mollie is the winner of our Instant Star contest

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SINGER Mollie Hughes has been crowned the winner of this year’s Instant Star competition after giving a stunning performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Even more impressively, she managed to perform the vocally challenging song with a cold.

Mollie Hughes, 19, whose stage name is 'Mollie Jay, is the winner of The News Instant Star competition ''Picture: Sarah Standing (151598-6424)

Mollie Hughes, 19, whose stage name is 'Mollie Jay, is the winner of The News Instant Star competition ''Picture: Sarah Standing (151598-6424)

The 19-year-old, who uses the stage name Mollie Jay, was the judges’ pick from a strong field of 17 entrants at auditions held in The Wedgewood Rooms on Wednesday night.

But it was only after much debate that they could agree on a winner. And for the first time, a runner-up has also been chosen – Declan Robertson, 16, who entertained with his performance of Me from Disney’s musical of Beauty and The Beast.

Mollie, of Nobes Avenue in Bridgemary, Gosport, learned she’d won the morning after the auditions, and said: ‘I’m so happy.

‘Considering I wasn’t very well, I thought I had done all right and I was proud of myself.’

Mollie has always loved singing, but only began to take it more seriously at the end of her time at school. Because she had been bullied, she had kept her talent hidden.

‘Being on stage, it was my escape,’ she said. ‘I’ve grown so much since then, I’m so much more confident now.

‘I love singing, I thrive on competition. I’ve done Teen Star, and I got to the final of Open Mic, so I got to sing at the O2.

‘I tried Britain’s Got Talent when I was 15, but didn’t get very far, and I’m going to try X Factor next year.

‘And I’m also involved with quite a few charities, I’ve sung at shows for CRY, One Punch Can Kill and MacMillan Cancer Support.’

Both Mollie and Declan will now get to sing at the Children in Need gala show at The Kings Theatre on November 15.

Mollie also gets to play a part in turning on the city centre Christmas lights, and to perform at the We Can Do It Awards and The Guide Awards shows, both put on by The News.

The judging panel consisted of Geoff Priestley from The Wedgewood Rooms, Steve Pitt, who will direct the Children in Need show and The News’ entertainment editor Chris Broom.

Steve said: ‘This was the closest it’s ever been. We really didn’t have a clear winner at the end of the night as there were several acts we could have picked.

‘The fact we picked a winner and runner-up shows how close it was. Everyone who got up on stage though deserves praise – it was a good evening.’