'I hope I can do him proud:' Doncaster Eurovision hopeful wants to pay tribute to late dad
A Doncaster singing star bidding to represent the UK at this year's Eurovision Song Contest has said she wants her performance in this Wednesday's judging show to be a tribute to her late dad.
Doncaster-born perfomer Raya is one of six singers taking part in tomorrow night's glittering live TV spectacular in Brighton with the winner going on to become the UK's entry to this year's contest in Lisbon.
And Raya, whose real name is Rachel Clark, wants her song Crazy to be the ultimate tribute to her dad Andy who died last year at the age of 62.
She said: "My dad was my biggest fan and of course it's sad that he's not here for the biggest thing I've ever done.
"I hope he'll be looking down on me and I hope I can do him proud. Even if I don't win, I can go out there and say I've given it my best shot."
In an exclusive chat, Rachel, 27, has told how her father's death has helped lead her to the brink of representing the UK at the annual musical spectacular.
She said: "Last year was awful. But this has helped and shown there's light at the end of the tunnel.
"It has come at an interesting time and it has made me realise that life's too short not to do these things. You have got to go with your gut and take the opportunities when they come along."
Former Hungerhill School pupil Rachel, who spent her formative years in Doncaster in school plays, dance school shows and appearing as one of the Doncaster Rovers' cheerleading team The Vikettes for a number of years, is one of six hopefuls taking part in tomorrow night's show which will be screened live on BBC2.
Eurovision: You Decide will see the acts go head-to-head in the live show with the winner taking the UK's place at the final in Portugal on May 12.
But she admits that landing a place on the show - which will see the winner crowned through a combination of public votes and music industry professionals - came as a huge shock.
Barnby Dun-born Raya, who has lived and worked in London as a singer, dancer and DJ for several years, explained how a chance call from a friend helped her to Eurovision glory.
She said: "I work with a songwriter called Samir Salah Elshafie (known as Elshay). He wrote this song called Crazy, told me that he'd written it with me in mind and did I fancy singing it.
"We've worked together before and he thought it would suit me. It was entered into the Eurovision process and then at the back end of last year, it was confirmed that it was going to be one of the six UK hopefuls.
"I went and recorded it just before Christmas and when I got the call to say it had been picked I was driving and just went 'oh my god!"
It was at that precise moment that Rachel, who spent a spell working behind the bar at the town's Vintage Rockbar, realised that things were about to change.
"Up until that point, I hadn't really taken it seriously," she said. "But suddenly, I realised just how big Eurovision is. The magnitude of the whole thing just hit me."
Since being confirmed as one of the UK hopefuls, she was sworn to secrecy with the final list only being revealed last week.
Now she is gearing up tomorrow night's show in Brighton where she will be cheered on by mum Joan and friend Fauve.
She said: "I am ready to go now. All the rehearsals are nearly done and then it's the big live show.
"I do get nervous but I have done big shows before so I am hoping that will help me handle it.
"I really can't wait. It's very exciting."
She admits that winning and going on to represent the UK would be a dream come true
"It would be insane wouldn't it? A girl from Doncaster who has worked hard and worked her way up representing Britain at Eurovision. Whatever people think about it, it is the biggest song contest in the world."
She sang and dance from an early age, singing along to artists such as Shania Twain, Celine Dion, the Beatles and Michael Jackson on car journeys with her dad.
School productions followed at Edenthorpe's Hungerhill School as well as dance productions and dancing in front of thousands of fans at Doncaster Rovers' old Belle Vue Stadium as a cheerleader.
"It used to be freezing," she laughed. "We used to stand there absolutely frozen solid and got £20 a match!"
She describes her song Crazy as a "catchy, upbeat dance track and a song "all about that new guy or girl who you can’t get out of your head no matter how hard you try.”
She added: "I think the lyrical message behind this song is so interesting and fresh for this competition as instead of your typical love song, it truly captures the essence of falling into that trap of obsessing over someone.
"The song is about that breaking point where you feel like you just want to get that person out of your mind and shout it from the rooftops!"
She added: "Growing up I always dreamed of being a radio presenter. I used to record weekly mix shows in my bedroom.
"I used to be heavily into 'emo alternative rock'. And I sucked my thumb religiously until just last year!"
She has performed all over the world, provided backing vocals for Hurts, danced for Little Mix and has appeared in ITV drama Mr Selfridge.
Now she is set for the biggest performance of her career - and is aiming to make it the ultimate tribute to her dad.
"I know all this has happened for a reason," she said. "It has pushed me on to do my best and make him proud.
"Even if I don't win, I've given it a shot and made my mum happy. I can go out there with my head held high and say I gave it a go."