X-Factor star sings for Mum

Benny Tipene’s crowd-stirring performance of Not Given Lightly, seen in a recent episode of TV3’s The X Factor, was far more than just a great song well sung.

Benny chose the Chris Knox ballad, re-recorded last October for the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation’s Breast Cancer awareness campaign, as a tribute to his mother, Annette Rann , who underwent treatment for breast cancer two years ago.

“I love my mum very much,” he told the studio audience, and the country. “I’m singing this song for her.”

And he did. The 23-year-old from Palmerston North delivered an emotive performance that was one of the standout successes of The X Factor’s “Homegrown Hits” episode. It secured his place in the next round of the tough competition.

But however challenging The X Factor has been, it has nothing on the battle against breast cancer.

“I feel for anyone that has breast cancer, because not only does it affect them, it affects the whole family,” he told the NZBCF. “The person that I loved most in the world was struggling.”

Benny, the second-youngest of five children, says breast cancer was the worst thing that has happened to his family. But, he adds, they were fortunate in that the family drew closer together. “Dad was like a rock, he did so much for Mum. And my little sister became an amazing cook.”

Two years after her diagnosis, Annette, his mum, has completed chemo and radiation. She’s doing well, though she still has years of drug treatment ahead of her. “She’s still looking beautiful,” Benny says.
Sadly, Annette’s sister – Benny’s aunt – has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and now Annette is in the support role.

Support is something both his mum and dad are good at. It was Annette who encouraged Benny to audition for The X Factor.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents,” he told us. “They’ve backed me all the way.”

Since his heart-winning performance of Not Given Lightly, Benny has continued to delight The X Factor audience and judges. The show has taught him several valuable lessons: not to judge a book by its cover; that patience is a real virtue; and to stay true to himself. His aim, is to “be as much of me as possible and to get that across on the screen.” So far, he’s doing a great job.

But although he’s devoting much of his life to his music just now, Benny says that, whatever happens on The X Factor, he’s also keen to do some fundraising for the NZBCF. We’re sure his mum will be proud of him, whatever he does!

Watch Benny in The X Factor on TV3, 7pm Sunday and 8pm Monday. To vote for Benny, visit http://www.tv3.co.nz/Shows/TheXFactorNZ/Vote.aspx

To hear the NZBCF re-recording of “Not Given Lightly” featuring famous and everyday Kiwis click here.