At 15, Marlisa Punzalan became the youngest-ever winner of the Australian series of The X Factor when it was announced she had taken out the 2014 series last night. Marlisa narrowly beat runner-up Dean Ray to score a recording contract with Sony Music Australia, with only 0.01 percent of the public vote splitting them; earlier in the night sibling act Brothers 3 were eliminated from the show.
Marlisa's win gave her mentor, Ronan Keating, his first victory since Altiyan Childs won in 2010 ("It's only taken me five years!" he excitedly said last night), and in recent episodes he's hinted that he may not return to the series. After being announced as the 2014 winner, Marlisa quickly composed herself to sing her debut single, "Stand by You," which has already raced to the top of the iTunes charts.
We caught up with the bubbly schoolgirl from Sydney today to chat about her exciting start to living her dream.
POPSUGAR Australia: Congratulations on winning The X Factor last night!
Marlisa Punzalan: Thank you! Thank you so much.
PS: How did you celebrate last night? What was the after-party like?
Marlisa: The after-party was amazing. We were dancing until our bones ached. We just had so much. I drank like three cups of Fanta [laughs]. And a lot of people were drinking beer. Not me.
PS: Was it a late night for you?
Marlisa: It wasn't that late. I had to leave at like 12:30 because I was underage [laughs], so it was quite unfortunate, but I still had lots of fun.
PS: How did you rate your chances of winning?
Marlisa: Like at the beginning of the show?
PS: Or even in the lead-up to last night. You made it to the grand final, so you had a one-in-three shot.
Marlisa: Yes. I thought we all had equal chances because all of our fanbases are really strong, and we are all great singers. You just never know. It's anyone's game. Oh, I can't believe it!
PS: Did you have any idea of how strong the support was for you?
Marlisa: Yeah, there were a lot of posters in the audience last night, and that made me feel really confident, but I just reminded myself, 'Don't expect too much. The other two are really, really strong as well.'
PS: Was it stressful thinking about the result? How did you distract yourself or keep yourself calm?
Marlisa: Not really, it just came by a click. It was actually really fast! I didn't expect it to be that fast. I just had so much fun. I cherished every second of it.
PS: This show is an emotional rollercoaster. How did you cope with the ups and downs?
Marlisa: I've actually had experiences in singing competitions. I haven't won all of them, and I've taken lots of criticism on board, so I think I've built quite a strong mentality in me. I think it's really important to have that experience, otherwise it might be really difficult to cope.
PS: I've heard in some of your previous interviews that you're probably going to be home-schooled.
Marlisa: Yes, that's true.
PS: Even though it's exciting to get started on your career, will you miss school?
Marlisa: Yes, I will definitely miss school, and all my teachers and friends. I'm going to miss them a lot, and my old school days. But it's amazing what I've done, as well!
PS: Are you worried about missing out on regular things a teenage girl experiences?
Marlisa: I actually enjoyed my teenage experiences. I'm just so glad to have my dream! I think it's really rare, and I'm extremely lucky.
PS: Definitely. Ronan has hinted that he may not be returning to the show next year — has he said anything to you?
Marlisa: No, I actually don't know.
PS: What was your favourite thing about working with him?
Marlisa: I think the fact that I was working with him every week, and him giving me advice. Every week on The X Factor I got to see him, and it was amazing. So I think just the fact that I got to work with him, and him telling me all this great advice about believing in myself, and having confidence going out there, and smashing it.
PS: You could tell he was really proud of you when he got emotional about your performances. You said you've changed so much since your audition. How so?
Marlisa: I think the biggest changes are the growth in my confidence — that's a really big one — and my improvement in my singing. I think I've got a higher range. And I think my performance skills as well, moving around the stage, not just being in one spot. And I think I've connected with the audience as well.
PS: What was the most challenging thing about doing the show?
Marlisa: I think the most challenging thing was probably week two, where I got really sick and I had trouble coping with it. I was really sick and couldn't do much rehearsal, and I was stressing about if I'd do well.
PS: Which performance of yours was your favourite?
Marlisa: My favourite? There are a lot of good performances! Probably between "Titanium" and "Impossible."
PS: You got to wear some pretty amazing — but also crazy — things on the show. Was there anything in particular you really loved?
Marlisa: I really, really loved the "Impossible" outfit, and the "Girl on Fire" outfit. Oh, and the "Yesterday" outfit, the blue dress — it was amazing.
PS: People often say the hard work starts once the show ends. Are you ready for that?
Marlisa: Yes, I am ready for that!
PS: When you finally get to record your debut album, not the album of covers that's coming out on Nov. 7, what do you hope it sounds like?
Marlisa: I hope it sounds like sort of similar to Jessica Mauboy, but still my own. I'm just hoping that there are really good songs, and that I can sell a lot.
PS: Do you write your own songs as well?
Marlisa: Not really. But I'm still trying to work on that.