Dejah Monea, a 17-year-old upcoming singer/songwriter who attends Pittsburgh CAPA, experienced a life-changing moment when she was named winner of Highmark First Night’s 2016-2017 Williams SING-OFF competition. Her winning entry was selected by legendary singer Smokey Robinson.
“I first found out about the SING–Off about four years ago from my mom and a few other people that told me that I should audition. I ended up being one of the top five finalists,” Monea said of her past trials in the competition. “So (in 2016) I figured I’d try again once my voice matured a little bit more. This (time, in 2016,) I was nervous, excited and completely honored that Smokey Robinson, himself, heard me sing and picked me!!!! I had a feeling that I was going to get super close, if not win; I worked hard. But I always say, ‘what’s meant to be, will be,’ which was my constant mindset during the process of the competition.”
One of Monea’s contest prizes was performing at the Benedum Center as the First Night opening act on New Year’s Eve. She sang Audra Day’s “Rise Up,” which she said was a perfect song for a new year.
Winning the competition was a dream come true for Monea. “When my mom told me, the words didn’t really sound real. It didn’t actually hit me until I stepped on the Benedum’s stage for the sound check. As far as preparing for the SING-Off, I knew I had to do something that would catch the judges and Mr. Smokey’s attention, plus it had to be something I liked and was comfortable with. I knew I had a great voice, but so did thousands of others. I thought, ‘what can I do so I don’t become a chameleon, fitting in with everybody else,’” she said.
Monea explained that prior to hitting the stage, she was so nervous and that it was her brother, one of her key motivations for pursuing her dreams, who calmed her.
“I was so nervous before the performance; more than any other performance I’ve ever done. I couldn’t feel my legs, honestly, but one thing I thought about was making my brother proud. He was murdered about a year ago, and he always loved my singing and performing, so I just looked at the light and imagined it was him looking down at me, smiling, which gave me comfort,” she said.