Ali Milner, Whistler's favourite redhead, is, at this very moment, living in a downtown Toronto hotel.
She's there for a very important reason - a reason thousands of other aspiring Canadian musicians had tried out for. Every minute of her day, for the time being, is given over to this reason.
What is it, you ask? She's on Cover Me Canada , CBC's new signing competition.
The network has been promoting the program wildly for the past month via every possible medium: twitter, TV, newspapers. Anyone who keeps his or her eyes open for at least an hour a day should have seen some mention of the contest. And now Ali Milner, the satin-voiced 21-year-old of this fair town, is one of eight contestants on the show. The announcement was made on Sunday (Sept. 18) on the series premier.
"I feel like this is the beginning," the always-gregarious Milner says during a phone conversation Monday. "I know I've been working for it for 10 years, but this feels like it. This is the jumping off point, which is just an amazing opportunity and I'm going to grab hold and really run with it."
Starting Sept. 25, all eight performers will compete for a chance to win $100,000 and a single to be released through Universal Music Canada. Each week, the contestants are given a Canadian classic to cover and are judged based on the strength and originality of performance and, each week, one performer will be booted off the show based on a combination of viewer votes and consideration from the celebrity judges: former New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight, Canadian singer Deborah Cox and Ron Fair, the man responsible for Christina Aguilera and Fergie.
Milner and her band performed a piano-driven rendition of the Avril Lavigne mega-hit "Complicated." While she says it wasn't her first choice, it was a solid performance, showcasing Milner's jazz-inspired - and dare we say, downright sultry - singing voice and the confidence necessary for carrying her through to the finals.
"I feel super confident," she says. "I know that my guys and I are stoked on what we're doing. We're true to ourselves as musicians and artists and we're going to do the best we can do. Hopefully people like that."
Milner submitted her audition tape, covering Allana Myles' "Black Velvet," in July. Three days later, she received an email from producers asking for more footage. Before she could send anything, she received a phone call telling her to nix the footage because the producers were flying out to Vancouver to watch her perform. Within the week, she was playing a daytime showcase for Cover Me Canada producers in a downtown bar.
"And bing-bang-boom and here we are in Toronto," she says. "It was so fast."
Up until that point, Milner had been living in Kitsilano, performing one-off gigs around town while working days at a neighbourhood record store. All her efforts had been put toward moving her career along. She'd had small successes - performing in Whistler for both the 2010 Winter Games and more recently at Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler, to name a few - and was in the beginning stages of recording a new album.
Understandably, the songwriting is on hold until the competition, which runs for the next nine weeks, is over. She says the past month - and the past week in particular, has been a whirlwind of confusion and excitement.
"I didn't know what to expect but was super pleased and looking forward to the challenge, not knowing what kind of challenge it would be. I don't know. I didn't know really what anything was but gosh I'm loving it," she says.
Unlike American Idol , Cover Me Canada is based entirely through online voting via Facebook, along with a social media score. The more views, posts, followers, shares, tweets - all of that ups a competitors social media score, by which they can gain immunity.
"So hopefully we get a really cool necklace, a la Survivor ," she says.
Milner's new twitter account for the show is @cmc_ali, in case you want to help Milner sweep this competition.
Cover Me Canada airs Sunday on CBC at 9 p.m.