Sheldon Riley won 'Eurovision - Australia Decides' 2022 on the Gold Coast back in February. He is now representing Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in Turin.
He is well known for his big performances, extravagant fashion and the intricate crystal masks he wears. His name is familiar to many, but who is Sheldon Riley?
Sheldon Riley the artist
Born Sheldon Hernandez to an Australian mother and Filipino father, the 23-year-old grew up on the Gold Coast before moving to his current home city of Melbourne.
Sheldon kicked off his career as an artist and songwriter with a bang.
He is incredibly experienced when it comes to singing competitions, having competed in not one, not two, but five of them!
The X Factor Australia, 2016
The Voice Australia, 2018
The Voice Australia All Stars, 2019
America’s Got Talent, 2020
Australia Decides, 2022
Sheldon’s first appearance was on The X Factor Australia.
His audition was cut off at one point by the judges, who asked him to sing something else. He chose an a cappella rendition of John Legend's song 'Ordinary People'.
The choice paid off and he made it through to the bootcamp round of the show, before the judges decided not to take him further in the contest.
However, Iggy Azalea gave him a second chance by creating a boy band called 'Time & Place' composed of Sheldon and three other contestants.
Time & Place made it to 9th place before being voted out of a live show during a quadruple elimination.
But this was just the beginning for Sheldon!
In 2018 Sheldon competed on The Voice Australia, opting to audition with a Culture Club classic … with lead singer Boy George on the judging panel.
Once again, his choice paid off: his beautiful and moody version of ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ achieved a four-chair turn and a place on Boy George’s team.
Sheldon went on to put his own spin on a number of big hits, including, 'Creep' by Radiohead, Lady Gaga’s 'Born This Way', 'Diamonds' by Rihanna and Lana Del Rey’s 'Young and Beautiful'.
His style and voice really resonated with fans and Sheldon made it all the way to the Grand Final, ultimately placing a very respectable third.
Sheldon and Boy George’s connection during the course of the show was clear and genuine, with Boy George remaining a huge supporter and mentor after The Voice Australia ended.
A year later in 2019, Sheldon returned to The Voice Australia as an All Star with the song 'Frozen' by Madonna.
With Boy George and Kelly Rowland’s teams full, available judges Guy Sebastian and Delta Goodrem turned for him, with Sheldon choosing Team Delta.
It was during this season of The Voice that we first heard of Sheldon’s love of Eurovision, with him telling Delta that his ultimate dream would be to represent Australia at the Contest.
The Voice showed us Sheldon’s incredible eye for dramatic performance and beautiful attention to detail, with every song making for a complete experience.
All his outfits in 2018 were designed and hand sewn by Sheldon and his father.
During his time on The Voice, Sheldon competed against other Australian artists with Eurovision connections, including Australia Decides contestants Diana Rouvas, AYDAN and Jack Vidgen, and Junior Eurovision representatives Bella Page and Jordan Anthony.
In fact, Sheldon and Jordan competed against each other in a Battle Round with their versions of Kesha’s 2017 hit 'Praying'.
Australia wasn’t enough though, as Sheldon had his sights set on the international stage.
In 2020 Sheldon competed in season 15 of America’s Got Talent, and all four judges voted yes after hearing his rendition of Billie Eilish’s 'idontwanttobeyouanymore'.
Even with the added challenge of competing remotely due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Sheldon made it through to the quarter final.
His chosen song was an incredible version of Kylie Minogue’s 'Can’t Get You Out of My Head' performed at the iconic Luna Park, Sydney. It was a performance that got Kylie’s attention and he received public praise from Ms Minogue on Twitter.
Sheldon went on to release a number of singles in 2020 and 2021, including 'More Than I', 'Left Broken', and 'AGAIN'. These songs showcase Sheldon’s talent as an artist.
In 2022 we saw Sheldon return to the stage with his entry 'Not The Same' for 'Eurovision - Australia Decides'.
The beautiful and personal song was well received by both the jury and the public, securing him the ticket to live his dream: performing at Eurovision.
Since winning Australia Decides, Sheldon has been using his social media to share his passion and enthusiasm for Eurovision, including performing a cover of Sweden’s Cornelia Jakob’s song 'Hold Me Closer' for the Eurovision House Party.
How his upbringing helped shape him as an artist
Sheldon has been very open about his childhood and the challenges be faced trying to fit in.
Sexual identity is something that Sheldon has struggled with due to a perceived lack of masculinity. Having the mix of Filipino and Australian cultures impacted Sheldon’s perception of what a man was meant to be in Australia.
Something as simple as not growing facial hair weighed on his mind, with Sheldon blaming himself for not being masculine enough.
Sheldon knew from a young age he was gay and found it really hard to fit in with his peers.
When he was six he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. A condition on the Autism spectrum, Asperger’s can make it hard to read people and social cues, but it also has strong ties to creativity.
Family has also always been a huge influence for Sheldon. For him, Filipino culture has two key elements: food and family.
Thankfully, Sheldon’s family understand, encourage and tirelessly support him. He’s not even the only creative in the family, as his father a talented visual artist.
Today Sheldon is a proud member of the LGBTQI+ community and acknowledges that his life experiences have helped shape him as a person and a performer.
Sheldon has been very open about his love of alter egos. He is well known for his high-end couture wardrobe and elaborate masks.
He encourages people to find the part of them that likes to have fun. To find their alter ego. Sheldon acknowledges that it’s this mindset and epiphany that allowed him to grow as a person and an artist.
'Not The Same'
Sheldon will be performing his song 'Not The Same' in Turin.
He has shared in interviews that 'Not The Same' started out as a poem that he wrote to himself on an old Facebook account back in 2015. He’s been continually working on it ever since.
A dark, Bond-inspired orchestral instrumentation and incredibly personal lyrics make his entry a song that many people connect with on first listen.
Sheldon told Aussievision in an interview:
"This song that I've just written. Well, I've written it a while back now but the song that I wrote, that I'm going to be performing in Australia Decides, is the most proud I have ever been of a song in my life.
It just it feels like everything I've ever wanted to release. It almost makes up for all of the negotiating I have had to do with, you know, my team or my partner, my manager, like the producers, like I'm always changing little things to make sure that it's appropriate for lots of different audiences and this song, because it's Eurovision."
I'm like, I just I want it to be me and I don't want to have to change anything to fit someone else or fit the year even fit, you know, Eurovision I want to write and I’m really excited about it.”
For Australia Decides, Sheldon and his team developed an edgy stage performance to go with the dark beauty of the song. He has hinted that the staging for Eurovision will be bigger and that he will be letting the light in.
We know that whatever he presents in Turin will be beautiful, polished and incredibly well thought out.
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