X Factor favourite Dalton Harris does not cry recalling the childhood abuse he says left deep scars which start at the bottom of his feet, criss-cross up his body and end at his scalp.
He insists his story is not sad because he has forgiven those he claims urged him to kill himself.
But he breaks down telling of his feeling when X Factor judges and audiences give him a standing ovation. He says: “When I finish a song, I touch my chest as I feel my heart is exploding, or I touch my head because I feel it’s unreal.
“My childhood had no love or support. Applause means, finally, I have value.”
Dalton, 24, is tipped to win this year’s contest. Mentor Louis Tomlinson has been moved his performances.
Performing is therapy for Dalton. He says: “When I sing I feel safe and free from everything I left behind. I’m in a room of happiness.”
Dermot O’Leary and Dalton Harris
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Growing up in Jamaica, the singer says he was raised in poverty – one of at least 22 siblings. “I know on my mum’s side I have four sisters and two brothers. But my dad was very promiscuous and we don’t know an exact number of his kids.
“My mum and dad never married and both have kids to other people. Dad’s side didn’t believe I belonged to them.”
Dalton says he spent his first 15 years living in two rooms with five siblings and other lodgers. “We never had electricity. Sometimes we couldn’t afford food. We brought water from the river. But it didn’t make me angry.
“Mornings were green and fresh, the sun had the brightest shine. We were poor but happy.”
Yet abuse darkened those sunny days and, while Dalton will not give names, he claims he was often beaten.
Dalton’s 18-month-old niece Nayeli
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“There’s a cut above my right eyebrow and cuts around my ears and head but I grew my hair to hide them. There are more on my chest, arm, shoulder, back, thighs, legs and feet. I was punched so hard by a guy dating my mum I crashed through a window.”
The mental pain took longer to heal. “I was told that I should walk into the road and kill myself”, says Dalton. “I was told I was ugly and illegitimate.”
At 15, he was homeless and slept behind a shop and church, in basements and beside the river. Dalton, who now has no relationship with his mum or dad, scraped a living by painting houses and recycling school jotters by carving them into love hearts to sell as diaries.
His gift for singing, first spotted at Sunday school when he was seven, paved his escape. He says: “A teacher heard and entered me into a competition. I was happy as I knew I’d get lunch and ride in a cab – so I enjoyed myself even before I won.
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“In 2011 I won a national talent show and one million Jamaican dollars, which is around £6,000.
“That helped me pay rent and go to school.”
Yet, aged around 17, he was dangerously low.
“Nothing from my childhood made me feel I was good. I felt nothing positive from anybody apart from my sisters.
“All I got was hate, hurt, abuse. As a teen it got to me. When people tell you to go and kill yourself, after a couple of years you feel like you probably should.
“Thank God I got through that stage. I started forgiving myself and all of the people that hurt me in any kind of way.”
Dalton began working on cruise ships and set his mind on X Factor after seeing a YouTube clip seven years ago. His work ethic resulted in his misshaped ears.
Benny Andersson and Dalton rehearse
(Image: Tom Dymond)
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“They changed shape when I was 18. I’m a workaholic and both my ears got inflamed from using headphones all the time. I’d listen to music and fall asleep in the them. I had surgery but my ears are music marks and remind me how hard I worked.”
Dalton says money does not motivate him. “What
I want is a family. I will
be the best husband and dad ever. One day.”
The singer is besotted with 18-month-old niece Nayeli, who is currently upset with him.
“Nayeli wanted to play peek-a-boo on FaceTime but I was about to meet Benny from Abba so had to tell her I was busy. She said I was rude and hung up.”
For now, Dalton is focused on his singing ambitions.
He says: “I don’t drink, smoke or have caffeine. I’ve never partied. I take care of my voice because my voice is the only thing I’ve ever had.”
- X-Factor, 1TV, 8pm tomorrow.
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