Kanata’s Marlayah McLeod prepares for spotlight at CNE’s Rising Star Competition

(Marlayah McLeod, aka Miss McLeod, of Kanata entertains the crowd at Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Photos: provided)

Just in time for its 35th anniversary, Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is returning after a two-year hiatus. With the popular event’s return comes another chance for talented young vocalists, dancers, and performers from all over the province to participate in the CNE’s annual Rising Star Competition. Among these competitors is 17-year-old Marlayah McLeod of Kanata.

Performing under the stage name Miss McLeod, Marlayah is a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, entertainer, and even a producer. She has performed her music for crowds at Bluesfest, TD Place, The Museum of Nature, The Ottawa Children’s Festival, Capital Pride Festival, Centrepointe Theatre, and more.

Marlayah has “always had a big love for music,” recalling that her parents would bring her to concerts as a child and constantly had music playing around the house. From this love of music, Marlayah says that “singing just came naturally, and piano and guitar.” Composing came naturally as well, as she would often hum to herself, making up songs, melodies, and rhythms. When she was seven years old, Marlayah played the titular character in her school’s production of Annie. Singing “Tomorrow” in front of an audience sparked her love for performing. From there, Miss McLeod has performed in various locations – such as Bluesfest when she was eleven or twelve – and even south of the border.

Expressing how much she loves being able to travel for something she has worked so hard for, Marlayah especially looks back fondly on her performance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York. “I can’t express how great and magical it was,” she shares. She recalls how nice it was to work with such talented people and how exciting it felt to touch the very same tree stump – Apollo’s tree of hope – that Michael Jackson has touched. Recently, “another magical experience” right here in Ottawa was singing the national anthem at the Canadian citizenship ceremony hosted at TD Place during a RedBlacks game on July 21st.

In addition to singing, Miss McLeod enjoys rapping and playing the guitar, piano/keyboard, ukulele, and saxophone. She produces her own music with the help of a recording studio right in her bedroom. “I have a recording studio right under my bed,” Marlayah laughs – a loft bed, she clarifies.

Among the top candidates selected from the hundreds of hopefuls who applied for the 2022 CNE Rising Star Competition, Miss McLeod will compete beginning August 19th, with Finals taking place on September 4th inside the CNE’s Enercare Centre. Contestants aged 6–21 are judged on their natural ability, audience appeal, stage presence, and the quality of their performance. This will be her second year performing on the CNE stage, the first time being a few years ago. This year, Marlayah auditioned by submitting a video after organizers reached out to her. Miss McLeod is particularly excited about her song selection this year, as it will allow her to really show the judges her many skills in singing, rapping, and performing, “I’m super excited to show people everything I have.” Marlayah is also looking forward to going to Toronto with her family, who have been so supportive of her career, and to make connections with other talented young individuals at the competition.

To learn more about Miss McLeod, and to find her music, visit her website. We wish Miss McLeod the best of luck!


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