Injured Iraqi orphan wows X Factor judges, but was previously rejected as a contestant

Emmanuel Kelly, an Iraqi orphan whose limbs were damaged by chemical warfare, wowed Australia’s X Factor‘s judges with his performance last night, but he was, unbelievably, rejected from both Australia’s Got Talent and X Factor last year.

His audition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which is below, resulted in a standing ovation but isn’t quite one of those now near-cliche auditions where someone who looks like an unlikely singer and has a disproportionately amazing voice. But what is surprising is that it took him this long to find his way to television because of both his story and his talent. (One of the judges said, “compared to the other people here, regardless of your story, you have a beautiful gift.”)

The Telegraph reports that he “auditioned for Australia’s Got Talent last year but did not make it on to the show,” while the AAP reports that he “auditioned for last year’s [X Factor] show but failed to make it through.”

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Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.