WHILE the nation was gripped by the trials and tribulations of young hopefuls auditioning for a place in Popstars — The Rivals and Fame Academy, Aldershot’s own singing starlet was heading for success.

As a winner in the final of Top of the Pops Magazine’s Star Search 2003, Emma Berrabah, 18, of Windmill Road, is set to be a member of a new, as yet unnamed, group with members from the UK and America.

Emma, supported by her family, was one of 1,500 singers travelling to Liverpool, Belfast, London and Edinburgh to audition in a bid to become one of the lead vocalists in the group.

The final audition, held on Sunday in London’s Leicester Square, saw 15 boys and girls singing and dancing to a panel of judges including producers from Jiant, representatives from the Academy of Contemporary Music, Polaroid and Top of the Pops Magazine.

Emma said: “I didn’t think I would get that far really so I was just really pleased with myself to be in the final.

“The atmosphere was quite tense but everyone was really nice to each other and telling each other to calm down.

“There was a presenter there from Radio 1Xtra and, after singing our songs, we all had to stand in a row and they announced the runners-up first and what they had won, and then went on to announce the overall winner. I was crying and everything.”

Simon Grant, presenter of BBC1’s Saturday Show, presented Emma with her prize and now she is waiting for the American auditions to be completed to find out who else will be in the group.

Their first single will be written and produced by Jiant Productions, who have penned chart toppers for Five, Samantha Mumba and the Spice Girls.

And while mum is slightly worried about her daughter being whisked off to America, sister Samiya, 16, is hoping to follow in her sister’s footsteps by studying for a National Diploma in Performing Arts at Farnborough College of Technology.

She said: “I’m really, really proud of her because she had a really sore throat on the day as well.

“She’s done so well.”