She was busking outside a Niagara Falls casino. Now she's in the finals of Canada's Got Talent

A Hamilton singer was busking outside a casino in Niagara Falls, Ont., when Howie Mandel, one of the judges for Canada's Got Talent, spotted her. Now, she's one of the finalists on the show, which wraps up Tuesday.

Samantha Meave Pearson, 26, Ontario's only finalist, will learn if she wins Tuesday night

A man puts money into a bowl
Toronto-born comedian Howie Mandel, left, bends over to drop a tip into a container for Samantha Meave Pearson while she was busking outside the Niagara Falls, Ont., casino in recent weeks. Mandel, a judge on Canada's Got Talent, urged the 26-year-old, whose stage name is Meave, to audition. She's reached the show's finale, set for Tuesday evening. (Canada's Got Talent/YouTube)

When Samantha Meave Pearson was busking in front of Ontario's Niagara Fallsview Casino in October, she expected a few people might stop and listen — but never imagined they would include Howie Mandel, the world-famous comedian and a judge for Canada's Got Talent.

"I didn't think in a million years that this would've happened," the 26-year-old Hamilton singer, whose stage name is Meave, told CBC Hamilton.

"He told me I could go right then and there and audition on stage."

Moments later, she stood in front of the judges, singing an a capella version of the House of the Rising Sun by the Animals.

Now, Meave is a finalist on the talent show and will have a chance to win it all on Tuesday night.

"It's just crazy … I'm really grateful for this opportunity right now."

'I just needed rent money'

Meave said she grew up in Hamilton and had a passion for music, but put it aside to try to pursue a career with a higher chance of success.

Feeling burned out and an itch to start performing again, she moved to Thorold, Ont., and started busking in Niagara Falls a year ago.

After taking a break from music, she'd returned to busking five months earlier.

Each time, she'd bring a speaker and sing to karaoke tracks.

On the day Mandel showed up, she was sitting in front of the casino because her usual spot was taken.

A woman singing.
Meave is Ontario's only finalist in the Canada's Got Talent finals. (Submitted by Jag Gundu/Citytv/Canada’s Got Talent)

Meave said she started busking after her morning shift as a server at a local restaurant.

She heard the show was in town, but had no clue she was singing right in front of the building where auditions were taking place.

"That was not what I was expecting at all," she said. "That wasn't the purpose of me being there anyway … I just needed rent money."

In a video posted by the show, Mandel said he heard someone busking outside the building and wanted to judge them.

"There's an old joke: Why did the judge cross the street? To find Meave," he said.

'The beginning of everything'

Meave said she had no choice but to audition without a backing track due to time constraints — but she said it was "a blessing rather than a curse" because it gave her less to think about.

"This is something that I've dreamed about ever since I can remember."

She also sailed through the semifinal round after singing You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette.

Win or lose, Meave said, her confidence and creativity have grown since the chance encounter in October.

WATCH | Meave's semifinal performance on Canada's Got Talent:

"It just feels like it's the beginning of everything … there's nowhere to go but up," she said, adding she's been releasing new music recently.

Meave is Ontario's only finalist, up against seven other acts.

The finale is Tuesday on Citytv and Citytv+ starting at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT).

Viewers will get to vote on the winner, who has a chance at the $150,000 grand prize and to perform in America's Got Talent Presents: SUPERSTARS Live at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.