LLM student Marie Joe Noon won first prize at the inaugural Illinois Global Talent Show for her vocal performance of "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston. Annie caught up with Marie after the show to learn about her singing inspiration (definitely Cher), her hometown, and how singing translates to confidence in the courtroom.
You mentioned you are from Lebanon and pursing a LLM degree at the University of Illinois with a concentration in International and Comparative Law at the College of Law.
What is something most people don’t know about your hometown in Lebanon?
I come from a very historic city in Lebanon called Byblos. Byblos is actually one of the oldest towns in the world. It has been continuously inhabited for more than 7,000 years and was home to one of the oldest civilizations in history; the Phoenicians. My hometown is mentioned in the Bible and the english word “Bible” is itself derived from Byblos to mean “the (papyrus) book.” Throughout history, Byblos provided a strategic location for trade knowing for a fact that it lies on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. Today, Byblos is an upscale tourist hub known for its sandy beach, Phoenician, Roman, and Crusader ruins, succulent seafood restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and its surrounding picturesque mountains.
Why did you choose the University of Illinois?
When I was looking for LLM programs with concentrations in International and Comparative Law to apply to, my main focus was, of course, picking a program that is academically rich with exceptionally brilliant faculty members. That is exactly what I found at the University of Illinois’s College of Law. What pushed me even more to consider Illinois or my Fulbright experience is the high appreciation that is given to the arts, and that is very much apparent through the prestigious performances that are credited at the Krannert Center. I am extremely happy to be here and to be surrounded by a culturally diverse cohort, a great Lebanese community, and fellow Fulbrighters from all around the world.
Why is “I have nothing” by Whitney Houston an important song for you?
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When I was 12 years old, I participated in a televised competition for talented teens. The show was broadcasted all over Lebanon and was the first of its kind as teens were competing against each other to win the “TalenTeen” title. I got to sing “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston during the semi-finals. It was especially challenging since the song itself is really hard to perform and has especially high notes, but back then my mother was the one who suggested that I sing it and encouraged me to give it my all. This song helped me get to the finals and eventually rank in the top three winners in the first season of the show. The fact that i decided to perform this song again for the “Global Talent Show” really brought me back to that time where I was experiencing something completely new - performing on live television at a very young age - and it kind of made sense because here I am in a foreign country, away from all that is familiar and comfortable to me, experiencing something new but still doing what I love.
How is singing important to you?
The fact that I’ve been singing ever since the age of 7 is a huge part of my identity. I was always known at school and during university amongst my classmates as “the girl who sings”. Being on stage at a very young age has definitely helped in building my character and has helped me understand that I could express my thoughts and emotions freely through singing, and that’s how I learned that music is my medium. Just like that, the stage became my second home where I felt completely happy. I can also say that singing has made me a very vocal person and has made it easier for me to speak in public. In a way, I credit singing in giving me the courage that is needed to stand up in court and argue for what is just.
Where did you practice for the Talent Show?
Just like everyone else, I practiced in the shower. Haha. Honestly, there’s no better studio than the restroom. That’s what I used to do back home as well. You can ask my family...they suffered a lot. Haha.
Who, other than Whitney Houston, is your go-to artist?
Cher. Definitely, Cher. I am part of a Lebanese NGO called Heartbeat- La Chaine de L’Espoir which is an assembly of doctors who treat children with heart diseases. Every year, the NGO organizes a huge concert that is meant to raise funds for the treatment of these children. I have been part of this great initiative for four years now as a vocalist. In these past four years, I became known as the Cher of Heartbeat. I got to perform lots of Cher classics; Dove L’Amore, Strong Enough, and Welcome to Burlesque. I would kind of like to think that since I’m in the States now, I could give Cher a call and we could hang out sometime and maybe do a duet in one of her Vegas shows…I don’t know, I guess it depends on how many cases I have to read for Property class. (Cher, please notice me.)
Other than the Global Talent Show, have you had the chance to participate in other events, competitions, etc.?
My teammate, Diana Bikbaeva, and I actually participated in the College of Law’s LL.M. Negotiations Competition and won First Prize! It was a great experience for me, especially since I had just graduated from the Lebanese University where I studied Law and from the Lebanese American University where I studied Economics right before coming here and I had no legal experience whatsoever.
Annie F Adams is the New Media Specialist for the Graduate College. After earning a Master’s degree at the Rhode Island School of Design, Annie pursued using place-based arts, culture and design to increase civic engagement before joining the Communications team. As a human-centered artist and designer, Annie can be found advocating for great places for people, plants and animals to thrive.