Suzie McNeil got her start on a reality TV series; now the award-winning singer/musician is hoping to pay it forward by discovering young talent through YTV’s The Next Star.

An open casting call for the reality series in its third season is coming to Edmonton on Tuesday and McNeil will be one of the judges making the tough decisions.

“It’s an Idol-esque type of format for kids 15-years and younger,” McNeil said. “It’s different though because there’s no elimination, they’re too young to go through that sort of thing.”

Auditions for The Next Star have already been held in St. Johns, Montreal and Toronto and the judges have seen more kids try out in the first three cities than the entire tour last year.

Out of the thousands of hopefuls, 16 singers will be selected for the show in Toronto. After two episodes they’ll cut that down to six kids and the real competition begins with one winner announced at the end.

McNeil said making the cut is just the beginning, the kids have to work even harder once the show ends.

“With all these reality shows the thing that the contestants have to remember is that on the show you’re given the opportunity and the doors are opened for you but when it’s finished it’s up to you to walk through the doors,” she said. “It’s almost like after the show ends, your career begins.”

That’s how it worked for McNeil. She was a singer for years before she got her big break on a CBS show called Rock Star: INXS.

“You think you’re famous because you’re on TV but it’s not the case, you have to work hard,” she said. “It’s hard to remember that sometimes because they’re so young but I definitely learned that.”

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