Ria Talent Festival: The Festival Beyond Borders

Leaving your home country can be a challenging and terrifying venture, but it can also be full of hope, love, and resilience.

Last week, we witnessed the beauty of immigration through our customers, who shared their talents on the stage of the Ria Talent Fest before a crowd of nearly 200 people. At the same time, family and friends back home were able to cheer on their loved ones through a live stream. 

The Grand European Final was hosted in Madrid, Spain, and served as the perfect closing for a competition that started as a thank-you to our customers and turned into a celebration of all things diversity.

Organizing the first Ria Talent Fest

Through the years, we’ve participated in many expat events alongside our customers. After all the first-hand experience, we concluded that there was one binding similarity between all these events: as soon as the music played, everyone was ready to honor their roots through song and dance.

This summer, we decided it was about time we hosted our own talent festival, where we could invite our many talented customers to share their talents with the world.

The process was simple. Participants living in the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy were asked to submit videos showcasing their talents to our online platform.

The top candidates participated in their local contests, crowning themselves finalists and winning cash prizes of up to €5,000.

The result? Immigrants from dozens of nationalities submitted nearly 300 videos expressing themselves through music, dance, acting, and other disciplines.

The Grand European Final

Although the local finals were great, the idea was to internationalize the Talent Fest as much as possible to ensure our customers’ talents were reaching the biggest audience available.

This past Friday, the six finalists from the participating countries traveled to Madrid, Spain, where they competed for the grand prize of €10,000 and the chance to become the face of the first Ria Talent Festival.

Among the participants were Miriam Fatmi, a Spanish-Moroccan slalom skater and national champion in the discipline, Mar Gavalo, up-and-coming Colombian singer and winner of the Colombo Song Festival, and Iya Traoré, a Guinean football freestyler living in Paris and winner of the Grand Final.

Meet Iya Traoré, the first winner of the Ria Talent Fest

Traoré was born in Guinea Conakry, where he lived until the age of 14 before moving to France to complete his studies. Once there, he went through a short stint at the football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) but was unable to secure a professional contract.

Still, convinced his talents resided in the sport, Traoré took to the streets where he became a renowned freestyler.

Before hearing about the Talent Fest from our colleagues down at the Sacré-Cœur store, it had been 10 years since Traoré had participated in any competitions, disheartened after falling short of first place one time too many. And good thing he changed his mind! The freestyler wound up having everything to win in the French final.

To perform at the European Final, Traoré and his friend Muhammed traveled from Paris to Madrid in a pick-up truck to bring the props needed for the show.

His set began to the beat of Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain,” where a pleasant stroll through the streets of Paris quickly turned into a full-on freestyle extravaganza garnering gasps and cheers from the crowd at every turn.

Upon winning the Grand Final, Traoré shared: “I know many people were working to make this competition beautiful. I saw it here when I came yesterday, everybody working hard to make this beautiful, to give this opportunity to the artists, to give them a chance to make their dream [come true].”

Throughout his career, Traoré has supported his family in Africa and runs an association in his native Guinea focused on building schools where children can learn and play sports comfortably. 

A night to remember

The Ria Talent Fest will go in our books as one of the best nights for our company, and we want to make sure others get to experience it. That’s why we’ve uploaded the full-length video of the European gala to our YouTube channel.

And if you’re finding out about the Talent Fest now, don’t worry! There will be a second edition next year with the Grand Final being celebrated in Paris, France.

Most importantly, we want to say thank you to our customers for sharing their talents with us and to everyone who joined us through the live stream or at the many venues where the Talent Fest was hosted.

For us at Ria, it has been a great privilege to serve as your stage. Your energy and hard work made this festival a success and a genuine celebration of cultures.