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Maria Haukaas Storeng is a Norwegian pop singer who initially rose to fame in 2004 as a contestant on the television show Idol and later represented her homeland in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. Born on August 3, 1979, in Finnsnes, Norway, she began her performance career in theater, making her debut at age 11 in a Norwegian musical adaptation of Annie. She later appeared in adaptations of The Wizard of Oz, Fame, Hamlet, and Hair. In 2004 Storeng appeared as a contestant on the second season of Idol, the Norwegian version of Pop Idol, and finished in sixth place behind winner Kjartan Salvesen. In the aftermath of her strong showing on Idol, Storeng made her commercial recording debut in 2004 with the Top Five hit single "Breathing." Billing herself simply as Maria, she then made her full-length album debut in 2005 with Breathing on the label Oslo Recordings. The full-length English-language effort was fairly popular, reaching number 13 on the Norwegian albums chart, and spawned the Top 20 follow-up single "Should've." In 2006, she released the one-off single "Nobody Knows." A couple years later Storeng won the Melodi Grand Prix and was thereby chosen to represent Norway in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Hold on Be Strong." She competed well, finishing in fifth place in the finals, and "Hold on Be Strong" was released to international success, topping the Norwegian singles chart and reaching the Top Ten in neighboring Sweden. An accompanying full-length album, Hold on Be Strong (2008), was also released and likewise proved popular, reaching number three on the Norwegian charts. In 2009 Storeng competed in the Swedish Melodifestivalen with a version of Roberta Flack's 1970s soul classic "Killing Me Tenderly" performed in tandem with Swedish singer and actress Anna Sahlene. Released as a commercial single, the song was a Top Ten hit in Sweden. ~ Jason Birchmeier
03 August 1979 in Finnsnes, Norway