The DePaulia Editor speaks about journey to NBC’s ‘The Voice’

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When I woke up on Saturday morning, my mind immediately returned to ’07. I sang at the top of my lungs, as I watched Jordin Sparks perform her coronation song, “This Is My Now,” as she became the youngest contestant to win “American Idol.” That day I believed my dreams were possible — that someday I could inspire people in the way Sparks inspired me. I vowed when I became old enough I would audition, and no matter how many “no’s” were thrown at me, I wouldn’t stop until my dreams became a reality.

You could say now I’m a reality-competition pro. I’ve auditioned for both “American Idol” and “The Voice” a total of five times, once for “Idol” and every year for “The Voice” since my junior year of high school. What I appreciate about “The Voice,” is that unlike “Idol,” which focused more on who can attract the most ratings, the NBC program is all about talent. And, with four experiences under my belt, I am more than ready to chase my dreams, yet again.

My audition day began very early, like, 5 a.m. early. I already received my audition pass via email, and have chosen my time slot. You have the option to choose a 7 a.m. morning slot or 2 p.m. afternoon slot for your audition. Never choose the afternoon slot. That is forbidden territory. By that time the producers have seen hundreds of contestants, and the stress of the day will more than likely lead them to sending everyone home with a “no,” to speed up the process. No worries, the adrenaline of the day had me wide-awake, and who needs sleep when your dreams are on the line? I gave myself a pep talk in my bedroom mirror, made sure my outfit screamed “superstar” and triple-checked for all my identification before heading off to Navy Pier.

These auditions are all about song choice. I’ve sung a variety of different songs throughout the years. “So What” by Pink, “Partition” by Beyonce and, last year, took on Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen.” But this year I chose a ballad, something I’ve never done before, and selected OG (original ganster) Voice judge Christina Aguilera’s, “Hurt.” I go back and forth on the bus ride to the audition contemplating if I’ve made the right choice, but at this point I’ve rehearsed the song every week for the past month and there’s no going back. I trust I’ve made the best decision and am ready to go knock them off their feet.

What you see on television is not the first audition. As eager as I am to serenade Adam Le“Fine,” there are two auditions before I get that chance. Today, I’m auditioning for a producer who sits at a computer, and listens as one-by-one we all sing for a spot in the next round.


(Donyae Lewis / The DePaulia)

Check-in is the easy part. You get a wristband and then are seated in this large waiting space, where you will spend a majority of your day. This is my favorite part of the day, watching as hundreds and thousands of musicians from around the world come together for the same dream. You have the ones tucked away in the corner rehearsing, or the ones who’ve gotten up several times to check themselves out in the bathroom. There’s the parent that’s accompanying their child and is everyone’s cheerleader throughout the day, and the one person whose voice is slowly dying because they’re performing for the crowd every five minutes.

Then, there’s me. Attentively observing all of the talent around me. Candid Gardner, a fellow auditioner from the south suburbs of Chicago, sits next to me. Together we wait anxiously, sharing stories with other fellow contestants of the, “what if.” What if we actually make it to the big stage?

“Alicia Keys would probably (make) the most sense for me,” Gardner said. “Just because we’re both earthy black girls and I identify with her the most so I’d want her.”

I would want Alicia Keys to turn her chair around for me too. I admire her authenticity and having the Grammy award-winning songstress as a mentor would be a dream come true.

I’ve been playing different “what if ” scenarios in my head that I haven’t even noticed it’s almost time for my group to be taken upstairs. It never fails. Every year, when the nerves start to settle, my mouth gets drier than the Sahara. If I had drank any more water, I would’ve incorporated a “pee-pee” dance routine with my song. But, there’s no time for a bathroom break. They count off our group, line us up and escort us upstairs to the producers.

As we sat outside waiting for the producer to finish with the previous group, my mind is focused. I trusted God would work everything out, and whatever happened I could at least walk away knowing I put in my best effort.

The previous group has finished, and now it’s time for us to go in. I walked in with my head high, full of confidence. Once everyone has been seated, the producer offers up his advice and tells us what’s he’s looking for when we audition. He wanted to see great pitch, consistent tone and a performance that would make anyone hit their button.

When it’s my time to go, I don’t hold anything back. “Hurt,” is a song about losing someone you love, so when I’m belting out the lyrics I think about my mentor that I lost three years ago. My eyes are closed for most of the song as I imagine myself singing to a crowd of cheering and smiling faces. The producer cuts me off, mid-chorus, and says, “thank you.” Just like that, my audition is now complete.

Sadly it was a “no” for not only me, but my entire group. I was more surprised Gardner didn’t make it to the second round. She explained although the outcome wasn’t what she wanted, she’s happy to have come out.

“Since I’m a pessimist and afraid of rejection, I always seem to convince myself out of things, especially when I’m not confident in the odds being in my favor. I’m happy I said ‘you’re gonna do this’ and actually committed,” Gardner said.

I couldn’t have described the experience any better. You would think after five times of hearing “no,” I would be discouraged and want to end my journey. But, I walked out of the audition the same way I walked in — head high, full of confidence. I’m not giving up on dreams, until my breath leaves my body. I want to prove to others that with a resillent spirit, the world is your stage. However, it’s up to you to have the courage to take the mic.