American Idol returned for a new season on Sunday with one truly surprising audition. Near the end of the two-hour premiere, TikTok star Claudia Conway stepped up to the plate to show off her pipes.
Idol judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie were taken somewhat by surprise by Claudia’s appearance, and only Katy knew who she was before she was introduced.
“Are you OK?” Katy asked, before Conway had even said hello.
“No. But yes,” Claudia said with a laugh, before explaining how her parents are Kellyanne Conway — Senior Counselor for former President Trump — and George Conway, an outspoken critic of Trump.
The 16-year-old has been very publicly critical of her mother over the past few years, and has cultivated a large following on TikTok, on which she often feuds with her mother over their political views.
“It’s a lot, but I only want to spread love, and I love a compromise, and I do agree to disagree with my mom and my dad,” Claudia explained to the judges.
Due to coronavirus protocols, only limited family members are allowed to accompany contestants this year — so some contestants are allowed to video chat with their other family members via huge TV monitors in an isolated booth.
While Claudia’s dad came with her to the audition, she got a virtual visit from her mom, who shared some words of encouragement: “This is your time to shine. Remember honey, winners are people who are willing to lose.”
“With your mom being the figure that she is, does she still, like, hug you?” Katy asks, evoking the very public drama that has unfolded between them in recent months.
“Yeah, she loves me and I love her. I just feel like our relationship, it’s a little iffy,” Claudia says. “Most of my life, my feeling were being suppressed, and then I got on social media and it was like, ‘Damn, now my voice is being heard!'”
Claudia began her audition with a rendition of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain,” but seemed to lose her way midway through. Katy didn’t wait long to stop her, calm her nerves, and ask if she had another song she might want to try.
Claudia decided to give Adele’s “When We Were Young” a shot, and the performance showed the judges a more confident side to the young singer’s performance style — although it didn’t blow them away.
“There’s a lot of noise in your life, and you have to calm the storm that is around you,” Katy shares. “Meaning, before you sing, you need to get off your phone, you need to stop reading your comments, because you may not ever rise above your dad and your mom. It’s your choice.”
Finally, it came time to vote on whether or not she should move on to the actual competition. Ultimately, Luke Bryan — who said he liked her personality but felt she had a limited range — voted no.
Katy and Lionel, meanwhile, felt like she had shown an ability to take coaching, and wanted to give her a chance at exploring her passion. Both voted yes, and with that Claudia got a ticket to Hollywood.
American Idol airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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