Alyssa Wray strikes gold: Perryville singer gets glowing American Idol judge reactions

Published 1:04 pm Thursday, March 11, 2021

At the end of Alyssa Wray’s audition on American Idol, which aired Sunday, judge Lionel Richie paced, clapped and said breathlessly, “I’m so happy.”

The most challenging thing in entertainment is to have a presence, according to judge Luke Bryan, and he said Wray had it.

“Lionel, how hard is that to find?” he asked.

Email newsletter signup

Richie responded, “Once in a generation.”

Judge Katy Perry said she could tell Wray had dreams and told her to be open to what the world wants to give her, which was “pretty much anything.”

Wray absolutely beamed with joy after receiving the praise and her golden ticket to Hollywood. She had performed “I Am Changing” from Dreamgirls, in the style of Jennifer Hudson.

“That’s insane for me to hear, that these big stars think that I’m icon material too, because they’re icons,” she said. “So that’s really crazy to hear, but it’s also super comforting because it gives me that drive to keep working and know that if they think that I can do it, I guess I can.”

Before her audition aired, Wray said one of her goals in performing on American Idol was not only to open the gate to fulfilling her dreams of being on Broadway, making her own music and working with production, but also to be an influence and inspiration to others, especially to those who are growing up feeling out of place, like she had when she was younger.

Wray stands at about six feet, two inches tall. She said she was often one of the only Black kids in class growing up, and she didn’t often see herself in people she saw on TV or in performances. She said she felt like an oddball. But now she’s made her differences a superpower, she said in the introduction before her audition, and in her life and on stage she strives to be no one but herself.

Already, she said one woman reached out to her to say her bi-racial daughter said Wray looks like her, and she gets lots of messages from people saying their sister, daughter or friend is also a tall girl, and Wray’s confidence made them feel special. A woman on Twitter told Wray her autistic daughter, also named Alyssa Wray, looked at Wray and said, “That’s me.” Wray said she loves these stories, and they mean a lot to her.

Since her audition was recorded back in the fall of 2020 and she already knew she’d gotten her golden ticket, she said it was very difficult to keep quiet about her success until her air date, especially since she had gone back to Northern Kentucky University, where she’s a musical theater freshman, and her friends were asking about her audition. Now, she said even when she goes to WalMart, people will stop her in the aisle because they recognize her from American Idol. She said she’s gotten a tremendous outpouring of Kentucky support.

“It’s really cool all of Kentucky is behind me,” she said.

She’s also grown close with the other two Kentucky contestants, Alex Miller from Lancaster and Courtney Arnold from Mount Vernon. She and Miller recently recorded a video singing “My Old Kentucky Home” together in Millennium Park, and the two of them have several mutual friends, including one of Wray’s best friends who was Miller’s FFA president.

About Miller, she said, “He’s so kind, and he’s hilarious too, and we just had a good old time.”

She met Arnold when they were auditioning in Ojai, California, and she said Arnold is “amazing.”

“It’s really cool that both people I get to represent Kentucky with are good friends of mine now,” Wray said.

Wray can’t yet say much about Hollywood week on American Idol, which was pre-filmed, other than the fact it’s known for being difficult, but she said it was fun. She met Miller in Hollywood.

As viewers prepare to see her perform in Hollywood, Wray said, “I’m just extremely grateful, and I’m trying to respond to everyone I can, but I’m just so grateful for the support, and it just means the world to me.”