Travis Orlando was the final New Jersey auditioner to face the three-judge panel on Wednesday night’s (January 19) “American Idol” premiere, and they clearly saved one of the best for last.
Sporting a snug red T-shirt and skinny jeans, the slender, bespectacled Bronx native first won over judges with a tender rendition of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” in a delicately soulful voice that newbie judge Jennifer Lopez later called “pretty” and “sweet.” Clearly feeling the teen singer’s cover, Steven Tyler asked to hear more, and Orlando obliged with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” which scored approving nods from judge Randy Jackson.
However, despite his sugary vocals, Orlando entered the “Idol” judging session with a scrappy backstory. The 16-year-old took viewers on a tour of his rough Bronx neighborhood near the Grand Concourse thoroughfare, an area he described as being plagued with murder and crime, as he and some family members walked past a curbside shrine to a fallen neighbor.
“You have robberies, you have killings — anything you can possibly imagine goes on here,” Orlando said. The teen crooner also spoke candidly about living in homeless shelters for a few years, when the tight-knit Orlando clan fell on hard times after their patriarch fell ill and they succumbed to the recession.
Despite the adversity, Orlando said his twin brother, Timmy — who he admitted is nothing like him — supported him and told him to keep his head up and believe in his talent. So it was only fitting that not only was Orlando’s family waiting for him with Ryan Seacrest while he auditioned, but they bum-rushed the room with glee when the judges announced Orlando was headed to Hollywood. The final audition of the day took a heartfelt emotional turn as the twins embraced and fought back tears.
As the last of the 51 West Coast-bound “Idol” crooners, Orlando said he wanted his story to inspire others to chase their dreams, regardless of the circumstances. The teen singer tearfully signed off by saying he wanted to “prove to other people that anyone can do this.”
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