By Carolyn Amurao
Nicki Minaj is usually all smiles, laughs and crazy faces on “American Idol,” but last night’s episode showed the judge’s sensitive side. Zoanette Johnson’s rendition of “Circle of Life” from "The Lion King" brought tears to Minaj’s eyes, not only because of her passionate performance but because of her story.
Originally from Liberia, 20-year-old Johnson, who was dubbed “Queen of the Jungle” by Keith Urban, said that she’s on “Idol” to inspire others. “I want to do this so bad for my country because I believe it’s time for a star to rise out of Liberia. I believe I can take that pedestal to open the door for other Liberians,” she said.
After she sang “Circle of Life,” which was a surprising yet very fitting pick for the over-the-top singer, Minaj said: "I love you because that song was such a smart choice, because it matches who you are and where you're about to be and where you're from. And it makes so much sense! And I'm proud that this place right here gives people like you and me that came from absolutely nothing, from a country that we didn't probably ever think we would make it out alive, it gives us a shot. Thank you. Thank you!"
Veteran “Idol” judge Randy Jackson also praised Johnson and clarified for any skeptic viewers why she’s on the show. “This is the reason she’s here: that spirit. That spirit you have is really what the spirit of a lion and a champion and you sang ‘Circle of Life from The Lion King—that’s what it’s really about…that emotion is what it’s about.”
Following the critiques, Ryan Seacrest helped to wipe away tears that were strolling down Johnson’s face as she acknowledged her family in the audience. Close-up shots of Minaj (whose appearance last night was less wild Barbz and more sleek chic) revealed her water-filled eyes, proving that the only contestant in this round to really move Queen Barbz was, in fact, the “Queen of the Jungle.”
Johnson, who rocked a big blonde mane that fits perfectly with her new title, survived the cut and made it to the top 10 girls. Whether or not this means more Disney throwbacks remains unknown, but one thing for sure is that Queen Barbz will have at least one more opportunity to watch her jungle-inspired counterpart.