Like a college basketball star good enough to play in the NBA, Alyssa Wray might be one-and-done in the best kind of way.
The Northern Kentucky University freshman continues to advance through the rounds of “American Idol.” The 19-year-old enters Sunday’s episode as one of 10 remaining contestants with hopes of surviving to the end of the show.
Whether she wins the whole thing or gets cut this weekend, Wray – a native of Perryville, Kentucky, two hours south of Cincinnati – is unsure of her next move.
Wray and the other nine contestants will each be singing one song from the following list: "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (“Cinderella”); "Remember Me" (“Coco”); "Real Gone" (“Cars”); "When She Loved Me" (“Toy Story 2”); "Go the Distance" (“Hercules”); "Baby Mine" (“Dumbo”); "When You Wish Upon a Star" (“Pinocchio”); "Into the Unknown" (“Frozen II”); "You’ll Be In My Heart" (“Tarzan”); and "Circle of Life" (“The Lion King”). Which contestant will be singing which song has not been revealed.
Viewer voting will decide the winners. The show airs 8 p.m. on ABC.
Wray hopped on a phone call before her next “Idol” hurdle.
Question: Why did you choose NKU to pursue a musical-theater degree?
Answer: I completed this program the summer after my junior year called Governor's School for the Arts, and one of the scholarships that you could have when completing the program was basically full tuition at NKU, so that’s what introduced me to the school. I went and visited, and I really liked it.
Q: What’s Perryville like?
A: Super small. A little bit under 800 people in it. There’s a Dollar Store, two gas stations and a lot of churches. There’s an elementary school, too.
Q: Were you introduced to music through the internet, since there wasn’t a thriving arts community there?
A: Sort of. I really got into music through church. I started singing at church. But you’re right about how being in a small town there’s not a lot of arts and culture. I always struggled with finding community theaters. There’s one in the county that I live in and there’s one in the county over. But other than that I didn’t have opportunities that a lot of kids had. I had to do a lot of it at home and at school and at church.
Q: Did your brief time at school, being away from home for the first time and going to a bigger metropolitan area prepare you for going to Los Angeles? I imagine it might have been more difficult going straight from Perryville to LA without first spending a little time here.
A: It totally prepared me. When I came to the auditions in California back in November, I had my mom with me. I was so attached to her. I hadn’t been in school that long. After being at school until about the beginning of March, I don’t want to say I got used to being alone, because I hate being alone, but being alone as far as making decisions and buying groceries and doing all that, because I have to do all that here.
Q: Do you choose a song because you like it or is it more important that the song suits your talents?
A: I have two decisions that go into it. I always like the song. I’m pretty versatile because of musical theater, so I love all kinds of music. The two things that go into it are if I have a moment in there that I can showcase what I can do, because that’s how you win the audience over in each round. The second thing is I think about my audience. A lot of people don’t want to vote for a song that they don’t like. Even if you sounded good, they want to know the song. They want to know what you’re singing. I think about the demographic of the people watching, and I think about songs out of my catalog that I can sing that they’d enjoy, and I pick from that.
Q: Doing a Disney song plays to your strength, doesn’t it, given your background in musical theater?
A: That’s what everyone keeps saying, so I hope so. But I am adding some other parts. I have kind of a musical-theater part in it, and I have kind of a Whitney-Mariah part in it, and I have kind of an acoustic-guitar section in it, so there’s different styles within the song, so I’m really excited about getting to showcase different sides. I didn’t want to go full-on musical theater, so people aren’t like, “that’s all she can do.” I wanted to show them multiple sides.
Q: Jennifer Hudson recently sent you a DM. How did you handle that? Do you just send her a thank you and never message her again, or does she immediately become your best friend and you start DM’ing her all the time?
A: She definitely didn’t become my best friend, but she did follow me on Instagram after that. I sent her a DM back telling her how much it meant to me. I like to think even though we didn’t keep messaging back, that’s kind of what this business is all about. It’s like connecting and networking and meeting people. So one day hopefully post-pandemic when we’re all working, I think that might play to my advantage. While we’re not besties, I think that’s a connection I’ve made in the industry.
Q: Is it critical for you to win “American Idol” in order for you to reach your career goals?
A: Not at all. I’m not ready to go home. I would love to win. It’s definitely a goal because I’m currently working on the show. But my goal from the beginning of this was not to win. Winning would not define my success. I think I could go home now and make a pretty good career. I’m along for the ride now.
Q: When this is over, are you going back to school at NKU or are you going to stay out in LA?
A: I’m still a little conflicted. I have a lot of paths that are revealing themselves to me right now. But I love LA. I never thought I’d love LA as much as I do. I used to think I’d never come out to LA because I used to hate riding planes, but I love LA a lot, so that’s definitely on my radar.