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The girl from Normal who is nothing short of extraordinary lives her American Idol dream

The latest, up-to-date local news provided by the Heart of Illinois ABC News team, with updates on community issues in the Peoria and Bloomington-Normal areas.
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 11:29 PM CDT
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - For decades, it’s the show that’s brought us unforgettable moments and incredible stars. It’s American Idol. Now there’s a home grown reason to watch every week.

We sat down with the Heart of Illinois’ own Leah Marlene to see what sparked her dream, and why her journey almost never started, to become the next American Idol.

From Normal, Illinois, to Hollywood, and now Hawaii -- this far from normal girl, has her hopes set on becoming the next American Idol.

For the Normal West grad, music was in her blood. Growing up, she watched her dad, who was already a rockstar.

“Once a year I’d get to go see him play and it was like the coolest thing ever because my dad is on stage and there’s thousands of people cheering for him and he’d wave at me on stage and I was like year that’s my dad,” explained an excited Marlene joining us on Zoom.

She caught on quick, participating in every music program she could at school. But tha tjust wasn’t enough for her. So she started traveling to the music city, Nashville, Tennessee every month during high school to work on her craft.

“I started co-writing and gigging and networking and recording and doing all the things really getting a feel for like ok this is what it actually is to be in the industry,” she explained.

Then she went off to college, but to take care of her mental health, she dropped out and moved back home to normal.

“I was really just at a crossroads of life, like what am I gonna do?” she asked herself.

She starting saving up to go backpacking around the world. But that’s when American Idol came calling.

“It scared the crap out of me the idea of even doing this,” she said in response to her initial thoughts on auditioning for the show.

Before she knew it, it was July and she was auditioning for American Idol producers. Then, in November, her big moment came, performing in front of the judges.

“I walked in the room and I was just really excited. It was the first time I hadn’t been nervous. Obviously there was nervous energy but it was all excitement,” she explained.

Leah made it to Hollywood. And now, she’s on the verge of cracking the top twenty.

“I had this really really weird gut feeling that I wasn’t done,” she said excitedly.

But now she needs your help to keep her American Idol journey going.

You can vote for Leah up to 30 times in 3 different ways. First, you can vote up to 10 times for Leah on American Idol’s website. Second, you can vote up to 10 times using the American Idol app on your phone. Just go to the App Store or Google Play store to download the app and vote. Lastly, you can vote up to 10 times by texting the number 19 to 21523.

If you do all three, you can vote for Leah 30 times to send her into the top 20.

Polls close at 5:00 AM on Tuesday, so get your votes in ASAP.

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