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Fall college classes just started for Alexis Jones’s senior year at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. She didn’t plan on auditioning for the reality singing show. The August 31 audition in Charlotte was three hours away.

“I’m not going to go and waste my time,” she said over the phone. Her friend, Brandon McLean, auditioned that same day and kept telling her, “Oh, Alexis. Please come.” She left Wilmington around 1 or 2 without “a bit of makeup on” and made it to Charlotte just in time to be the last to audition.

She made it passed the first few rounds of auditions.

Hurricane Florence came to the Carolinas in September and both were evacuated from their homes at the same time they needed to travel to Atlanta for their next audition.

“I had no clothes,” Jones said who showed up to the Atlanta audition wearing shower shoes and Levis from strangers and a shirt from a friend. “We were these little evacuees.” Jones - American Idol

Wearing those shower shoes and keeping busy during the 12-hour wait was worth it since the judges gave a pass to the Lumbee singers for the celebrity judging round in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

“Why Idaho?” Jones thought. It was either there or Kentucky where she would have to miss school.

Potentially meeting Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, Democratic candidate who ran for Governor of Idaho in the last election cycle near Lake Coeur d’Alene sounded more appealing during an October weekend.

The duo spent the morning filming in 20-degree weather before the production team told them, “Okay, we’re ready for you. It’s time for your to film in front of the judges,” Jones said referring to musicians Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.

“It was surreal. I think I blacked out,” said Jones followed by a laugh. “It was crazy walking in there.”

Jones and McLean walked in together and auditioned together even though they were separate artists.

(Previous story: Two Lumbees audition for season 2 of ‘American Idol’)

McLean, also known as Kyng Bea, played the piano for Jones, who sang Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight.” 

“They were definitely shocked and please,” she said. Shocked because Jones has a thick southern accent and the judges seemed like they expected her to sing with the same accent.

After that first song, Perry asked Jones to sing a song with some falsettos, a song with higher range notes.

“Man, I think she came out of the blue with that,” Jones said. “I was trying to prepare myself for everything but not that.”

Jones pushed through her second song choice, “All I Ask” by Adele. She had a dry voice from sitting in the cold before the audition.

She thought she could’ve done better, but she didn’t want to show all her cards to the judges just yet.

Those two songs were enough to get the three yeses from the celebrity judges.

“Lionel Richie looked at me and said, ‘Baby girl, you’re going to be a star!’” Jones excitedly said over the phone and was going to “roll with that.”

Besides the compliment, Jones also enjoyed the conversation with the judges about her Lumbee background.

The ‘Teenage Dream’ singer asked Jones if she was wearing a real squash blossom. Jones was surprised Katy Perry knew what it was. (It was made of wampum instead of turquoise.)

Over and over, Lionel Richie kept saying wampum because it was something new to him, Jones said.

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Before Jones walked out with her golden ticket and on her way to Hollywood, Luke Bryan stopped her and kissed her on the cheek.

“Oh my goodness!! I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he did that!”

Things are only going to get better from here.

Jones is working with her college professors on finishing school. She’s preparing for Hollywood Week with her shows in downtown Wilmington.

She primarily focused on preparing her mental game because she heard Hollywood Week is “super intense” due to the three elimination rounds within the week. (They will also film a lot.)

“They’re going to be dropping people like flies. I guess separating the good from the amazing,” she said. “But I’m going into it with good spirits and am ready to make that Indigenous footprint during Hollywood Week.” 


What: ‘American Idol’

Date: Sunday, March 24 or Monday, March 25 (her air time is unknown)*

Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

Channel: ABC

AMERICAN IDOL FULL SCHEDULE (tentative), according to Gold Derby:

Sunday, March 24 – Hollywood Week*

Monday, March 25 – Hollywood Week*

Sunday, March 31 – Top 50

Monday, April 1 – Top 20

Sunday, April 7 – Top 20: Group 1

Monday, April 8 – Top 20: Group 2

Sunday, April 14 – Top 14

Monday, April 15 – Top 14 results

Sunday, April 21 – Top 10

Sunday, April 28 – Top 8

Sunday, May 5 – Top 6

Sunday, May 12 – Top 4

Sunday, May 19 – Finale

Monday, May 20 – Results

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: