TAMPA — With millions of people watching, a local teen’s life was changed forever.
On March 29, Shalyah Fearing’s powerful vocals on “The Voice” won powerful praise from pop star and program judge Christina Aguilera.
“Shalyah is one who can pretty much do anything,” Aguilera boasted to her competing judges.
The television show “The Voice” is a mashup of entertainment and game show, where four judges select contestants for their teams, then compete during themed rounds to determine the strongest vocalists, with the ultimate prize being a recording contract.
And Fearing, now 16 — the youngest contestant on this season of “The Voice” — not only has roots firmly planted in Hudson, but in Tampa, as well.
A student of the Patel Conservatory with her equally talented siblings, Saudi and Chaamalah, Shalyah’s talent was seen early on in “Rock School,” “The Little Mermaid” as Ursula, the Dragon in “Shrek” and she sang the song “Luck Be a Lady,” from the Broadway classic “Guys and Dolls” in Showstoppers, a collection of Broadway hits, this past summer. In between performing with the international touring band The Muddy Apes with Rock School instructor Dean Tidey, she and her siblings volunteer their singing talents to local events and charity performances such as a variety showcase called Life Amplified.
“Shalyah has always been a great singer and a joy to work with,” said Tidey. “Over the last few years, she has developed into a performer of power and poise way beyond her years. She has a big heart as well as a big voice and I’m so proud of her.”
Under close supervision of parents Darron and Crystal Thomas-Fearing, lovingly dubbed her “Momager,” Shalyah began her journey via open auditions in Georgia, competing against more than 40,000 other hopefuls from across the country. She was selected for a second audition, but was not immediately picked to move forward, instead advised that someone would contact her — if they were interested.
Three nail-biting months passed before the call finally came.
For her live audition song, she chose V. Bozeman’s “What Is Love,” an original song from her favorite television show, “Empire.”
“I’ve never been so nervous to audition for somebody in my life. It was scary singing in front of them — singing in front of their backs,” Fearing admitted. “I chose this song because it has so much emotion in it and I could relate to it in so many different ways. The song has a beautiful range and with the amount of time I had, it was a perfect song choice for me.”
On the show, the judges start off judging the contestants with their backs to the singers, then turn around to face them when they want the contestant to be on their team.
Fearing said her first reaction to seeing a chair turn was no reaction at all. She said she was concentrating so hard on her performance that she didn’t realize she’d been selected.
Then the gravity of what happened hit her.
“Oh my goodness — I was so happy. If I could break down on the stage, I would have, but I knew I had to finish my song,” she said. “I was so amazed. I was so happy that I got a chair that it gave more confidence to finish my song. I thought ‘yes, I got a chair. I’m in the competition.’ It was great and my family was really excited too.”
And she looks forward to the future.
“I am so honored and humbled to be able to work with an artist as great as Christina and the things she said to me just gives me pleasure and more confidence to sing in my career,” she said. “You always need that push — that extra help to get you going and what she said just helped a lot. I feel like I’m going to be perfect on her team. We’re a great match.”
When asked if her feet have touched the ground yet “Momager” Crystal said: “Yes, they have, but I keep gravitating up, pinch myself — oh my gosh it’s real. I lost it when I saw the chair turn. I’m screaming. I’m jumping. It was just surreal. When that chair turned, it solidified my belief in Shally. I knew she could do it and she has been blessed with this voice.”
The best and quickest way to support Shalyah is to use Twitter to vote or download “The Voice” phone app.
Shalyah had her first brush with what to expect being a TV celebrity when she was asked for an autograph in a supermarket. Then, last Sunday while on a family outing to a local beach music venue, it was announced that she was in the audience. When it was time to go, it took her and her family 20 minutes to leave.
“We walked 2 inches and someone wanted a picture or autograph,” said Crystal. “I told Shally enjoy going to the grocery store and going out places now because the further you get on the show, people will begin to recognize you. No more leaving the house in sweatpants with your hair pulled back because now you need to be ready to take a picture or sing on cue or sign something. You never know. We’re aiming to make everyone in the Bay Area proud. Regardless if she wins or not.”
Suzanne Livesay, vice president of education at the Straz Center, spoke highly of the teen whom she has worked with on two occasions.
“I had the privilege of directing Shalyah last summer as she played a dynamic Dragon and Mama Ogre in our production of ‘Shrek, the Musical.’ Her voice is tremendously mature for her age, and she was an incredibly consistent performer throughout the rehearsal and performance processes.”
Despite the expected rising pressure in each performance episode of “The Voice,” Shalyah says fame will not change her.
“My strategy is to stay humble, to take all the advice from the coaches respectfully, and sing my best,” she said. “This is why I’m here.”
Fans can follow her on Twitter at @ShaylahFearing, and on Facebook and Instagram at Shaylah Fearing.
“The Voice” airs on NBC at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.