'American Idol': Claudia Conway tackles first Hollywood Week challenge with mom Kellyanne
Hollywood Week at "American Idol" has officially begun!
During Sunday's episode, singers were broken up into groups based on one of six genres: pop, rock, indie-folk, R&B, soul and country. After each group member performed solo, judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan decided who from the bunch would move one and who was axed.
Among the pop category contestants was Claudia Conway, who walked onto the stage rocking a new black hairdo. Before performing for the judges, the 16-year-old admitted her first audition "wasn't my best."
“I was really, really nervous, and I had these doubts in my head telling me, ‘You’re not ready. You’re not good enough,'" she confessed to the cameras. "In my life, I’m so focused on all the noise of people hating on me or my family online and on social media."
To recap: Conway, who has more than 1.7 million TikTok followers, auditioned with Rihanna's "Love on the Brain," but judge Katy Perry interrupted her after a rocky start. Following a pep talk from Perry, in which the pop star told the teen to "calm the storm" around her, the high school student redeemed herself with Adele's "When We Were Young," earning a golden ticket to Hollywood.
"(Perry) believed in me, and I could not be more grateful for that," Conway said during Sunday's episode. "Now I'm just drowning it all out and telling myself I can do it."
Though Conway's dad, attorney and fierce Donald Trump critic George Conway, accompanied her to the audition, her mom, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, came with her to Hollywood Week.
Conway and her mother haven't always seen eye-to-eye. The teenager has described their volatile relationship at home on her social media channels and tweeted in August 2020 that she was seeking legal emancipation from her parents. The next day, Kellyanne announced her resignation from the Trump administration, citing a need to focus on her children.
“It is OK for you to have different views than the people you love," said the teen, who's made national headlines for posting TikTok videos critical of former President Trump.
Conway added that she sees "Idol" as an opportunity to set herself apart from her high-profile parents.
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"I’ve been trying to establish my own identity for a while," she told host Ryan Seacrest. "Most people don’t know that I’m into music. Most people don’t know that I’m a singer, and it is very, very important to me.”
Though music is Conway's passion, she admitted her nerves were present for Hollywood Week. Nevertheless, she powered through a performance of Bishop Briggs' "River," earning a standing ovation from Kellyanne, who excitedly watched her daughter from the audience.
"I’ve never performed on a stage that big," Conway said after her performance. "That was crazy.”
But was it good enough to get her through to the next round?
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"Hello, ladies and gentleman," Perry told Conway's group, which included fellow audition standouts Mary Jo Young and Colin Jamieson. "Sometimes you don’t know why you go forward or you stay back. But I hope with this news, you find some form of trust. It will happen when it’s meant to happen. Congratulations, you’re all in the next round!”
Kellyanne swooped her daughter up in a big hug following the news and sang Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire" to celebrate.
"Stay in politics," Conway joked to her mom earlier in the episode. "I’ll do the music."
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Another standout performance came from Grace Kinstler, whose first "Idol" audition, in which she sang Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia" and Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," has racked up over 3.4 million views on YouTube.
"I've struggled a little bit with confidence," Kinstler said. "I don't fit the mold. I'm not super thin, but that doesn't mean I'm not capable."
Singing in the soul category, the 20-year-old college student made it through to the next round, after belting "10 Seconds" by Jazmine Sullivan.
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Other singers going forward included Casey Bishop, Chayce Beckham, Alyssa Ray, Ronda Felton, Wyatt Pike, Anilee List, Xavier Washington, Althea Grace and Willie Spence.
Round two of Hollywood Week airs Monday (8 EST/PST), where contestants will be paired by the judges to perform duets.
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Contributing: Jeanine Santucci