You think Watching American Idol and hoping your favorite singer is safe can be nerve wracking? Try being in the audience, watching your baby sister perform live while under-qualified judges (yeah, I said it) sometimes choose to ridicule her.
On a scale from 1 to heart attack, I was pretty much flat-lining. Yes, McKinney's American Idol contestant Hollie Cavanagh is my sister.
While American Idol has been the greatest platform for Hollie to begin her music career, for me, it's been nothing but uncontrollable sweating, high blood pressure and 10 years off my life. My advice to parents whose kids are trying out for American Idol is ... Lock them in their rooms, deadbolt the door, put bars on their window and never let them out until they agree to never try out.
Now that my melodramatic rant is over, there are three moments that I will never forget from this 2012 adventure. The first was a results show that landed Hollie in the "Bottom 2" with fellow contestant Colton Dixon. During the break before Ryan Seacrest was about to announce the next Idol castoff, Hollie looked for me in the crowd, we caught eyes and she mouthed to me "I'm going home." Looking at her defeated face onstage while she awaited her fate, I felt completely helpless. As an older brother who would do anything to make my little sister experience as little pain as possible, watching her be heartbroken in front of a live studio audience and another 20 million people tuning in at home was excruciating. Ryan announced that Hollie was safe and she burst out into tears, and believe me it took an impressive amount of self-control for me to not storm the stage and hug her until she felt better.
The moment that most affected me was just before Hollie was about to sing Rolling In the Deep. I was sitting front row, a nervous wreck of course. I looked up at the stage and there was Hollie, standing on an elevated podium looking exquisite, with a single spotlight shining on her. I was flooded with memories of Hollie singing to a wall because she was too afraid to sing in front of family, or holding a flip cam for hours in my bedroom while she sang to a faceless audience on YouTube, and driving her to tiny gigs in McKinney trying to convince her that it was too late to back out. Looking at her in the spotlight as a stylist tamed rogue strands of hair, I could not have been more proud or overwhelmed by how much she has accomplished in such a short time.
My favorite moment happened while I was not in the audience. I was at my apartment in college station, pretending to look relaxed in front of my roommates while Hollie belted out The Climb on our TV. Originally, Hollie was not going to sing the song. She had been told to sing a lesser known Leona Lewis song that she was struggling with. At the last minute Hollie told producers that she absolutely had to sing The Climb and thankfully they let her. I’m thinking a little divine intervention may have been at play. She ended on a high note and the judges finally gave her that long overdue standing ovation. The judges stood and a roar erupted in my apartment. The drink I was holding somehow made it across the room and my roommates and I were jumping around like 12-year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. It was an incredible full circle moment. Less than 2 years ago Hollie was singing The Climb at the American Idol Experience ride at Disney World and now she was receiving a standing ovation on the actual show.
Apart from the obvious gut-wrenching stresses of the show, the entire experience has been the most fulfilling and rewarding experience I have ever been a part of, and I wasn't the one singing. Watching Hollie put herself on the chopping block every week for the chance to live her dream has made me immensely proud. I don't know if at 18 years old I could have gone through the judgment and ridicule with the class and grace that Hollie did. In fact, I’m sure I wouldn't have.
I am excited to see what the future holds for Hollie. I believe she is destined to touch people with her gift, and I will be there for her every step of the way.