One week after competing in the Miss South Carolina pageant, Leah Lawson, a senior chemistry major, traveled to Myrtle Beach for the American Idol bus tour auditions. Leah was then sent to Kansas City where she and other bus tour contestants were required to go through another round of auditions before given the chance to show Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban their musical talents. Leah successfully made it through the final round and chose to sing, “When God Fearin’ Women” by Martina McBride as one of her audition songs. “It was almost an out-of-body body experience. It was like I was watching it from home but I was there,” she says. “The judges were a lot nicer than I thought they were going to be. Jennifer was a sweetheart and Harry was critical but in a nice way. Keith was critical too but that’s because he’s a country singer and that’s what I do.” After receiving a “yes” vote from all three judges, Leah was handed a golden ticket to Hollywood! Her parents were unaware that she had auditioned for the show. Once she successfully made it through, she and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest called home to South Carolina to share the good news. “I play jokes on my mom all the time, so she didn’t believe me when I told her. Ryan had to take my phone and talk to her himself for my mom to realize I wasn’t joking,” says Leah.
American Idol’s Hollywood Week consisted of more auditions and occurred in October around PC’s homecoming week. Leah was a homecoming court nominee and mentions how tough it was to leave campus for a long period of time, especially when she could not tell anyone where she was going. “Being from Laurens County and going to such a small school made it really hard especially during homecoming week because it is one of the most important weeks of the year. Not being there during the homecoming week of my senior year was sad but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for what you really want in life,” she says. Leah also talks about how she met many contestants who attend big universities and were forced to take off an entire semester to go to California because at these large schools, it can be somewhat hard to make up tests and assignments. However, Leah’s professors were very understanding. “They were very supportive and before I left, my professors told me they would work with me to make up assignments when I got back. That’s a great thing about PC – professors are willing to work with us outside of the classroom. They really do care.”
Due to FOX’s rules and regulations, Leah can’t tell us much more about her experience until later on in the season, but we’re looking forward to tuning in and showing our support!