A Cumberland woman will be on national television next month in a bid to compete for an “American Idol” crown.

Julia Gagnon, 21, a senior at the University of Southern Maine, is a graduate of North Yarmouth Academy. She has already auditioned before the show’s judges.

Gagnon, in a telephone interview Tuesday night, said her full audition won’t be televised until early March, when she will learn whether the three judges will vote to give her a Golden Ticket – the pass that allows her to go to Hollywood to compete with about 150 other contestants for the “American Idol” crown. The judges will pick 24 finalists, who will be flown to Hawaii to compete in televised performances judged by viewers.

But for now, all Gagnon’s supporters can do is wait and hope for the best. At least two of the three judges must vote yes for her to compete in Hollywood.

“American Idol” promos featuring Gagnon began to air recently on social media and television. She said the responses she’s received have been encouraging.


“Once the promos started coming out, I got an unbelievable amount of love and support,” Gagnon said.

This year’s judges include performers Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, and the long-running show is hosted by Ryan Seacrest. Season 22 of “American Idol” on ABC-TV premiered Feb. 18.

Julia Gagnon Contributed photo by Julia Gagnon

In a 45-second promo on YouTube, Richie said Gagnon’s journey to “American Idol” stood out for him. “It was the most unsuspecting person you would ever think,” Richie said.

During her audition, Perry asks “How did you make your way to Maine?”

Gagnon said she was born in Guatemala and adopted by a Maine couple.

“I was adopted, but my birth mother had an accident and she is not doing great. That’s why I am here,” she said. “She wanted me to do something big so I did the biggest thing I thought I could do. I auditioned for ‘American Idol.’ ”


“All right, let’s go big,” Perry replied.

Gagnon said her birth mother is still recovering from broken bones in her legs after falling down stairs. Her birth mother, whom she contacted at age 18, has encouraged her to sing and calls her voice “a gift.”

The three judges stood and applauded after Gagnon belted out Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way,” during her audition. Bryan called her performance amazing. Richie called it “outstanding,” adding “I am so happy you came to ‘American Idol.’ ”

Gagnon said she was shy and tried to avoid the limelight when she was younger, but started singing in high school. She wants to prove that someone who was bullied in school and experienced racial prejudice can rise above those challenges. Singing in front of audiences has helped her come out of her shell, she said.

“I got bullied a lot. I did not fit in,” Gagnon said. “That’s why I am passionate about becoming a role model for those kids who don’t feel like they belong.”

Gagnon had been taking a low key approach to her “American Idol” quest, but last week on her Facebook page she opened up to followers.


“I want to take time to introduce myself to the world! Please share if you know me, so people know exactly who they are dealing with,” she said “Hello world? I’m Julia. I’m a northern redneck raised in Maine, but born in the beautiful Guatemala,” she wrote in a post dated Feb. 14.

Gagnon won a similar competition in Hallowell at the third annual “Central Maine Idol” in August, along with a $10,000 prize, at the Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell. Its owners plan to hold an “American Idol” watch party when Gagnon’s audition appears on TV.

Her favorite performer is Cynthia Erivo, an English actress and singer.

“She has a big, beautiful voice,” said Gagnon, who described her own singing style as “soulful.”

“I like to sing about things that mean something to me,” she said.

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