Julia Gagnon took to the “American Idol” stage in Hollywood to sing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.”

She was right.

Cumberland college student Julia Gagnon reacts to the news that she has earned a spot in the top 24 of “American Idol.” Courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

The college student from Cumberland made it to the top 24 contestants in the TV singing contest in an episode that aired Monday. Next, she’ll go to Hawaii to compete week by week with the other finalists. Viewers will vote on who proceeds to future rounds.

“This is definitely a dream come true for that little girl who really didn’t want anybody to look at her,” Gagnon, 21, said in the episode. “I wish I could go back in time and tell her, ‘You know, it’s going to be OK.’ ”

Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan cut down a pool of some 150 contestants to two dozen in two episodes on Sunday and Monday.


“You have an incredible gift,” Richie told Gagnon when they delivered the news. “We want to see the artist.”

“Yes,” Gagnon said, beaming.

“Who you are, nobody else,” he said.

Gagnon, who was not available for an interview Monday night, made an early impact on the show.

Her emotional performance of “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin moved the judges during her audition in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Did that come out of your mouth? I am shocked,” Richie said after Gagnon’s performance, which aired during the March 24 episode. “I grew up with Aretha Franklin. There are certain songs you don’t sing because you can’t touch the original. You just made it not only your song, but you did things that are just beyond. That was absolutely outstanding.”


She was the last person to audition for season 22. The judges awarded her one of only three platinum tickets for the singers with the strongest performances, which meant she got a pass through the first round of “Hollywood week.”

In an episode that aired Sunday, the judges sent home more than half of the contestants. Gagnon sang but wasn’t competing. She opened the episode with “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas & The Papas alongside Abi Carter and Odell Bunton Jr., who also won platinum tickets.

“Although they earned the right to skip this round, we didn’t want you to miss out on hearing who your biggest competition may be,” Perry told the other singers.

On Monday’s episode, however, the stakes were higher. The judges revealed the top 24 finalists who would fly to Hawaii for the next round of competition.

The 24 finalists will next go to Hawaii, and viewers will decide who will continue in the competition. Courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

The judges advised Gagnon to stay focused as she moves forward in the competition.

“The biggest job you have is, you don’t get psyched up,” Richie told her. “You have a tendency to overshoot. You decided to flex a muscle, and the flexing muscle made us go, ‘Wow, she didn’t need all that.’ Stay on your game.”

Gagnon grew up shy and nervous about singing in public while being bullied in school, she told the Press Herald last month. But after performing in a talent show at North Yarmouth Academy, she began coming out of her shell and singing publicly.

Gagnon is enrolled at the University of Southern Maine, where she is a senior on a pre-law track majoring in history. But she was inspired to pursue music once again after winning Central Maine Idol, which is modeled after “American Idol” and held at The Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell.

The next episodes will air on April 7-8 on ABC.

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