Lacey chorus students cheered along with Cari Fletcher over their shared experience as alto singers Wednesday afternoon.
The member of Lakoda Rayne, a finalist in the group category of season one of The X Factor, visited Terri Lacalandra-Giampaoli’s chorus class at Lacey Township High School.
Fletcher, a Wall Township resident, began vocal lessons at 6, after starting with piano and eventually guitar, flute and drums.
“I finally found singing, and I loved it,” she said.
She tried out for The X Factor as a solo artist and was put into a musical group after the show’s “boot camp.
“I really wanted to do something bigger,” she said of her audition for The X Factor. “And my mom always wanted to meet Simon Cowell."
Fletcher reflected on her audition for the show.
“I was so nervous. I was literally shaking,” she said.
When Fletcher was cut as a solo artist, it “hurt,” she said.
“It was a big shock for me. I really felt like I let myself down,” she said.
Then, she was put in a group along with three other solo artists: Paige Elizabeth Ogle, Hayley Orrantia and Dani Knights.
“I was so excited to have a second chance,” Fletcher said. “It was really weird because we clicked right away.”
The group, with the exception of Olge, is still together today, traveling the country to perform gigs, including an 18-year-old boy's birthday party in Georgia. Fletcher also is attending New York University.
Fletcher told the students of some of the struggles she faced on the show. Viewers' negative comments on the Internet were “hurtful,” she said. One day, she even broke down crying.
“I never knew people could say things so hurtful,” she said. “But if it’s truly something you’re passionate about, you’ll be successful. If you fight for what you believe in, people will believe in you.”
She also reiterated the words of Paula Abdul, Lakoda Rayne’s mentor on the show: “Happiness is a choice.”
“That is a wonderful attitude,” Lacalandra-Giampaoli said.
The one thing she would do differently on the show is being more assertive and adamant, as everything was decided for her from clothes to sometimes songs, she said.
“It’s important to stay true to who you are. Be exactly who you are and don’t change for anyone,” she said.
Now, Fletcher is focusing on production and artist development at NYU with a major in entrepreneurship. One day, she would like to manage her own record label.
“I’m traveling around but at the same time getting an education, which is important to me,” she said. “There’s so much more I want to do. I just want to be really good at what I do and share that with people.”
And although Lakoda Rayne released a single and music video for “Emergency Brake,” she’s still just a “normal teenager,” she said.
“She still has to clean her room and she still has a curfew,” Fletcher’s mom said.
Students found Fletcher encouraging as she was “down to earth,” Mikey Tylutki, 15, said. Tylutki said he would like to audition for a talent show such as The X Factor or American Idol.
“I’m always going to keep singing, he said.
Philip Siciliano, 18, enjoyed that Fletcher seemed “normal” and was able to relate.
“Her personality didn’t seem so out of reach,” he said. “I thought it was surreal meeting her.”