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Who Is This…And Why Is She Featured on Just The Cats?

(ABC/Christopher Willard Photos)

The last time I remember watching Alyssa Wray “perform” was about a year ago when she had 10 points, seven blocked shots and six rebounds for Boyle County in a loss to rival Danville.

“I do remember that game. I have a picture from it and it is one of my favorite memories. I still miss basketball so much,” said Wray.

She’s on course to make a new favorite memory as a contestant on American Idol on ABC-TV. She did her open audition via Zoom several months ago and made the cut to appear on the show.

“When it happened I called my mom and cried,” Wray, a freshman musical theater major at Northern Kentucky University, said. “I had auditioned by sophomore year (of high school) and did not get past the first round. Now I have made it to meet the celebrity judges.”

Those celebrity judges are Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. She has already performed but cannot reveal anything about the performance.

“Going in that room with these huge celebrities and trying to make them fall in love with me was scary,” she said. “How in the world do I get Lionel Richie, a legend, to like me and my voice. I was super intimidated but then the minute I walked into the audition room the nerves went away.”

Wray said reaction from family, friends and others has been remarkable in the last few months in anticipation of her American Idol debut.

“It has been crazy since people found out I would be on the show,” she said. “I had people from Kentucky and all over supporting me and never truly believed all that would happen. I get messages every day from Perryville, Boyle County Kentucky. It’s cool to hear my songs and singing the national anthem, something I love to do, inspired them.

“I also have people tell me I am representing Kentucky and they are proud of me. It’s really nice for people to think I am worthy to represent Big Blue Nation. I don’t even know how word about me spread so much. I have gained a following on social media. It’s like overnight everybody shared my name. My stepdad is a massage therapist and a client told him his daughter and her friends are in a group chat called ‘Alyssa Updates.’ That’s super cool to see happen.”

Wray has always loved performing. She sang in the church choir and moved on to musical theater where her favorite role was playing Elsa in Frozen. She’s also performed locally in Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors, Shrek, and Elf.

Wray says she also got nervous for all those performances just like she did knowing she was on national TV with American Idol.

“It just comes from me wanting to please everyone and make everyone happy,” she said. “Nerves can be a good thing. If you are never nervous before a game or performance it might mean you do not care. Part of nervousness is passion for wanting to do well.

“My mom is my rock. I talk to her about my insecurity and nervousness. People would be surprised to know how shy I really am. I like to talk to people and perform to make people happy.”

Wray is not sure what date her American Idol performance will air. There were several audition episodes — two have aired — and she says hers was “toward the end” of the process.

“You will see me. I know I will be super nervous watching myself,” the 2020 Boyle County High School graduate said. “I went in the room (to audition) and then basically blacked out. It will be interesting for me to hear the judges’ feedback because I don’t remember half of it.”

She said it has been “hard to focus” on anything but her American Idol debut and she’s anxious for friends and fans to see her sing and perform.

“I try to just take one step at a time. I reserve time to get my school projects done,” she said. “After my school day is over, I can focus totally on American Idol and go about promoting it. But I have limit myself or I will fixate all the time on American Idol.”

There will be one surprise for those who know Wray, who says her favorite performer is Beyonce, but have not seen her recently.

“I have purple pinkish hair. That’s different for sure,” she laughed and said. “Other than that, you will see the same person I have always been. Just a bubbly, good ole Kentucky girl.”

Wray understands what being on American Idol could mean to her musical career. She knows it could change her life and her family’s life.

“I have been fortunate that my family provides for me. I would like to give back to them,” Wray said. “I want to give back to my community and people who bought my basketball uniforms for me when we could not afford them.

“Thankfully I had so many people who helped always keep me grounded. I am thankful for my coaches, teachers, Mom and Nanny who grounded me for basketball, singing, God. No matter how anxious I get about things I can always think about my roots and my strong support system.”

Those Kentucky roots have somewhat shown up even on American Idol. Alex Miller of Garrard County and Courtney Arnold of Rockcastle County are also contestants on the show.

“When I found out there was a boy from Garrard County, it was like the district basketball tournament with Boyle and Garrard in the same district in basketball,” she said. “It’s so cool to have that. It’s like doing a little district basketball game back home. It has just made all this even more fun.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as, and Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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