The crooning cutie stole our hearts on American Idol when she earned her way into the top 24. You know she has the voice of an angel, but we found out some things you might not know. Read on to hear her story and learn fun facts about our resident rockstar.
Alyssa Raghu has always loved to sing, she began singing as soon as she was able to talk. Alyssa’s family helped instill her love of music early on. She started performing at age 11, when she says someone finally pushed her to perform. “I was really shy,” says Alyssa, “I had the toughest time when I first got started.”
She got past the early bumps and now the rest of the world has caught on to the 16-year-old sensation’s incredible talent. She burst onto the international stage in the latest season of American Idol, earning praise from some of the biggest names in music, and spaghetti sauce.
Alyssa says she has always wanted a platform where people can hear her voice. American Idol provided that stage, and it’s a stage she has always been a fan of. She has enjoyed watching the show for as long as she can remember, but when it was canceled in 2015, she wasn’t old enough to audition. When it was announced that the show would return, Alyssa and her father, Dennis, knew that she had to audition.
The timing of the show’s renewal came just as Alyssa became old enough to audition. It’s one of the reasons she feels like this opportunity was meant to be.
Even with the perfect timing, it still wasn’t easy for her to earn one of the spots to advance to Hollywood. When she showed up to audition at Disney Springs, there were over 7,000 other Idol hopefuls. By the end of the day, Alyssa had earned one of the 20 spots reserved for the next round.
However, things still weren’t exactly easy after that. Alyssa was told that she’d have to wait for a call about the next round, a wait that lasted three months. “It was really nerve-wracking, I thought about it every single day, multiple times a day. It was three straight months of wondering if they would ever call me again.”
The strenuous wait was worth it, and it taught her one of the most valuable lessons of her journey. She has learned that having patience is truly an asset. When Alyssa did finally get the call, she got to choose the city where she would audition in front of the celebrity judges. It just so happened that one of the choices was Los Angeles, which Alyssa calls her dream city. It was yet another “meant-to-be” moment in her journey.
When Alyssa got to Los Angeles, she arrived with resolve and a purpose. “I had never been more determined than I was that day. I was so determined for them to listen to me and be impressed. It was a real now or never type of moment for me.” The nerves kicked in while waiting to audition, but she focused on turning those nerves into positivity to bring out her best performance.
Anyone who has seen her performance, that earned her ticket to the next round, saw that the focus paid off as Alyssa wowed all three judges. “As soon as it happened, I did not think it was real at all. I actually pinched myself in front of them.” She said that they didn’t look real, and that the whole situation was incredibly dreamlike.
What’s even more surreal for Alyssa has been getting advice from an Idol of her own, Katy Perry. In middle school, her dad told her that if she got straight A’s he would buy her a gift. Alyssa held up her end and the gift she received, at her request, was of course Katy Perry’s latest album. “She’s a friend, a mother figure, a mentor and everything you could imagine,” said Alyssa.
According to Alyssa, one of the best things to come from this experience is the outpouring of support in the community. “It makes me feel like the happiest teenager in the entire world. No one is obligated to come out and support me, but they’re supporting because they want to. It really makes me emotional to see everyone willingly supporting me and wanting me to do well in the competition.”
All over Lake Nona, you’ll see buttons, pins and bracelets with Alyssa’s name and #Raghucrew emblazoned on them.
The Idol stage has provided some other amazing moments outside of performing. Her last name is Raghunandan, but her family has joked about the Raghu name ever since she can remember. It led to a special interaction with the Ragu brand. They sent her a letter saying how much they loved her performance, and even sent some goodies like sauces and kitchenware.
She also got a beautiful red acoustic guitar from Fender after they saw her in USA Today brandishing one of their guitars.
For anyone else inspired to audition by Alyssa’s incredible performance and talent, her advice is to keep trying. “It’s your gut feeling, don’t listen to other people’s opinions. If you have a dream, you really need to go for it. If you keep trying and trying, you’ll achieve your dreams.” Alyssa may be young, but she has experienced failure and she has never let it keep her from going after her to dream to perform in front of millions of people.
This whole experience has changed Alyssa’s life, but she is focused on not changing who she is as a person. Her close-knit family keeps her humble and are always around to offer support. She is proud of her Guayanese and Mexican heritage, and her family is extremely proud of who she is and the class and poise with which she has carried herself.
Her family aren’t the only ones who’ve helped her get to where she is. Alyssa has had many great teachers along the way. Mr. Ezard, her elementary school music teacher helped further her interest in music. Ms. Connelly, her middle school choir director, and her high school choir directors Mr. and Mrs. Chase all helped her achieve that “easy on the ears” tone.
Alyssa says that she is so grateful for this amazing opportunity and she feels that no matter how far she makes it, she has already won.
Favorite Song: Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears
Favorite Musical Genre: R&B
Hobbies Besides Music: Watching Scary Movies
Favorite Disney Movie: Moana
Favorite Cactus: Saguaro + the Neon one on the wall in her bedroom
Most Admired Musician: Selena Quintanilla
Favorite Instrument: Guitar
Favorite Local Restaurant:
Breakfast: Sweet Mama’s
Lunch: Larry’s Giant Subs
Sweet Treats: Yogurt Breeze