Lillie McCloud doesn’t fit the typical profile of an X Factor contestant, but the 54-year-old grandmother may now be a force in the competition after shocking judges with a powerhouse performance.
McCloud showed up for the Orlando audition of the singing contest, delivering an amazing renditionof the gospel song “Alabaster Box.” The performance was so good that it even had the notoriously hard-to-please judge Simon Cowell smiling.
Simon said Lillie McCloud has an “incredible voice,” and compared her to Gladys Knight. The other judges were equally impressed, with Demi Lovato saying McCloud reminded her of Whitney Houston.
“Where have you been hiding?” asked judge Kelly Rowland.
McCloud wasn’t the only surprising performance on the Wednesday’s premiere of The X Factor. Alex and Sierra, a couple attending the University of Central Florida, turned in a folksy version of Britney Spears’ song “Toxic” that also earned the praise of judges.
But the night clearly belonged to Lillie McCloud.
After the episode aired, the grandmother of seven said she hasn’t exactly been hiding in obscurity, but has had a hard time finding her big break.
“I have been trying not to hide,” Lillie told the Orlando Sentinel. “I’ve been working in Miami nightclubs, on South Beach for several years. I’ve been recording. I couldn’t get beyond dance artist. I had some recordings as a dance artist. I never had this opportunity to branch out.”
Even though she’s been working her whole life to reach this moment, Lillie said it’s still a bit hard to take it all in.
“I feel like a superhero,” she said. “This is unusual. Does this happen to a 54-year-old? This is not normal. This not every day that something like this happens to someone like me. A couple of weeks ago I was home cooking with a baby in one hand and a baby in the other. This time I’m ready for it.”
Fans will now get a chance to see more of Lillie McCloud, who has advanced to the next round of the competition.