While many aspiring singers look up to superstars on the radio for their inspiration, 17-year old Kimmy Gabriela from Lakeland, Florida has someone much closer to home. “My dad,” says the high school student. “He was a musician when he was young and he toured and was in music videos.” Now Gabriela hopes to follow in his footsteps as she pursues her own dreams on “American Idol.” She was one of 20 Season 18 finalists featured on the “American Idol” special, “This is Me” airing on April 12 and April 19 on ABC.
Besides being about music, “American Idol” is about people, their stories and their dreams. Host Ryan Seacrest narrates this deep dive into the contestants where we hear more personal stories, see highlights from their audition process and learn what it took for them to convince judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan to select them as finalists.
“From a very young age I knew that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps,” says Gabriela. “I grew up listening to him tell all these incredible stories about when he was famous and got to live out his dream. It just inspired me from such a young age I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”
Gabriela’s dad, Gabino, taught her everything she knows. His advice? “The most important thing is give your very best,” he emphasizes. “Always give it that extra bit. That’s the difference between a good singer and a superstar.” He couldn’t be more thrilled to discuss her accomplishments. “I feel super proud of her. I can’t explain to you in words. She sings — for me she has a voice like I was listening to an angel. I’m telling you I’m her number one fan.”
Gabriela quickly got the judges to perk up in their seats when she auditioned with “Light Up the Dark” by Gabrielle Aplin. “She doesn’t really miss notes,” said Bryan while Perry called her Top 10 material. After such a great audition, Gabriela was nervous to live up to her own hype in Hollywood week. After a pep talk from her father, she floored the judges once again with her rendition of “Say Something” in the genre challenge. Following her blistering vocal, Perry walked away from the judges’ table saying, “The show is over.”
In Hollywood duets, Gabriela had a slight stumble and blemished her perfect track record. So for the solo round she chose “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple” because it’s a survival song and she was trying to thrive in the competition. She redeemed herself and following the Hawaii showcase, Perry gave her some tough talk. “I’m going to give it to you straight,” said the judge with frank honesty. “I don’t remember you every single time you’ve gone on that stage. And how is that? Because you have one of the best voices in this competition! It’s not enough just to be a good singer. You’ve got to figure that out, especially going into the Top 20! Find you!”
“I really thought they were going to send me home,” admits Gabriela. “I’m just in shock. I feel like I’m living not just a dream for myself, but for my dad. Top 20 means getting to live out my dream just a little bit longer. And it gives us a chance to keep living out that legacy we’re building between the two of us and share this music bond. It means everything to us.”