This has definitely been the weirdest season of American Idol ever. Season 18 has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the top 11 contenders back into their homes to perform from their bedrooms, backyards and living rooms.
So far, they’ve more than lived up to the challenge, turning their minus into a plus by becoming overnight sound engineers, camerapeople and mood setters.
It’s a lot, but so far, soooo good. In the first of a series of personal catch-ups, we asked all the remaining singers to ponder what their proudest moment has been so far this season and we guarantee their answers will surprise, delight and intrigue you.
Check out their answers below.
Louis Knight: My proudest moment on the show, without a doubt, would be the last round of Hollywood Week. My roommate/friend had been sent home the day prior. With the combination of sleep deprivation, pressure, trying to live up to my audition, all while being surrounded by the most incredibly talented people I’ve ever met, as soon as I woke up I was overcome with a panic attack.
I’d never experienced anything like it. I locked myself in my hotel room afraid of cameras, and began packing my suitcase. I was set on leaving. I called my family and my manager/best friend and told them I just couldn’t handle it, even if it meant giving up on my lifelong passion.
Then, some of the production team, along with my manager came to my hotel room to calm me down, taking it step by step – getting dressed, and tricking me into going to the theatre. By taking one little step/small victory throughout the day, I ended up giving what I believe to be one of my best, and most raw performances.
I had two choices: to quit and go home, or to push through and see what happens on the other side. It’s much like sailing through a hurricane, you never know what it’s like until you do it. It was a moment of truth and perseverance that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Arthur Gunn: My proudest moment on the show so far has been hearing from people all around the world. I wasn’t expecting so much worldwide support; it feels amazing and brings me such happiness as I feel so united with fans and people from all over the world. I am so proud to be on the show, I have learned so much about performing, production, the industry as a whole during my time here.
I have also learned so much from the judges which was such an honor alone to meet in real life and it has been wonderful to work with all the producers, directors, crew members during my time on the show. Finally, meeting and getting to know all my fellow contestants from different parts of the U.S. with different music and family backgrounds has been such a treat. So far, all these moments collectively have been my proudest, along with the fact I am also proud of myself as well.
Francisco Martin: My proudest moment so far on the show has to be finding myself. Before Idol, I dealt with anxiety and insecurities. I didn’t really know who I wanted to be or where my life would take me. I was sort of lost to be fairly honest, but being on this show has opened doors that I could’ve never imagined. I found a lifelong friends, a community of very special people and a great sense of who I am and where I want to be in life. I wouldn’t change that for anything.
Jovin Webb: My proudest moment on the show was definitely the moment I heard I made top 10! I felt on top of the world knowing all that I went through to get to that point. Blessed moment!
Grace Leer: My proudest moment on American Idol was my “Natural Woman” performance in Hawaii. It was a moment for me as a singer and an artist where I got off the stage and had that feeling of, “This is exactly what I am meant to do.” I would give anything to go back to that 130 seconds on that stage in Hawaii doing the thing I love most in this world!
Makayla Phillips: My proudest moment on the show was being the judges’ one and only save for the season! I’m still in shock and I am so incredibly thankful!
Dillon James: My proudest moment on the show was in Hawaii when I made it into the top 20. It was the first time I felt that all of my hard work was finally paying off. It was like some sort of out of body experience. Before American Idol I had been in a very dark place, my trials and tribulations had led me to feel very lost in who I was and who I wanted to be. So to be in Hawaii, a place I had always wanted to go, singing on a stage I had always dreamed of and then to make it into the top 20 was a dream come true!
Just Sam: At this point in the competition, I have two moments that I am most proud of. The first moment was when I played with all the judges during my first audition in Washington D.C. I really didn’t expect to make it past my first audition so I thought, “If they at least pray with me, I’m set.” When they did actually pray with me in my audition, I thought to myself, “Sam, you can do this,” and it fueled me to keep working hard to pursue my dreams and love of singing.
My second proudest moment was being able to call my grandmother and tell her I made it into the Top 11. She is so proud of me and would have been proud of me wherever I ended up in the competition but hearing her excitement when I shared the news really hit made me so incredibly proud of how far I have come so far.
Sophia Wackerman: My proudest moment on the show was not music related at all — it was being able to bring my brother James on the show and bring light to Fragile X Syndrome. It is quite a rare disability and doesn’t get much attention in the media, so to be able to bring awareness to it on a national platform was a monumental honor. There were so many families affected by Fragile X Syndrome that reached out to me after that episode aired, shared their own stories of their loved ones and thanked me for bringing awareness to it. I felt so proud to be able to connect with these families and make them feel represented. Most of all, I was so proud to see my brother shine so bright on the show we grew up watching together.
Julia Gargano: My first audition where I sang my original, “Growing Pains,” was my proudest moment. Auditioning for a television show this big was NEVER something I thought I had the courage to do. It taught me so much about myself.
Jonny West: It’d have to be how my original material has been accepted by the judges. They’re veterans and pros at what they do, and to get any form of a hat tip from them is beyond encouraging. I pray to make them even prouder after the show and keep pushing myself to make more music for people to connect with.