In 2013, Florida native Josh Kaufman auditioned for the sixth season of The Voice. Also on that season was a teen YouTube sensation named Christina Grimmie. Kaufman and Grimmie were both chosen as members of Adam Levine‘s team, but Kaufman was stolen by Usher. The two former teammates competed against each other in the finale, with Grimmie finishing third and Kaufman emerging as the victor.
Grimmie was the victim of a senseless murder as she was gunned down by a deranged fan while signing autographs for fans after an Orlando concert on June 10.
In a Billboard exclusive, Kaufman, who is set to release his self-titled EP this month, remembers his fellow cast member and friend.
“Who is Christina Grimmie?” That was my honest response when my roommate for The Voice season 6 blind auditions asked me if I had heard that Christina Grimmie was there. I truly had no idea who she was or why she was so quickly becoming the topic of conversation among those who were there to participate in the blind auditions, because, well…. I’m old and out of touch.
Of course, a quick YouTube search cleared everything up in a hurry. She was small in stature, but her powerhouse vocals were larger than life and her brilliant renditions of pop hits had already earned her a couple million loyal fans. It made sense, then, that people were talking about her: After all, this was a singing show in which you needed people to vote for you in order to win. An amazing voice and an army of hard-earned fans seemed like a pretty winning combo. She was definitely a force to be reckoned with.
So there I had it, in a nutshell: YouTube star, little lady with the big voice. That was my first answer to the question: who is Christina Grimmie? Over the next few months, however, I would come to find that that answer was a highly inadequate snapshot of someone who was so much more.
By chance or good fortune or fate or whatever you’d like to call it, I made my way through a lot of weeks on The Voice, and Christina was there every step of the way. We sang on the same stage week after week. We woke up early to talk to the media. We rode around in Kia cars making commercials, we walked a few red carpets, and ultimately we found ourselves standing on the same stage on the night of The Voice season 6 finale waiting to hear the winner’s name called. But it didn’t end there.
We had a couple weeks to catch our breaths before embarking on a six-week, 30-city tour of the U.S. — nine Voice alumni on a bus tour of the U.S. singing, traveling, meeting fans. It was all a crazy whirlwind ride to say the least. And as amazing as it all was, it was also stressful and could have gotten the best of anybody, and at times I think it did get to all of us in one way or another.
But here was this young “YouTube star” barely out of her teens, not just stumbling through it or just trying to have fun with it, but absolutely handling it with all the grace and graciousness that you could possibly expect of anybody. On the show, competing against her never felt like competition. That’s not to say that she wasn’t a competitor, but as with anything else, she did it the right way. She was always quick with a complement and supportive of those around her. And, of course, she was great to her fans, always giving them more time and attention than she really had to.
She knew when to be silly and when to be serious. She had wisdom and maturity beyond her years. Christina Grimmie, as it turned out, was not just a YouTube star. She was not even just a great talent. She was a true success. She achieved the kind of success that we ought to hold out as an example of what it really means to succeed — success in life in all of its facets. She strove, above all else, to be a good person and that is the best and most we can ever ask of anybody.
If we measure a life in years, then hers was most certainly cut tragically short by the kind of horrific event that we just can’t begin to make sense of. But if we measure her life in depth and fullness, then I think it was probably the kind of life we should all hope to live. She touched so many people and she will be loved and missed.
Reporting by Michele Angermiller