Eighteen-year-old Douglas Mills had never left his home state of Texas before. Now, he’s on his way to Hollywood to compete on American Idol.
Previously, Mills was recognized by his teachers and peers as an outstanding singer in his Houston high school choir. Knowing that his voice needed to be heard, they reached out to their local new station and surprised Mills with a silver VIP Affiliate Ticket Pass. This ticket gave him the opportunity to accomplish one of his biggest dreams: auditioning for American Idol.
When judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan asked about his musical journey, Mills expressed gratitude for everyone in his hometown who helped get him to the audition room. “I was about to faint, honestly,” he laughed, recalling the experience of Channel 13 news showing up at his school. “It was a complete surprise.”
Mills described music as his “safe place” from the bullying he experienced growing up. “I’ve been called ‘gorilla,’ ‘King Kong,’” he confessed. “Still, today, it’s hard for me to love myself.”
However, music has built his confidence and helped him realize who he truly is. “When I’m singing, I don’t care what no one says. Music can heal and help you love yourself for who you are,” Mills said.
For his audition, Mills sang “Strange Fruit,” in a hauntingly beautiful tribute to the Black community. Mills demonstrated tremendous vocal control, seamlessly transitioning between a powerful belt and a gentle falsetto. Both his technique and his passion shone through from beginning to end. The emotion in his voice could be felt miles away.
All three judges gave Mills a standing ovation. “What happened?” Richie asked. “I blanked out, passed out, woke up… Young man, that was superb.”
When Perry asked why Mills had never tried out for the show before, he responded that people had always told him he wouldn’t be good enough. He also never had the self-confidence to believe he would make it. This shocked the judges, as all three of them were blown away by his performance.
“You transcend time and space. You froze the room,” Perry said. “That was iconic.”
Bryan, speechless, noted that he almost felt hypnotized. Richie added that Mills doesn’t need any kind of charts or comparisons to define his worth because he is already singing off the charts.
Without hesitation, Richie, Perry, and Bryan announced that Mills was going to Hollywood. When he began to cry, the three wrapped him up in a group hug, confirming for Mills that the moment was real.
To follow the rest of Mills’s journey, tune into American Idol on Sunday nights at 8/7c.