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Florida teen has spot on ’American Idol’

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

George Jenkins High School senior Kimmy Gabriela started singing in front of school and church audiences when she was about 5 years old. But last September, she sang in front of one of the most important audiences of her life — even though it was only three people.

That’s when the poised and gracious 17-year-old auditioned for “American Idol” judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie during tryouts in Savannah, Georgia.

“I went in and they asked me who inspired me and I told them about my dad,” Kimmy said. “He used to be a very well-known Latin artist. He taught me everything he knows. He told me all of his stories, all of his experiences, not just with singing, but how to deal with the industry, how to be with people in general — he really made me feel a part of his journey.”

Kimmy said her parents, Gabino and Ingrid Amparo, met at one of his shows. Now Kimmy is on her own journey, one that she hopes will take her to Hollywood, Hawaii, and then the finals of one of America’s most popular talent shows.

The latest season of “American Idol” premiered in mid-February and is still in the audition phase. Kimmy, who attends Resurrection Catholic Church, is bound by show rules not to say if she got picked to go to Hollywood after her audition. But in listening to one of her Youtube videos, one can’t help but know that greater things are in store for this Lakeland girl.

In the video, she belts out Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” in a goosebump-inducing performance. The beautiful brunette with the huge brown eyes posted it from her bathroom in late December and it already has more than 4,100 views.

Her former George Jenkins chorus director, Glory Snow, said she was flabbergasted when she first heard Kimmy sing.

“She came in with a God-given natural voice,” Snow remembered on Friday. “She’s incredible on stage — she has incredible, natural stage presence. Some people are born with a gift and she was.”

Snow said Kimmy has played the lead in several musicals at the school, including Lin Manuel-Miranda’s “Into The Heights.” Snow, who retired in July, plans to watch Sunday night’s show with a friend and former student.

“I’m flipping out!” she said in a phone call from an airport in New York, where she was heading home from a vacation of watching Broadway shows. “I’m so proud of her I can hardly stand it! She’s the real deal. I think you’re going to see her on the show for a long time. She’s got the ’It’ factor. ”

For Kimmy, fame seems like it’s just a few shows away.

“Hopefully, it’s a start to a lifelong career,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll just get some exposure and represent my city and represent my culture, as well. And it’ll be a chance to feel like a superstar.”

“American Idol” airs on ABC-TV at 8 p.m. Sunday. Don’t tune in late — Kimmy said hers will be the first audition shown.

Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at kmoore@theledger.com or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.

This story originally published to theledger.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.

Want to watch?

“American Idol” airs on ABC-TV at 8 p.m. Sunday. Don’t tune in late — Kimmy Gabriela said hers will be the first audition shown.