WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Tiquila Wilson surprised the judges on “American Idol” last season — and the audience watching at home — when she walked off the show after the pop music she was singing conflicted with her gospel roots, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
But it appears she has found her niche as one of 20 finalists on BET’s “Sunday Best,” a similar show that focuses on gospel singers.
And she’s not the only finalist from North Carolina. Or from Winston-Salem. Or from her church, even.
Brandon Alonzo Gaines — a minister of worship at Christ Cathedral Church of Deliverance, where Wilson is a praise and worship leader — also made the top 20 on last Sunday’s episode of the series, which just started its seventh season. More than 20,000 people auditioned for the new season.
Wilson and Gaines auditioned in different cities — Wilson in Atlanta and Gaines in Washington, D.C. — and the show did not reveal last week that they are from the same church. Gaines said he was told that is a first for the show.
Some filming has taken place already, but the two cannot discuss their performances until after the episodes air. The show airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on BET.
“I am very overwhelmed” with the response so far, Gaines, 26, said. “It’s a really humbling experience. I’m grateful for the support I’m getting from my own city. Just to know that they’re rooting for me and pushing me even more, means a lot to me. It’s very encouraging to know that.”
Gaines — who teaches music and arts at The College Preparatory and Leadership Academy of High Point, also known as “The Point” — studied music at such schools as the UNC School of the Arts and Winston-Salem State University. Originally from Baltimore, he moved to North Carolina with his mother and stepfather when he was 7. He has been singing since he was 3, he said, and started singing in church when he was 9.
“It’s my life, it’s my faith, it’s what I do,” he said of singing gospel.
He auditioned four times previously for “Sunday Best” before making the cut this time. “Most definitely I learned a lot, and I have grown a lot since then,” he said of his earlier attempts.
Wilson, 25, said she has no regrets about leaving “American Idol” behind.
“I am doing what I said was in my heart to do, and that was gospel music,” she said.
In the year and a half since “Idol,” she said, “people are wanting me to come and sing everywhere…. I’ve gotten church engagements, football games, tennis tournaments, all kinds of stuff…. It’s been a wonderful experience so far.”
Alvin Marshall, an executive pastor at Christ Cathedral, said it’s a double blessing for his church.
“We are extremely thankful to God to have such great personalities and gifts within our ministry, and just excited for them,” he said. “We’re looking for great things to happen to them in their ministries, and even beyond that as well.”
Though they are both competing for the same prize, “I support Tiquila,” Gaines said. “I don’t like to say ‘compete.’ We worship together, we sing together all the time. No matter what the outcome is, I’m going to support her.”
“I don’t feel the same. I’m going to kick his butt!” Wilson said with a laugh. “No, everything he said, I feel the same. It’s all about ministry at the end of the day.”