It all started when she was two years old. Before she could talk, she used to hum the Barney Theme Song, and from that point on, her parents knew she would be a singer. Now, 18-year-old Rochester native Jennel Garcia is taking her talents to the national stage as a finalist on FOX’s hit television show The X Factor.
“A couple of months before, I learned about the X Factor auditions and I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll try it,’ but I never thought deeply about it,” said Garcia. “It was the night before the audition that I decided I really wanted to do it and I thought, ‘What have I got to lose? I’ve got to do it. This is what I want to do in life and I’m going to have to start somewhere.’”
Early that next morning in June, Garcia hopped in the car with her family and friends and drove to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for the Producer’s Auditions. After a couple days of standing in line, Garcia had her chance to set herself apart from the thousands of other hopeful singers looking to get their career started.
“I’ve never really auditioned for anything before,” said Garcia. “When I was 10, I auditioned for America’s Most Talented Kids, but then I kind of stopped with the whole auditioning thing. I would just dance and compete with that.”
Garcia made a lasting impression on the producers, and on the same day as her graduation ceremony from New Bedford High School, she received a phone call that she would be performing in front of the celebrity judges during the Judge’s Auditions that would appear on television. A few weeks later, she set foot on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans and four of the music industry’s biggest names: Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Simon Cowell and LA Reid.
“There’s been so many points where I dream about those things, and I dreamed about that so many times that it felt like it was still a dream,” said Garcia about walking out onto the big stage. “I remember being backstage and watching the girls go before me and I thought they were so good and didn’t understand why they got a ‘no.’ That made me much more nervous; I thought I was going to cry.”
But when Garcia reached center stage and saw a handmade poster her friends made for her, her nerves settled and her body went into autopilot mode as she belted out a perfect rendition of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals’ “Paris.” From that point on, it was all a blur.
“Something really weird happened. I just went on stage and completely blacked out,” she said. “I didn’t really remember it. I had no idea I did that. I do remember hearing the crowd and thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is for me. This is so cool.’ In that moment it was so unbelievable. Those people were standing up and clapping and dancing for me.”
The judges gave Garcia a rave review and she earned a coveted trip to Los Angeles to train at the X Factor Boot Camp. All of the judges complimented her style, which Garcia says is modeled after Pat Benatar and other popular rock stars from the 80s.
Joining Jennel in Los Angeles is another Rochester native, Jillian Jensen, who also earned rave reviews for her performance and gained notoriety for making the harshest judge on the show, Simon Cowell, cry. Jensen’s presence has made the audition process easier for Garcia.
“We sang together for five years and were very close for a very long time,” said Garcia. “We went to different high schools but the show brought us back together. It’s been really cool to share this experience with her.”
While Garcia auditioned months ago for the X Factor, it wasn’t until last week when the auditions finally aired on television. Seconds after her auditioned appeared, Garcia’s life began changing.
“Not even ten seconds after it cut to commercial, I was sitting there with my laptop and looking at the numbers of notifications I received on Facebook. By the end of the night, I had over 700 notifications, thousands of friend requests and hundreds of new followers on Twitter.” Since her return back to the region, Jennel has made trips to her former schools and the grocery store. Each time she says she has been recognized and she has been stopped to take pictures with fans. But it isn’t the fame Garcia is looking for; she has bigger plans in mind.
“It would be really cool to throw acting and dance in with my singing, but my ultimate goal is to put rock and roll back on the radio,” she said. “I’m talking about good rock music.”
For now, Garcia continues on with her X Factor journey. The winner of the competition will win a $5 million recording contract, among other prizes. But the journey to the end of the competition is a long one, and Garcia plans on taking it in stride.
“I’m excited for this opportunity and I’m excited to take on whatever is thrown my way,” she said.
Watch Jennel and Jillian on the X Factor Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 8:00 pm on FOX.
By Katy Fitzpatrick