Chloe Channell, left, had to keep the secret of whether or not she was going to continue in the "America's Got Talent" TV competition even from friends like Alyssa Andrews, 11.
(Photo: Bruce Graner, Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal)
Chloe Channell is going to New York City.
The 11-year-old Florida singer advanced to the live competition on NBC's "America's Got Talent" after a successful performance in Las Vegas, as presented on Wednesday night's episode.
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In the dimly lit restaurant of the Oops Alley entertainment center in Pace, Florida, about 200 locals gathered to watch the performance. The Vegas performances were prerecorded, which allowed Chloe - wearing a studded denim jacket, silver boots and a camouflage bandana with "Team Chloe" written on it in hunter orange wording - to join in the fun.
"I didn't expect to have this big of a crowd," her father, Jeff Channell, said. "It's awesome, though."
More than a dozen screens, including two giant projectors, in the restaurant were showing the reality show. Even in the restrooms, the audio of "America's Got Talent" was playing. All eyes and ears were fixed on Chloe.
She already had competed against sword swallowers, snake wranglers and countless other adult and child singers to get this far. Tonight, she was up against a handful of other talented preteens in the show's childrens category, a majority of whom also were singing.
Chloe took on Reba McEntire's "Turn on the Radio" for her performance. The judges questioned whether Chloe understood the song's frank subject matter - a kiss-off song to a cheating lover - and questioned the song choice, as well. Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown criticized her as having "held back" in her performance.
Her brief clip was over in less than a minute. The Back Alley Sports Grill momentarily erupted into cheers before falling quiet again to hear the judges' response.
Aaralyn & Izzy, a heavy metal act that has become a viral sensation for the spectacle of a 6-year-old girl singing the heaviest of heavy metal, performed first, followed by Chloe. Another country singer, Genesis Nava, had a strong performance, as did powerhouse soulful singer Ciana Pelekai.
But Chloe's larger-than-life personality shone through on the interview segments, offering more of the unvarnished Southern-style charm she so winningly displayed in her audition. Asked about her hopes, she said she wanted to go to New York, "more than I want to catch a 100-pound snapper, and that's a lot."
And after telling comedian and judge Howie Mandel that she understood her song, she added, "My dad says that boys are the devil."
Laughter and applause filled her hometown venue after that.
It was the kind of support that Chloe said she has become accustomed to receiving locally for her vocal talents. But after she sang on "America's Got Talent" last week, she began attracting fans on a global scale.
"A man from Italy, he's rooting for me," she said during a break from watching the show and snacking on mozzarella sticks. "It's so cool to know that not just people in your hometown might vote for you.
"It's so overwhelming to know everyone is cheering for me," she said. "It makes me so happy. I hope I can make them proud."
She got her chance to do just that at the show's conclusion.
After tears of joy and defeat alike had streamed down the faces of several other contestants, it was finally time for Chloe to face the judges once again.
Their verdict: She would advance to the show's next round in New York.
A flood of screams and applause drowned out whatever the judges said next.
Chloe embraced one of her friends from her seat while onscreen she mimicked the delighted gesture with show host Nick Cannon.
After the show ended, Chloe signed autographs for fans while sitting next to a life-size cardboard cutout of herself, a gift from a family friend.
Maria Ladouceur, a family friend of the Channell's said she was confident in Chloe's future on "America's Got Talent."
"She's got a big voice for a little girl," she said.
"And a big future," her husband, Todd, added.
Contributing: News Journal Entertainment Editor Julio Diaz
Michael Scott Davidson, Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal