In just one short moment during the American Idol premiere, Mission resident Villalon made her debut, singing “Love Somebody” by Maroon 5 on a ukulele.
That was all that was shown on television, but Villalon said the judges were wary at first. Jennifer Lopez was on board, but Keith Urban worried Villalon altered the song to cover a lack of range. It wasn’t shown on television, but Villalon put down the ukulele and sang “Marry Me” by Bruno Marks acapella.
The 20-year-old was awarded a ticket to Hollywood with consent of all three judges. She also gained support from across the Valley.
‘If I fall for you, I’ll never be the same’
Since the show aired last week, Villalon’s Facebook page has grown from around 200 followers to more than 3,000.
Twitter was filled with positive feedback for Villalon and her ukulele.
“Crazy to know you go to a college in the same town as me congrats on making it!” one Valley resident Tweeted to Villalon.
One Texas A&M University-Kingsville student wrote, “I’ve been watching (Villalon’s) youtube videos & WOW I’m super impressed! Her voice is amazing! I’m rooting for her.”
Others wrote, “You’re representing the valley now … show them what you got!” and “you’ll be my celebrity crush.”
Houston Chronicle blotter Joey Guerra wrote, “Definite Shakira and Ximena Sariñana vibes. So good,” of Villalon’s brief moment on television.
‘I don’t know where to start, I’m just a little lost’
Villalon’s love of music began at age 5 when her mother, Ofelia, bought her a violin. Ofelia herself always wanted to learn to play the violin, and she passed that desire on to her daughter. In kindergarten, Villalon already was telling people she wanted to be a musician when she grew up. She even played at the kindergarten graduation ceremony.
For years, Viviana took violin lessons, during which time she learned to read music, but her older brother, Rupert, said it was clear her heart wasn’t in it.
“Then, she got to middle school, and she started doing choir and started going into singing, and she was just like, ‘This is it,'” Rupert said. “From there, she’s been singing literally every day. In her shower, in her room. She just sings; that’s what she does.”
Rupert likened Viviana’s rich, deep voice to Adele.
“Her bravado is good; her vocal intonation is good, but it’s unique,” he said. “I told her, you could be Adele. That’s when I kind of knew there was a place for her.”
Viviana was involved in choir all four years she attended Juarez-Lincoln High School, though she also was involved in National Honor Society, orchestra and theater at times.
Her musical taste ranges from John Mayer to Johnny Cash, but the first song she performed during a talent show was “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, and Viviana noted it as one of the “songs that started it all.”
Viviana graduated in 2012, and then moved on to the University of Texas-Pan American, where she’s now a junior majoring in communication studies.
‘You’re such a hard act for me to follow’
Viviana set her heart on American Idol at 11 years old as she later watched Jason Castro make a name for himself, playing a ukulele in pursuit of his dreams.
Castro now is a well-known Christian artist and it was Vivana’s turn last year on the American Idol stage playing her own ukulele. Viviana’s mother bought it for her in her senior year in high school and Viviana taught herself to play it.
And by the time she started the audition process for American Idol last year, Viviana wasn’t even nervous.
“I was ready,” she said. “It felt as if every moment in my life had been leading me to this audition.”
After the last audition, Viviana came out yelling “I’m going to Hollywood!” The entire family was there with the exception of her brother, Rupert. Rupert had driven Vivana to her first audition, but he had to work during the final one. Instead, he encouraged the rest of the family to go.
When he heard the news, Rupert said, “I guess 80 percent of me was like, ‘Yeah, I told you.’ I wasn’t surprised.”
“Now you’ve got to just focus on the next audition and try to think about everything that the judges told you they were looking for; perfect the song that you want to sing and just move forward,” he told her.
Viviana hopes to perform Lady Gaga’s “You and I” on the ukulele during her stint on American Idol.
‘I know we’re only half way there’
Now, Viviana is balancing college life with pursuit of her dreams. She said the fact that she made the Dean’s List last semester shows its possible to do both.
No matter what, she plans to earn her degree. But she’d still love to make a living performing.
“My degree and my love for music go hand-in-hand, so I feel I’m definitely on the right track at 20 years old,” Viviana said.