Talent Recap

EXCLUSIVE: How Competing on ‘American Idol’ Formed Mikalah Gordon’s Career Path

'American Idol' season 4 Top 12 Finalists portraits, Music Video Shoot for Debbie Gibson's "Girl's Night Out"Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage), Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

Reading Time: 4 minutes

They say that memories last a lifetime and for Mikalah Gordon, her time on American Idol is one she holds close to her heart. Nearly 17 years after her initial audition, she continues to thank the show for creating her career path.

Mikalah Gordon auditioned for American Idol in Las Vegas, Nevada at only 16 years old. Throughout the weeks of the competition, she repeatedly impressed the judges with her renditions of “Young Hearts Run Free” by Candi Staton, “God Bless The Child” by Billie Holiday, “Somewhere” by Reri Grist, and more. Gordon made it to the Top 11 of the season, before facing elimination.

As soon as Gordon’s time on the series was over, a variety of doors opened for her. These opportunities included appearing on Living With Fran, becoming Tyra Banks‘s correspondent on The Tyra Banks Show, hosting American Idol Extra, and much more.

Mikalah Gordon Calls American Idol “The Happiest Moment of My Life and The Worst Moment, in Front of National Television.”

While she held a giant smile on the series, Gordon was battling her own demons behind the scenes. On top of the stress of being on a competition show, she was dealing with an unexpected loss in her family. This especially affected her because mom’s partner (Gordon’s legal guardian) travelled her to Hollywood Week and the Top 24.

“I think that was the beginning of something very real for me where real emotions were happening,” she said. “I’m navigating being in front of this national television show trying to win this competition, the stakes are that I could literally change my whole life and my course in life and my family’s life, while grieving a death that I really couldn’t grieve.”

Understandably, Gordon described this portion of her life as “the happiest moment of my life and the worst moment, in front of national television.” She decided to keep her struggles to herself during American Idol because she wanted people to vote for her talent, not her story.

“Looking back maybe I could’ve said something because more than anything I probably just could’ve used the opportunity to talk about it,” she said.

While describing the competition itself, Gordon acknowledged that she felt entirely in her lane in the competition. She worked hard to earn America’s votes weekly.

When it comes to advice, Gordon explained that her biggest take away was: “not everyone is going to like you and it’s not your fault.” To clarify the meaning, she said “you can be the juiciest peach in the world and some people like apples, it has nothing to do with you.”

Gordon Will Not Return to a Competition Show Anytime Soon

That being said, although her act more or less became a one woman show, she would never compete on another series. Not only because she learned that she’s “pretty sensitive,” but because it made her lose a part of herself.

“After American Idol I didn’t sing for like 10 years because I felt like my whole existence growing up was, I was a singer, that’s what I did,” she said. “Everything that I never felt good enough with I still could sing and that was mine. When I put it out into a place where it could be judged, it really took away so much of that vulnerability and love for it. When I didn’t sing for 10 years I really felt that.”

Once she rekindled her love for singing, she began working on her newest album, Vivian. The album is named after her late grandmother, who passed away in April of 2020. Soon after her grandmother’s passing she began to grieve, which led her return to music. Fellow American Idol alum Brandon Rodgers pushed her to write music again.

She describes this album as “pieces of me that have really never been talked about.” Vivian is now available on all streaming platforms. The passion-driven album is genuinely an energetic, inspiring listen. This intimate album features several catchy songs that I’ll have on repeat for the next month. It’s beautiful to see her growth since her American Idol season.

Who is Mikalah Gordon?

Gordon made her entertainment debut as a Top 12 contestant on American Idol. Her run on Idol, combined with her powerful voice and unique stage presence, earned her a record deal with famed judge Randy Jackson of Interscope Records. She recently released her latest single, “Hands Off,” from her new album, Vivian, out now.

In addition to her vocal success, Mikalah has made her mark on the comedy community, having headlined at The Comedy Store and The Laugh Factory, amongst many others. She has held guest roles on the CBS hit show The Unit and the WB sitcom Living with Fran, alongside Fran Drescher. Mikalah is also the co-host of The Morning Beat on CHANNEL Q, an Audacy Original Station and the award-winning LGBTQ+ Talk Radio Network. Check her out each weekday morning on the free Audacy app.

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