What Happened to Heather Russell? The ‘American Idol’ Contestant Signed by Simon Cowell

Catherine DiMeglio
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Heather Russell@heatherrusselofficial / Instagram

On season 19 of American Idol, Heather Russell stepped foot in the audition room to sing “Harleys in Hawaii” by Katy Perry and received unanimous “yes” votes to the next round. The Toronto native already had a bit of clout before ever appearing on the Idol stage. Her music career turned serious back in 2011 after being signed to Simon Cowell’s label. She even released several works before appearing on the show. Post Idol, the singer maintains a healthy following on social media and is responsible for a number of viral TikToks.


Heather Russell’s Start in Music

It’s no surprise that American Idol was in the cards for Heather, considering both her parents are also artists. Heather’s father even co-wrote the song “Crazy Glue” for Idol alum Jessica Sanchez. The 20-year-old was aware of her gift from a young age and reportedly began songwriting at age six.

From there, she began to post covers on YouTube, skyrocketing to viral potential. Her version of “Every Step of the Way” amassed over 1.3 million views on YouTube.

The young singer was able to catch the attention of none other than Cowell. In 2011, she was signed to his Syco label at just 10-years-old. Her record contract allowed the opportunity to release her debut EP, Phases in 2015. The following year, her single “Got This Feeling” was featured on the smash hit series Pretty Little Liars.


In 2017, Heather was signed to Toronto label, Gladiator Records. The following year, she dropped My Metropolis where she was able to express her full artistic potential.

The Singer on American Idol

Considering how amazing her audition was, it’s crazy to me that she was eliminated so early on in the competition. Her soulful rendition of Perry’s song came packed with an abundance of mature piano chords and technical vocal riffs. While she ultimately received three yeses, her feedback was harsher than I believe was deserved.

Perry described her version as having too much “frosting” without the cake and said it was “way way too much.” Personally, I think Heather’s version was better than Perry’s. Perhaps the longstanding diva sensed she was coming for her crown and didn’t like it too much.


Judge Lionel Richie confirmed that all she needed was the “right instruction” before moving on to the next round. Unfortunately, her journey was cut short in Hollywood week. It’s truly a bummer that the audience didn’t get a chance to see her abilities progress.

The Rise of Heather on Social Media

After her Idol journey, the singer was able to maintain a solid social media following. She has over 22,300 followers on Instagram and has an even larger following on TikTok. 42,900 and counting to be exact.

The short form video platform has proved to be a wonderful outlet for the singer since her time on the show. Her music and comedy related content has amassed huge popularity on the app, as she has over 419,000 likes on her profile.

@heatherrussellofficial

#Riff challenge by @tianiedacostaa !! But the speed accelerates (to 170 BPM) !! I saw @soumyavytla do it first! And WOW! #riffchallenge #singer

♬ original sound – HEATHER RUSSELL

One of the latest and most popular videos on her page is her riff challenge. Despite the judges feedback, she is still going strong with her signature runs. In this challenge, Heather attempts to sing riffs from 170 BPM, all the way up to a whopping 270 BPM. It’s safe to say she nailed it.

Her TikTok also reveals that she has taken on a regular job. A video posted in July shows Heather scanning items in what looks like a wholesale department store. Here, she captions “Almost fired” as she’s shown singing up and down the aisles at work.

While there doesn’t appear to be any new music from the singer at this time, I believe it is sure to come. The talented artist not only has a great voice, but a loyal fanbase by her side. I for one am excited to see what she does next.

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