Special Report: Passion Fires the Dream

Ryan Juntti
Updated: May 20, 2019 10:54 AM

We all have those things that we just love to do. For 17-year-old Mariah Henderson of Hibbing that's singing. It's something she has been doing for as long as she can remember, and recently her passion for singing fired her dream of being on American Idol.

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"I just really love to sing just because I enjoy it," Mariah said.

And that becomes clear when you put a microphone in her hand.

Her stage is none other than her house.

"My whole life, ever since I could sing I guess," Mariah said when asked how long she has been singing at home. 

"She's literally been singing before she could talk," Mariah's mom, Tina said. "Everything she does, she sings," she said.

Tina has seen her daughter's ups and downs. Tina says Mariah has been diagnosed with severe anxiety, which she says has made school difficult at times.

But then Mariah turns to music.

"When she gets on stage she has no anxiety at all," Tina said. "Singing is her main release," she said.

"I just like to sing because that's always what I've been doing especially through my high school when I was going through a really hard time with my depression, and anxiety, and going in and out of hospitals, I just sang," Mariah said.

"Yes, totally I love music," Mariah said when asked if music is her outlet.

The inspiration for it all is her dad J, who used to be a DJ.

"Ever since I was little there's videos of him like with me a baby him sitting playing piano, me sitting on his lap," Mariah said.

J used to write songs that he and Mariah would then sing together.

But in Mariah's first talent show at the age of nine, she wrote the song that she sang with J. 

Mariah ended up taking home third place that year at the Dylan Days competition held at Lincoln Elementary in Hibbing.

She also competed when she was 11 when she took home second place.

Her musical passion continued into high school. That passion led her to compete in last summer's Northland Idol competition sponsored by WDIO.

"I just like singing, so I guess I just wanted to sing," Mariah said.

This was her second summer in a row competing. She didn't win the first time and was hoping for a different result this time around.

She performed "Hallelujah" and followed that up with "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys.

When it was all said and done, Mariah would be awarded the silver ticket.

And then the 17-year-old girl from Hibbing would soon have a shot at the big stage.

"It was always my dream to be on American Idol," Mariah said.

And that dream, which was once a longshot, was now well within reach.

With one hurdle down, Mariah and Tina flew down to Louisville, Kentucky last October where Mariah would join other regional winners in auditioning in front of the executive producers of American Idol.

And while Mariah says a lot of the other contestants were nervous, she'll tell you that wasn't the case for her.

"I guess it was just like a normal audition that i've done before," said Mariah.

And for her the audition was just another opportunity to do what she loves.

"I wasn't really expecting to win either. I just wanted to go sing. That's like my favorite thing to do," said Mariah.

So when she found out she didn't get selected, and her shot of performing on American Idol was over, she says she wasn't too disappointed.

"I kind of had a feeling that I wasn't going to make it into American Idol and I was okay with that because I felt like I wasn't ready," said Mariah. "I love singing, but I just kind of felt like it wasn't my time," she said.

This isn't the end of Mariah's musical journey. In fact it's just the beginning because she says she intends to compete in Northland Idol again next year.

And while Mariah says a lot of people view competitions as a way to advance their careers, for her the real satisfaction comes from her passion to perform.

"It's never really about winning something, or becoming something bigger because I just like to let other people hear me sing I guess," said Mariah.

A good lesson for all of us to do what we love, and sometimes winning isn't everything.

Mariah says right now she wants to focus on school. She also works a part-time job. As for pursuing a music career, she says she isn't sure what her future plans are right now. 


Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


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