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‘Idol is a stepping stone’
Alyssa Wray looks back on American Idol, talks what’s next

After Alyssa Wray was eliminated from American Idol on May 2 and she found she wasn’t in the top seven contestants, she said the main reason she cried onstage after the announcement was more to do with the fact she had to leave the people — the contestants, producers, and people behind the scenes she had come to know.

“It was more just that I had to leave this environment that I just have grown to love and had grown so accustomed to,” she said. “Artists need fellow artists in an everyday environment to really, truly thrive, and that’s what I had built.”

Now, she feels better about the fact she didn’t advance and wants to get back to work, since she had grown accustomed to working every day in Los Angeles when she was on the show.

She received a warm welcome when she returned back to Boyle County. Wray is from Perryville and went to school in the Boyle County Schools district, and on the Monday after she returned, she made a visit to Boyle County High School.

She said she’s close to her old teachers there and considers them friends, and they gave her a picture frame featuring her name and photos of her, and a bouquet and vase, and she took a picture with them.

“That was super sweet,” she said. “It made me feel very loved because that was the morning that I had gotten back, actually.”

Wray does have plans to stay in touch with several of the contestants from this season of American Idol. She said she made a “top 10 swear” among the top 10 contestants that they’ll get a Hollywood mansion together one day. She’s also talked to a couple of her best friends from the show who made it into the top seven, Grace Kinstler and Willie Spence, about moving to Los Angeles in the future. She said even if she doesn’t live together with any of the contestants, she at least wants them to live near her.

“I’m hoping that soon I’ll be back to living that lifestyle every day, of getting to do what I love and working every day but having people that I kind of just thrive around, around me,” she said.

Now that she’s had a taste of being a musical artist and might soon get the chance to sign on with a record label, she’s not sure if she wants to return back to Northern Kentucky University, where she was studying musical theater, because she wants to get back to work.

She was so busy with the show that she had to finish the semester with an incomplete. Many of the contestants who are college students deferred their semesters before they left to be on the show, something part of her wishes she had done because of time constraints and other responsibilities that interfered with her semester.

She’s still going to return to campus shortly to surprise some friends and pick up things from her dorm room, but she said even without getting a musical theater degree, if she got the chance to advance in her career, she could train while she worked, and she could pursue her degree later if she chose.

Wray hopes to be signed with 19 Recordings, which can sign contestants of American Idol when seasons come to a close. Top 10 candidates have a lot of opportunities, she said.

“Idol is a stepping stone,” she said.

If 19 Recordings doesn’t sign with her, she said she’d possibly like to sign with Capitol Records or, really, any record label she feels a connection with. For a future project, she wants to audition for movie musicals and films, like the new Wicked movie.

One thing Wray said American Idol has prepared her for in her career goals is dealing with negative comments. She described Idol as “boot camp” for the industry. Especially because contestants aren’t well-known stars yet and since it’s a singing competition, she said people can feel like it’s their “job” to judge contestants and leave negative comments. But everyone gets negative comments thrown their way, even big stars, she said. It’s inevitable, and she said she needed to develop the mindset to understand that.

“I think the hardest part about hate is when they say something you believe about yourself, negatively,” she said.

Later, she said, “At the same time, the good — it’s so overwhelming compared to the bad. There’s so much more good than bad.”

One of the saddest parts about leaving the show will be leaving the people she worked with behind the scenes, like her voice coach. She said when it came to the style of mentorship of people behind the scenes, often they’d focus on what contestants already possessed and highlight those things.

“A lot of that stuff in how we carry ourselves, and stage presence — that comes from us,” she said. “They just help us hone in on certain things that are special about us that we can’t even see.”