Cornell student, Amara Valerio, heading to Hollywood

With a golden ticket in hand, Valerio is heading to Hollywood for American Idol’s 21st season.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 8:20 AM EDT
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(WBNG) -- For many, achieving your dreams means taking chances, and for Cornell student Amara Valerio, that’s exactly what she did.

Now, she’s heading to Hollywood with a golden ticket in hand for American Idol’s 21st season.

“It was kind of surreal,” Valerio said. “In the moment before I walked into the room, I was so nervous. It probably the most nervous I had ever been for anything in my life. I mean, it was the biggest audition I’ve ever done in my life, but then when I walked into the room, my nerves kind of just went away because I realized as I was walking in that this is something that I’ve been working toward my whole life. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. So why should I be nervous? I should celebrate this moment.”

Originally from Yonkers, the 21-year-old said she’s been singing for as long as she remembers, recalling her earliest memories from church choir through her high school days to now, posting her passion for the art online.

“I actually posted this video that went pretty viral about the story you’ll see in my audition which is when I got the mic taken from me at a high school graduation. It went super viral and one of the producers from American Idol saw it and saw some of my other singing videos and they were like, ‘Wow, you’re really talented and this is a crazy story we’d love for you to come audition.’”

It was a leap of faith she never saw coming.

While the Cornell University American Studies major spends much of her time in an academic setting, the golden ticket is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her list of achievements, including an internship at the Broome County Public Defender’s Office, work at Cornell’s Office of Academic Diversity and is a part of Cornell’s Nothing but Treble all-women a cappella group.

“You just don’t see a lot of people at Cornell doing stuff like this,” said Valerio. “Usually it’s pretty academic. So, that’s been cool too to kind of do something that’s a little bit different and still chase my dreams even though I’m in an academic setting.”

For Valerio, she said none of it would be possible without the support of those back home and at school.

“The support that I’ve gotten from all different parts of my life has honestly been so touching to me. I’m glad I can be a positive representation for people who have had such an impact on my life,” she said.

If you’re thinking of taking the risks, Valerio stressed the importance of laying out your own path.

“I just want to show people that with hard work, anything is possible. There’s no traditional path to becoming an artist or pursuing music and I think my story is very telling of that. If you put your mind to anything, it’s going to happen no matter what your situation is and I think that’s what’s been kind of special about my story.”

This is her second time auditioning for the show, the first was in 2020.

You can continue to follow Amara’s journey through American Idol this season.