By Hal Boedeker
5:48 PM EDT, September 11, 2013
Lillie McCloud, a 54-year-old grandmother from Orlando, sings so impressively on Wednesday's premiere of "The X Factor" that judges compare her to Gladys Knight and Whitney Houston.
McCloud's soaring delivery of the gospel song "Alabaster Box" wins her raves. Simon Cowell says she has an incredible voice, and Kelly Rowland wonders where McCloud has been hiding. You can see the show at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Fox.
I talked to McCloud on Wednesday afternoon. She has lived in Florida since 1986 and in Orlando for a couple of years. McCloud has three children and seven grandchildren.
Where will you watch tonight’s show?
I will see it later at home. I’m doing a little show at a private club. I will watch it later.
What's the answer to the question: Where have you been hiding?
I have been trying not to hide. I’ve been working in Miami nightclubs, on South Beach for several years. I’ve been recording. I couldn’t get beyond dance artist. I had some recordings as a dance artist. I never had this opportunity to branch out.
How did the judges’ comments make you feel?
Oh my God. It completed me. I feel very positive about my talent. To hear someone of their caliber to feel the way I feel about myself ... it gave me power and inspiration that I have something special to offer. They gave me my willpower back. I can’t imagine ever stopping until I succeed. I remember Simon said it was divine timing. I do believe it’s timing. If I had gotten it before, I wouldn’t have known how to handle to success.
How would you describe the overall experience of the show?
It is the roller coaster ride of your life. It’s up, down, very emotional, highs and lows and surprises and excitement. It’s crazy. It’s something I would never want to miss out on. It will try your patience, show you what you’re made of. You discover things about yourself, make friends on a deep level. It’s so emotional.
How do you describe your sound?
I’m kind of confused. I am so many different voices. What I’ve been told in the industry in younger days, you have to pick one. But I am everything. There are so many voices. I never know who’s coming up to bat. I don’t know. I’m looking forward to moving forward and someone putting me in the right market. My desire is to be a gospel singer, but I love wearing a catsuit and gowns. I don’t want to change who I am if I go into gospel music. I have a different sound in my head about what gospel sounds like. It's a different sound of music, hard to describe. This music is energy, inspirational, you can dance on it, it’s about love.
Why do you want to perform more gospel music?
That’s my heart. That's where I want to go. CeCe Winans. Mary Mary is so cool. Kirk Franklin. They cross over.
What’s your take on Simon Cowell?
[She laughed.] I love Simon because he’s very outspoken. He’s going to tell you what he thinks. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I have a deep appreciation for his honesty.
How does it feel getting this acclaim at age 54?
Oh, wow. I feel like a superhero. This is unusual. Does this happen to a 54-year-old? This is not normal. It's not every day that something like this happens to someone like me. A couple of weeks ago I was home cooking with a baby in one hand and a baby in the other. This time I’m ready for it.
Will your family watch "The X Factor" with you?
I have a big, loud, hungry family. We’re pulling an all-nighter. Everybody is coming over.
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