A 23-year-old singer from Georgia who became the first Muslim hijabi contestant on American Idol to get a golden ticket says she was disappointed when she was told her audition won't air, but she's grateful for all the support after her TikTok about the experience went viral.
Amira Daugherty, who has a hearing impairment, told BuzzFeed News that after posting spoken word and singing videos, someone from American Idol told her they loved her story and invited her to audition.
Daugherty said she was honored to be selected as one of the contestants for the celebrity judge round.
"Let me tell you, that was a long process, from the extensive COVID testing to traveling out of my house for the first time in eight months to quarantining to filming behind the scenes. It was equal parts exhausting and exhilarating," she said.
Daugherty said she sang "Stand Up" by Cynthia Erivo after American Idol got special clearance for her to perform it.
Her audition also included a spoken word piece called "Anxiety Eviction" that she said was met with snapping from the judges.
After she got three yeses from the panel of judges, Daugherty said, Lionel Richie went to her father outside and told him he should be proud of her.
"His jaw dropped," she said, "and that is a moment I will always remember."
The singer said her family and friends were supportive and happy for her; they even started a fan page but also had words of caution for her before she left.
"They were proud of me but also reminded me to be cautious as a hijabi on the show because, like it or not, there are so many misconceptions and prejudices that people hold about us," she said.
Daugherty said she wasn't told until the last day of auditions being aired that hers would not make the broadcast.
"I felt a mix of confusion and sadness at first and then decided to take it as a sign that I would just need to do a little more footwork on my own to build my support base," she said. "It was disappointing not to be able to represent the hijabi and hearing-impaired communities, especially after receiving hundreds of kind messages following my announcement."
Representatives for American Idol did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Daugherty said she’s still excited to compete on American Idol as one of the contestants who received a golden ticket.
"That being said, I still feel so blessed to have had the opportunity, to have met so many incredibly talented people on the crew and among my fellow contestants, and to have made lifelong friends," she said.
Daugherty added that she's been "utterly overwhelmed and humbled" by the messages of support after her TikTok went viral.
"When I woke up to hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of encouraging comments and messages, I felt like people really were ready to see a change in our representation onscreen and on the music charts," she said. "I intend to make that happen."
Correction: The number of American Idol contestants who receive a golden ticket was misstated in a previous version of this post.