Idol Status

Finalist Hollie Cavanagh is Just Having Fun

“If I met Mariah Carey, I would faint,” says Hollie Cavanagh, top-four American Idol season 11 finalist. “She’s my top role model,” continues the 18-year-old Liverpool native turned Texas resident in her unique and endearing accent. When asked what specifically she’d like to emulate about Mariah, she says simply “Everything.”

Growing up in Liverpool in a home filled with Beatles sing-a-longs, Cavanagh says she has always had a musical influence in her life. It wasn’t until she was 15 that she began serious vocal training to belt out those diva ballads like Mariah. “I’m still new to all of this,” Cavanagh says modestly. Pretty impressive for top-four Idol status.

Cavanagh initially auditioned for season 10 of American Idol due to the prodding of her older brother. “Luke was the one who saw my potential and pushed me to try out,” she says. “I didn’t have anything to lose so I decided to go for it.” Cavanagh did indeed go for it; she made it through initial audition phases, but faced elimination in the Green Mile round (where top 40 hopefuls are narrowed down to 24). She took the judges’ parting words to “keep practicing and come back in a year or two” to heart, worked her vocal cords to into pitch-perfect-finalist-material and was back with a bang for season 11.

Being a Season 11 American Idol was a whirlwind of positive challenges and personal growth for Cavanagh. Looking back on her weeks there, she says the biggest struggle was maintaining confidence. “I was constantly reminding myself to just have fun. I couldn’t let people get in my head. I had to force myself not to focus on the competition.”

Competition is a term Cavanagh uses loosely, as her relationship with her fellow contestants was far from aggressive. She notes the rapport between finalists as one of the biggest surprises, and benefits, of her experience. “None of us ever worried that we were being sabotaged by someone else,” she says. “Everyone really looked out for each other.”

Cavanagh expressed similar feelings of respect for the judges, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. “I viewed them more as mentors than judges. They had our best interests in mind and gave advice on how to be better performers. Their criticism pushed us in the right direction.”

Cavanagh was eliminated on the May 10 episode, only three places from the top. But she hasn’t let this ruffle her feathers. “I’m happy for the experience and all I learned. I’m very proud of myself for making it as far as I did,” she says.

Currently on tour for American Idol LIVE!, Cavanagh is taking one day at a time. “I don’t know what my plans for the future are,” she says. “Right now I’m just having fun and enjoying the tour. After that I’ll work on my own music. I’m kind of playing it by ear.” One thing is for sure: she’ll have her eye on Mariah.

American Idol LIVE! begins 7 pm Saturday, Jul 7 at the Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Road, Rosemont. $29.50-$65.00. 800.745.3000 or