Julia Gagnon, of Cumberland, right, with fellow “American Idol” platinum ticket winners Abi Carter and Odell Bunton Jr. The three get to sit out the first round of Hollywood week competition, which will be seen on Sunday’s “Idol” episode. Photo courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

Julia Gagnon’s intense, show-stopping performance during her “American Idol” audition has earned her a short break on her musical journey.

The 21-year-old college student from Cumberland will appear on Sunday’s “American Idol” episode but won’t be competing. After her audition, seen on the March 24 episode, the judges handed her one of just three “platinum tickets,” given to the singers with the strongest performances.

That ticket allows her to skip the first round of the Hollywood week competition, which will be the focus of Sunday’s episode. She will still sing, along with the other two platinum ticket winners. Gagnon will likely find out if her “American Idol” journey continues on Monday’s episode, when the judges are scheduled to reveal the top 24 contestants. Those will then compete for the rest of the season.

Julia Gagnon, of Cumberland, sings in the “American Idol” episode set to air Sunday. Photo courtesy of Disney/Eric McCandless

Both episodes, Sunday and Monday, can be seen from 8-10 p.m. on ABC. Some 150 singers are competing during Hollywood week.

Publicity photos from Sunday’s episode released by ABC show Gagnon singing, both alone and with fellow platinum ticket winners Abi Carter and Odell Blunton Jr. They also show the three of them sitting in the audience watching other singers compete during Hollywood week.

After the top 24 contestants are picked, there will be two episodes, on April 7 and 8, that will show the singers competing at a resort in Hawaii. On the April 8 episode, viewers will get to vote on which singers should be in the top 20 field. The top 20 singers will then compete on the April 14 episode, according to ABC publicity. The show’s schedule beyond that has not been released.


Gagnon wowed judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan when she sang Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” during her audition in Nashville, Tennessee, which was taped in November.

“Did that come out of your mouth? I am shocked,” Richie said after Gagnon’s performance, which aired during the March 24 episode. “I grew up with Aretha Franklin. There are certain songs you don’t sing because you can’t touch the original. You just made it not only your song, but you did things that are just beyond. That was absolutely outstanding.”

Gagnon appeared to lose herself in the music while auditioning. And she teared up as soon as the song was over. She told the judges she wanted to be on “American Idol” in part so she could share a special moment and journey with her birth mother in Guatemala, Sara Ramos, who is seriously ill and fighting an infection.

“I was in another place,” Gagnon told the Press Herald in an interview after the episode aired. “I just closed my eyes and sang from the heart.”

Gagnon, who graduated from North Yarmouth Academy and is a senior at the University of Southern Maine on a pre-law track, had been reluctant to share her gift for singing because she didn’t want to stand out among her classmates in Maine.

The Guatemala native says she’d been bullied and harassed for her looks and background, and that made her want to be quiet and blend in. But after a talent show during middle school, her chorus teacher, Nora Krainis, encouraged her to sing publicly and worked with her parents, Meg and Jim Gagnon, to create opportunities for her to sing more.

Last summer, Gagnon heard about a competition called Central Maine Idol, which is modeled after “American Idol” and held at The Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell. Gagnon had watched a friend compete in it and realized she missed singing. So she entered and won the contest’s $10,000 prize. That win gave her confidence to try out for “American Idol,” she said.

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