When Rion Paige first took the stage at The X Factor’s Charleston, South Carolina, auditions, it was love at first note. The sweet 13-year-old with the bubbly spirit, curly hair, and differently shaped hands sang Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” — making the judges drop their jaws and sing her praises.
We sat down to talk to Rion in preparation for Live Shows, which begin tonight, October 29. Was she as sweet in real life? As sincere? Yep, and so much more. Check out Wetpaint Entertainment’s exclusive details on her stiffest competition, best friends in the contestant pool, and whether Demi Lovato really is as perfect as she seems.
Wetpaint Entertainment: You’re only 13, but you’ve talked about all you’ve gone through to get to The X Factor. What did you have to do to convince your mom to let you?
Rion Paige: Well, she knew I wanted to sing, but after I saw the season finale last year, I saw that they were doing auditions in Charleston, and I begged her to let me do it. And she was a little hesitant, for various reasons, but I made a binder full of plans to get there. It had where we would stay [Rion’s family lives in Jacksonville, Florida], how much it would cost, schoolwork plans…
Wow, that’s intense! And obviously she said yes, and the rest is history. But what did we miss, since we only got to see a little bit of you at first?
I had five auditions before I got to the judges’s phase. Oh, and when we were doing the Four Chair Challenge, you only saw me sing, but Simon Cowell told me he wants to make me a big recording artist, and that he feels like they’re just scratching the surface of what I can do.
That’s big praise coming from him! Demi Lovato is your mentor, and we’re pretty much obsessed with her, but what is she like to work with?
I call her “The Amazing Demi Lovato,” because she really, really is. It’s weird seeing her on TV and on tour and stuff, and then having her help us, because she’s so selfless. She just really wants to help us succeed and is really honest and says things straight out. Like, if she doesn’t like something, she’ll tell us and work with us to make it better.
What specific advice has she given you?
She just tells me to breathe in and breathe out, pray, practice on my song. Just to be like sick on it, to know it in and out so I don’t get nervous when I’m onstage and it’s live.
Smart. If you get to sing with someone in the finale, someone big, who would you like it to be?
Carrie Underwood. Oh that would just be so amazing. And The Band Perry. I looooooove them. And Hunter Hayes … Miranda Lambert too. I just love country music. It’s what I live and breathe and … it’s everything!
Where do you think you’d fit into the country scene?
There isn’t a younger singer right now and I could take that place that Taylor Swift has sort of left as she’s grown up. I could definitely do it. That’s what I really, really want.
You have some really cool-seeming competitors. Who have you grown close to?
Danie [Geimer] and Khaya [Cohen] are both really neat. And Rachel Potter. She’s been really sweet and she’s so talented. And James Kenney is really nice — he has little kids, so he shows us pictures and he’s just really sweet. And Josh Levi and the Sweet Suspense girls … I hang out with them a lot.
Who’s your biggest competition?
Myself! They’re all really talented, but it’s a mind game. And I have my own thing going on, my own style and drive, and I just have to give my very best.
If you won, what would you do with the money?
I would make my family comfortable, because I just think that would be a really neat thing if I was able to do it. And I’d give money to charities for people who have differences, so they could adjust their houses for wheelchairs or whatever they need, get a service dog … People don’t think about those things, but it can be really expensive to make a home accessible.
What’s been the best or most exciting part of this journey so far?
I just love being able to sing, because it’s all I want to do. I love meeting with Demi…it’s neat because you feel like you’re a star walking around in Los Angeles. I never thought people in LA would notice me, but people will call out to me on the street. It happens quite a lot, actually.
Are you rooting for Rion Paige? Live Shows begin tonight, October 29, at 8 p.m. on Fox.