Two Wesley Chapel teenagers are headed to Hollywood Week on American Idol, thanks to auditions that earned unanimous votes from the judges.
Zach D’Onofrio, who also earned a golden ticket in 2018, and Alanis Sophia will begin competing this week as the show moves into the Hollywood phase.
Zach, a Wiregrass Ranch graduate, got his second golden ticket on Sunday’s show, when he played the piano and sang the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers” for judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.
In his first audition, Zach sang Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” — his voice transforming from nervous teenager to timeless crooner — and danced with Perry after giving each of the judges designer themed socks. Bryan was the first to recognize Zach, calling him “Sinatra Boy.”
“I’m back,” Zach said.
This time around, he joked that he had graduated from socks to “dressing up in my best sweater”, singing in a purple sweater with a flowered design.
The judges seemed perplexed about what to make of a second version of D’Onofrio after his song. “Zachary, you’re like a math equation you just leave permanently up on the chalkboard,” Perry told him. “I’m still confused and would like to hear more.”
Zach had a surprise for song No. 2 — his girlfriend Catie Turner, who was a top-6 finisher in 2018. He called her out to sing with him on a second song, “Falling”, by Harry Styles.
Perry told Zach after the song there was something interesting about him, but that he reminded her of a turtle.
“A turtle sometimes hides in its shell,’’ she said. “But the turtle wins the race.”
“What we need now,” Ritchie added, “is for you to come out of your shell.”
And with that, Zach is headed back to Hollywood.
Like Zach, Alanis Sophia is another great voice with a great story.
She says she remembers watching “American Idol” as a child, peering between the bars on her crib. When she was 4-years old, her mother Kathy bought her a happy meal from McDonald’s so she could get the toy inside – a plastic blue and yellow American Idol microphone, with the show’s catchphrase – “You’re Going To Hollywood!” – on it.
Being on the show became one of Alanis’ dreams. On the Feb. 28 audition show, filmed in Los Angeles, Alanis wowed the judges — and millions watching at home — with a perfect, soaring rendition of Demi Lovato’s “Anyone.”
The performance left tears in the eyes of Perry, and Richie and Bryan also appeared moved.
Alanis, who was named after pop singer Alanis Morissette, sang into that exact same Happy Meal plastic microphone during the audition that gave birth to her dream.
Pretty ironic, don’t ya think?
“In the midst of all of this noise, there’s the purity of your voice and your personality that requires nothing but exactly who you are,” Richie told her.
“It was real, and it was honest, and it was awesome to watch,” Bryan said.
Perry, who said she got into music because of Morissette, told Alanis that she was the best performer the judges had seen that day.
After calling her mom Kathy out, and making her cry with their praise of her daughter, the judges told Alanis that she was advancing to Hollywood. The teen grabbed her golden ticket and held it high proudly as she and Kathy left the room.
Alanis said she felt good and liked her chances after finishing the song.
“When I walked in there, I was like, holy cow,” Alanis told the Neighborhood News. “I was nervous at the beginning, but I sang my heart out. Once I started singing, I was in a zone.”
Although not technically currently a resident of Wesley Chapel — she lives in Dade City — Alanis has lived in Wesley Chapel and attended John Long Middle School for two years.
While Zach is still relatively new to singing, it’s not that big a surprise that a seasoned performer like Alanis would deliver such a performance. In fact, because her budding music and acting career kept her so busy, she had to move to online classes and is a 2019 Pasco eSchool graduate.
The oldest of three other siblings, Alanis is no stranger to the music business. When she was 11 years old, she finished second on “La Voz Kids,” the Spanish version of “The Voice.”
She later became the face of VisitFlorida, made commercials and did some acting, and was signed to the Big Machine record label, which was looking to fuse her into a Latin-Country star.
While that didn’t work out, Alanis continued to make music and build her brand online, with hundreds of thousands of followers between Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.
That may seem like a full career for many, but at 19, Alanis is just getting started. She looks at “American Idol” as an opportunity to break through as a star, but if not, she’ll keep pushing on.
“I keep forgetting that I’m 19, and there is so much more left for me in this world,” she says.
That includes singing, touring, acting and who knows?
“All of that,” Alanis says. “I want to do it all.”
Now that the auditions are over, the show begins “Hollywood Week” this Sunday. The show airs at 8 p.m. on ABC-TV.