South Jersey’s Mara Justine Platt Heads to Hollywood on American Idol
Sweet Sixteen Mara Justine Platt is on an incredible journey in which she aced her American Idol audition and headed to Hollywood to pursue her music dreams. She recently sat down with me for an interview to share her experience and her tips for other young aspiring musicians who want to audition for American Idol. The young singer-songwriter from Galloway Township, N.J. has already learned a cadre of life lessons from her family, and her musical gifts, including: following your heart, never give up on your dreams, and have faith in yourself and others around you.
Mara can still remember every moment of auditioning for ABC’s first season of American Idol, easily talking to judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, and receiving her “golden ticket” to Hollywood and the opportunity to perform again in front of a TV audience of millions. The Absegami high school sophomore who sounds wise beyond her age, had the gumption at age 12 to audition for Season 9 of America’s Got Talent, and is now a high school sophomore shining on American Idol.
In some ways she appears to be like any other teen. Her first school show was playing Sally Brown in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, and she also played the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins, and sang “Tuppance A Bag.” Mara also enjoys writing essays, getting lost in all kinds of music, and hanging out with her friends. Having the support of her two sisters and two brothers, has also been invaluable to a teenage girl, who is often referred to as “having a heart of gold.”
Throughout her journey, Mara has had her mother, Linda Platt, by her side. So, what is What is it like for a loving mother to go to the auditions, or watch American Idol, and share her daughter’s success? “I can’t help but cry during every performance she does. I am so proud of how courageous she is. To Mara, it’s not about being pretty or showing off, it’s about inspiring others, touching hearts, and expressing her love through her music,” says Linda Platt, a cocktail server at the Borgata in Atlantic City. Her mom recently added: “When I see the response of the audience feeling her passion and cheering her on, I can understand what she means when she says she wants to touch people’s hearts. It’s truly magical.”
From my interview with Mara Justine Platt, South Jersey’s American Idol Contestant
When you auditioned, what were you most excited about?
Mara Justine Platt: When I auditioned for the judges, I was most excited about performing in front of them, mostly because they have always been idols of mine. I was so excited to meet them and see what they were like. It turned out that they were each very nice. That was really cool.
Were you nervous?
MJ: I was actually very nervous before I went in. Especially, when I was talking to them. But I felt like when the music started it was almost like I just kind of drifted away into my little place. I just took a deep breath and just went with it.
How long have you been singing?
MJ: I’ve been singing my whole life. I think I’ve been singing ever since I could open my mouth and talk. My mom says that I used to sing in her belly. She used to put headphones on her belly and she says that I used to kick and stuff. I started singing officially on stage when I was eight years old. So, I guess music has always just been a part of me.
Tell me a little bit about your audition choice.
MJ: My song choice was Love on the Brain by Rhianna. Definitely my vocal coach helped me out with that a lot. It was always a song that I truly loved and when I sang it I got this beautiful feeling. I felt like it was just the perfect song to sing in front of the judges, to pour my heart out, and to show them everything that I had inside me. That’s definitely how we came to the final choice. Especially because it was very soulful. I felt like I could really just be in the moment. I felt like the judges really felt that, too, and I’m so happy that they did.
What specifically can you tell me about your reaction to Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie? Is there anything you remember or what you took away from it?
MJ: I cried a lot, like a lot. I’m pretty sure there was like black make-up all over my face. It was so cool, I can’t even explain to you. It was a dream come true. I just remember my eyes were closed at the end of my song and I remember opening them and they were just clapping and on their feet. All I wanted to say was thank you, thank you, because it just means so much to me. To have them stand up was truly just a dream come true.
What do you love about performing?
MJ: I love the feeling, the reason why I love doing so much is because I get this feeling, this very magical feeling when I sing in my heart. It’s definitely a feeling that I can’t explain. I can only explain it through music, that feeling. I feel like when I sing to an audience I can feel that they feel it, too. That’s the most beautiful feeling in the world. Definitely just that ease when all your worries go away. I like to take the audience away from reality for a little bit. I know how hard the world can be on people and I know how hard and how stressful life can be sometimes.
What else can you say about this?
MJ: I think that’s definitely the number one reason why I absolutely love music, because it’s a beautiful connection and it’s a beautiful power and it can change people’s lives. It can make them dream. I don’t know; it just makes me truly happy.
Do you have a favorite type of music or many types of music that you enjoy listening to?
MJ: Yes. I really love R&B and soul. Definitely love that kind of bluesy kind of feel. I really like any type of music that just makes me feel something in my heart. I love listening to music that makes me feel something, whether it makes me feel happy or inspired or it makes me want to get up and dance.
Giving back to the community
I noticed that you’ve done benefit concerts. Tell me what other types of performing and music you’re doing and what you like about it.
MJ: Well, around my community I do a lot of work for Elephants For Autism, a seven-year-old local group that raises money for programs for children and families with autism.
MJ: I think that this is definitely another reason why I love music so much. A family friend, Jerry Ryan, runs Elephants for Autism has a son named Jeremy. When I was in middle school I would go and sing for him during lunch. It was so amazing because the way that he would react to music was like he truly felt it, too. It touched me so much I used to cry because it was so beautiful how he felt it. Sometimes he’d sing with me, which was so amazing. It just made me realize how powerful music really is, and how I can make people feel things.
What other recent benefits have you done?
MJ: I love doing benefits, I truly do, because it makes me feel very good.
In the past year I had the privilege to open up for Trace Atkins for the veterans. There was like 10,000 people. It was a benefit called ’Til Duty is Done, held for all the veterans, and for all the fallen soldiers. That was a huge honor. They actually brought me back a second time, which was so amazing. I’m super honored by that. I just love going back to do that every year.
Mara Justine Platt Shares Her American Idol Journey
What’s it like sharing your American Idol journey with your friends?
MJ: My friends are very supportive of me. I have my little drama family, because I do theater at school. I definitely have a little group of people rooting for me. They’ve been calling me and they’re just really excited for me to go to Hollywood and to see what happens.
Please talk about how important family support — your mom, other family members, could you do it without them?
MJ: No. I don’t think I could have done it without my family. My mom, most importantly; she’s been doing this thing with me forever. She was the first person who ever believed in me. She got me to the gigs. Every day when I had a vocal lesson or rehearsals for a school play, she was always the one who helped get me there. It was all because she believed in me. Without my amazing mom, and without my siblings, I don’t think I would be able to do this at all.
Why do you think your mom believed so much in you, and your talent?
MJ: She always used to tell me when I was little that I would sing and dance around the house, and she always saw me as a star in her eyes. I think that’s all a mother could ever ask for, is their daughter’s happiness.
Watch Mara Justine’s American Idol Audition
Mara Justine’s 5 Tips for American Idol Auditions
- If you want to audition for American Idol, or pursue another difficult dream or pursuit, just be yourself and believe in yourself.
- When you are true and honest about yourself you will feel better about the whole experience, especially when you are auditioning in front of the judges. If you are honest and true, the judges will love you.
- Work hard at it. If you love it then buckle down and work hard and I’m sure that one day it will all come together.
- Have fun. Leave all those worries behind. Lose yourself in the music and everyone else will share that feeling, too.
- Enjoy the ride.
Mara Justine Platt’s Mom, Linda Platt offers her advice as a stage mom
5 Tips from Linda Platt on Helping Your Child Soar
- Never put pressure on your child.
- Have them keep in mind it’s not about a win or about the money; it’s about the experience and the love of what they are doing.
- Always tell them to love every minute of what they are doing. To me kids that are able to get up on that stage and perform already have the type of personality of a winner and that they will succeed in anything that they work hard at in life.
- I always tell my daughter that if there ever comes a day that it doesn’t make her happy any more, then it’s time to do something else.
- At the end of the day, what truly matters most is your child’s happiness.
American Idol airs on ABC on Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. E.T. For more information, Click Here.