Junior Kiara Lanier passes 'American Idol' auditions, competing in Hollywood Week

Kiara Lanier also performed for President Obama’s 52nd birthday fundraiser in Chicago.
Senior Kiara Lanier auditioned for season 12 of American Idol earlier in January. Lanier is originally from the south side of Chicago and has been singing since a young age. Kiara Lanier

Junior Kiara Lanier made it through the first level of "American Idol" auditions and will be heading to Hollywood Week. After singing Celine Dion’s “The Prayer,” Lanier received praise from all four judges. Originally from the south side of Chicago, Lanier has been singing since she was young.

Maneater: When did you start singing and how much training have you had?

Lanier: I really have been singing for my whole life. I started singing really little when I was in kindergarten. I sang with the Chicago Children’s Choir. We were always singing classical music, and outside of school I sang at my church. I only really sang classical music until my junior year of high school. I started singing jazz and got really interested in jazz bands.

Maneater: Are there any artists that have influenced you singing career?

Lanier: I have always looked up to artists like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. My dad would always listen to reggae, and my mom played the trumpet. She was a really good trumpet player. It’s not like everyone is a musician or plays a musical instrument, a lot of people aren’t, actually. It was those bases of genres growing. I had a wide and eclectic musical palette. I like (new) artists that are experimental and unique.

Maneater: Why did you choose to study at MU?

Lanier: I came Mizzou as a journalism student. I was also in the Mizzou jazz band. But originally I wanted to be a journalist, and I found I really wanted to travel internationally. I wanted to be a writer and shed light on the truth around the world. Journalism does that, but it wasn’t the vehicle I want to do those things.

Maneater: How do you balance school and your musical career?

Lanier: What I have been doing this last semester is an internship for my capstone. I am dually enrolled in two schools and I am doing online classes. I am trying to figure out how to navigate singing along with my education.

Maneater: During your American Idol audition, you said that you performed for President Obama. Can you tell me about that experience?

Lanier: I performed for President Obama at his 52nd birthday fundraiser. But I was provided this opportunity through Khari Lemuel, who is a really talented cellist. He plays like 40 instruments and has performed for Stevie Wonder. I met Khari at a concert and once we met we decided to start collaborating. We were actually calling each other up for gigs, and he called me up and asked if I wanted to perform for President Obama. I was just so excited to get that opportunity.

Maneater: Where did your perform for Obama?

Lanier: I performed behind Dr. Anita Blanchard’s home, who was the doctor that delivered Obama’s girls. It was a really small space. But (Obama) came up and hugged us and was cracking jokes. The day he had a lot of events, but he took the times to hug and shake everyone’s hands. He acknowledged everyone that was there.

Maneater: What made you decide to tryout for "American Idol?"

Lanier: What most people don’t know is that I tried out for "American Idol" because of my cousin Brittany, who is my older cousin. She is always encouraging me because we watch out for each other and each other’s dreams. She would send me applications to "The Voice", "X Factor", and "American Idol." I was really nervous, but she was always saying I should try and do it.

Maneater: Do you plan on pursuing singing as a career choice?

Lanier: I never gave my music full attention because I always thought I needed a career title that was more accredited. I went through majors and was interested in them, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Being a writer and an educator, you don’t have to choose between one and the other. I am choosing music as my primary vehicle.

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