Alabama’s Lady K dedicates ‘American Idol’ audition to brother who died by suicide

By Kezia Moss


Kezia "Lady K" Istonia

Alabama's Kezia "Lady K" Istonia auditioned for "American Idol" in Season 20. She's a singer, songwriter and aspiring actress from Montgomery. (ABC/Eric McCandless)


Alabama singers are reaching out to grab the judges’ hearts on “American Idol” this season.

Tyler N. Allen of Mobile did it on a recent episode, performing a tune he used to sing to his 1-year-old nephew, who died in a car crash. All three judges were moved by Allen’s audition -- Katy Perry wept as he sang a tender version of “I Believe in You and Me” -- and they were unanimous in their decision to send him to the next phase of the competition.

On Sunday’s episode, another contestant from our state, Kezia “Lady K” Istonia of Montgomery, revealed a personal tragedy. During her audition, Lady K, 25, told the judges about tough times her family had experienced -- her mother struggled to support five children and they ended up living in a shelter -- and she mourned her brother’s death.

“I knew that we all had it hard, but at some point, it was all just too much for my brother,” Lady K said. “My brother died by suicide and that was one of the hardest things that my family ever had to go through. It was hard to decide if paying rent was going to come first, because we needed somewhere to live, or paying for a funeral because we don’t have our brother anymore.”

Lady K -- who now lives in Tuskegee, the hometown of judge Lionel Richie -- talked about her desire to help her family and give them hope for the future.“There were times where I didn’t think that the rest of my family would pull through, and we’re still here -- the rest of us are, anyway -- and that’s why this is so important to me,” she said. “Because I don’t want that to happen again, because it gets so hard that they feel like there’s no hope. So Poppy’s death, it started a fire in me. It gave me more purpose, like, I know I don’t want my mom to have to only think about this. I don’t want that to be the only significant thing in our life. So I’m here to honor him and just make my family proud, give us something to be excited about after everything we’ve been through. ... It’s a blessing to be here, honestly.

Lady K told the “Idol” judges she chose one of Perry’s songs, “Wide Awake,” for her audition, because “it was the best song I could find to symbolize my journey.”

Her rendition of the song clearly impressed the judges, who offered effusive praise and presented Lady K with a golden ticket to Hollywood.

“You sang with such elegance, beauty, grace and filigree,” Perry said. “It’s like you reinvented the song. It’s like your heart is shining through your vocal cords.”

“It just flows and it’s tremendous,” Luke Bryan said. “And it’s so honest. It is just magic.”

“I’m so proud,” Richie said. “Tuskegee will never be the same. I just know that you landed there for an absolute purpose. Listen, you sang a Katy Perry song and turned it into you. I mean, and then you had Katy Perry crying. I mean, what are you doing? .. Lady K, you’ve made my day.”

As she displayed her golden ticket, Lady K dedicated her successful audition to her brother’s memory.

“Holding this golden ticket right now means that my brother is not gone in vain,” Lady K said. “He is so proud of me. This was for Poppy.”

Lady K will continue her journey on the ABC reality series, competing in the Hollywood Round. It’s a fast-moving and typically grueling phase of the competition, significantly trimming the number of singers. Viewers will have to wait for that, however.

Audition episodes are set to air for the next few weeks, and two more singers from Alabama -- Cadence Baker of the Shoals and Tristen Gressett of Pell City -- will be featured among the hopefuls. (Early episodes of “American Idol” are filmed in advance.)

If you watch: “American Idol” airs on Sundays at 7 p.m. CT on ABC.