Shannon O’Hara is a 17-year-old contestant on American Idol who, like every other performer, wants to win. There is something different about O’Hara though, as she credits her musical talent to God.
The 17-year-old’s story of faith and determination is failing to receive media attention, but it is extremely fundamental to her musical journey. She has not only captured the love and attention of millions of fans, but also that of the American Idol judges.
In order to place in the top 24 of contestants, O’Hara made the bold move of singing a Katy Perry song. Not only did she sing “Unconditionally” by the judge, but she added her own twist to it, raising the stakes even higher.
Luckily, Perry, like so many watching, was wowed by Shannon’s performance. Perry called O’Hara a, “secret spiritual ninja,” and teared up during her performance.
O’Hara was not only trying to impress the judges that day but to praise God on national television.
“For me, that song is almost like a worship song — it can be taken that way, and that’s how I took it. My faith is really important to me, and it’s a big part of my life, so I wanted to do something that I can kind of relate in that sense,” Shannon told The Charlotte Observer.
O’Hara grew up singing in church. She did not get a formal education of musical training of any sorts. The only time of formal training she received was a few years of piano lessons. She is a self-taught guitar player and singer. But that does not mean she doesn’t sing plenty. She leads her youth group worship on Thursday night as well as Sunday mornings, singing at the church twice a week.
During the show, Perry asked O’Hara about her roots.
“Shannon, you’ve primarily sang in church, correct?” asked Perry, who also comes from a Christian background with Christian parents.
“I know exactly how it feels to be raised in church,” she remarked.
The show apparently cut another comment Perry made.
“You have the hand of God in your voice,” Perry said.
“She actually said that to me,” Shannon said, “but they didn’t show that whenever they showed me getting judged. I wished they would have shown that.”
Shannon made it to the next round, placing in the top 24. The 17-year-old posted to Instagram to update and celebrate.
“PRAISE THE LORD!!!! I can’t even believe it. Thank you Jesus for this opportunity. HERE I COME!!” O’Hara wrote.
In her promo video, O’Hara also explains that American Idol signals a, “chance for me to bring some hope to my family in this extremely difficult time.”
The singer continued to detail that her father’s health was so bad that the family had to sell their home in order to afford his medical bills.
The Charlotte Observer also reported that her dad was the manager of a restaurant that was shut down a year and a half ago.
“The restaurant he was the manager of shut down a year and a half ago, and not long after that, his health started getting bad,” Shannon said. She also added that he has had to go through “multiple surgeries” and has been in a “lot of pain.” Her father has a vascular disease.
She hopes that she can help the family financially with this opportunity.
“My dad worked really hard my entire life until now, so I’m just trying to help my family financially with this opportunity, as well as following my lifelong dream,” she said. “Hopefully, American Idol can bring my family out of our current situation.”
O’Hara told the Observer that her father has vascular disease. He recently had to have a toe removed, and it has been a tough recovery.
“It’s taken over six months for the wound to close; it’s been a really slow process,” Shannon added. “For awhile, he was going to wound care and going to the doctor every other day.”
Despite the hard times, Shannon’s trust stays firm in God. Her social media is filled with worships songs, Bible verses, prayers, and encouraging words. Her Twitter bio reads, “HE is my strength.”
She took to Instagram on Easter to thank God publically for her time with American Idol thus far.
Had a great time with @hintonews on @wlos_13! It was nice to go back to Asheville, the very first place that @americanidol said yes to my dream. Fun fact, @calebjohnson is actually the one who said YES! As I look back to that day in August where it all began, I can’t believe where I am now. In my weakness, the Lord’s power has been made perfect in my life. He makes me brave. He rose out of the grave that I was supposed to be in! What a Savior. What a Father. He is the greatest love I have ever known, and my life has been radically changed because of what Jesus did for me. May we remember what He did everyday, not just today. It is an amazing day because of Him, but also because American Idol will be on tonight! The last round of Hollywood week…. Still can’t believe I even got to be there at all. I can’t wait for you guys to see my solo? tune in at 8pm! #thenextidol @lukebryan @katyperry @lionelrichie
“As I look back to that day in August where it all began, I can’t believe where I am now,” she wrote. “In my weakness, the Lord’s power has been made perfect in my life. He makes me brave. He rose out of the grave that I was supposed to be in!”
“He is the greatest love I have ever known, and my life has been radically changed because of what Jesus did for me. May we remember what He did everyday, not just today,” she added.
The young girl stays positive and grounded in her faith, stating that she plans to pursue ministry and worship in college.
“I’d really like to go to this ministry school in California,” she said. “That also involves worship and worship-leading – which is music.”