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Ryan Johnson, Published January 30 2014

West Fargo 19-year-old earns golden ticket to pursue dream on 'American Idol'

WEST FARGO - Andrina Brogden knew she was meant to be a performer in 2011, when she landed the title role in a West Fargo High School production of “Cinderella” and realized the power she had in front of the crowd.

“It just makes me happy when I perform for people and I can see the look on their faces that they’re being entertained or they’re being moved in some way,” she said. “That really just gives me that sense of joy, knowing that I can help people either be happy for a moment or feel something.”

Now, the 19-year-old born in Bismarck who has called West Fargo home since she was 6 is hoping to land a spot on the latest season of “American Idol” that could make her dream a reality in front of a national audience.

Brogden auditioned for the 13th season of the popular singing competition last summer in Omaha, Neb., choosing to sing Beyonce’s “Halo” to the show’s three celebrity judges.

Jennifer Lopez was the first to chime in, telling Brogden she seemed to be “singing with a little bit of fear,” but shouldn’t shy away from “those bigger moments.” Harry Connick Jr. disagreed, saying she was a “way better than average” singer, but said he didn’t think she was good enough for “American Idol.”

But third judge Keith Urban “chimed in, thankfully,” telling Brogden that she had a beautiful voice and a great look.

“I’ve got the feeling you’re going to rise to the occasion,” he said.

With the praise of Lopez and Urban, Brogden got the news she had hoped for – she had earned a golden ticket, meaning she’ll advance to the Hollywood Week competitions that will narrow down the pool of contestants and pick the semifinalists who will duke it out to be crowned the next American Idol.

The Hollywood Week episodes already have been filmed, though the general public won’t know how Brogden did – or if she’ll make the cut and be named a semifinalist – until those episodes air in early February.

Brogden admits she was nervous at the auditions, and said it didn’t help that she had to stay a few minutes longer than normal in the “little box” where the hopeful contestants wait for their chance to stun the judges.

“I had so much time to think and reflect, and I just wanted to go do it, and there was too much time to think,” she said. “So I kind of got nervous in that little bit of time.”

Still, she made it through the auditions. If she advances past Hollywood Week, Brogden said she plans to “stay positive” to keep her nerves from getting the best of her in future performances.

“I think that’s the best way, to just remember where I am and how far I’ve made it,” she said. “I mean, not many people can say they even made it to Hollywood Week on ‘American Idol,’ so I think just telling myself to be grateful for this experience and what you’re going through because you made it this far.”

‘Watch the show’

No matter how her run on “American Idol” turns out, Brogden said she dreams of being a performer and one day being the star on “one of those really big stages” to put on a good show.

It’s a surprising dream for a self-declared introvert who said she was too shy while growing up to ask for a chance to open for some local celebrities, the popular singing group The Blenders – despite the fact that two of the members, Darren Rust and Allan Rust, are her uncles.

“They’re stars to me,” she said. “They mean so much, and their opinion does, so I was too scared to ask.”

Brogden recently worked up some courage, jokingly telling Darren Rust that she’d one day open for The Blenders. He quickly agreed, she said, and pointed out she could’ve asked years before.

Whatever shyness she still has in adulthood seems to fade away once she’s on stage and starts singing, she said.

Brogden started pursuing her dream career last year, taking music industry classes at Minnesota State University Moorhead in the fall. She’s taking this semester off, she said, and if she advances in the “American Idol” competition, she could be even closer to achieving her lofty goals.

“I’m taking a step towards that, which is totally insane and I never expected this,” she said. “But that’s my dream job, to perform and sing.”

All of the singing hopefuls who auditioned last year and got invites to Hollywood Week are back home for now, waiting for the next wave of episodes to air that will tell the nation who will be on the show this season.

Brogden said she planned to watch Thursday’s episode that recapped the Omaha auditions at home with her mom, brothers and grandparents, and said she expected a generally quiet night – at least until it’s over, when friends and relatives will want to get the inside scoop.

In the episode, she said this was her chance to “put North Dakota on the map” and win the contest by being herself.

“I honestly think I could be the next American Idol,” she said.

But she’s not at liberty to disclose to The Forum, or even her friends, what will happen in the coming weeks. It’s been tough to keep it a secret, Brogden said, as buzz builds locally and on popular “American Idol” gossip blogs that she might be one of the semifinalists who will compete for glory and a big jumpstart to a professional performing career.

“I’ve been just a record, saying, ‘Watch the show, watch the show, watch the show,’ ” she said. “That’s all I can say, and it’s really, really hard. But I’ve been trying to limit myself to just those couple words.”

How will Brogden’s run on “American Idol” turn out? Stay tuned.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587