Lauren Alaina was just 15 years old when she sang her first notes on the American Idol stage. The country star’s audition for the TV singing competition‘s 10th season aired 12 years ago, on Jan. 27, 2011.
Alaina auditioned for Idol in Nashville, Tenn., in late 2010. The Rossville, Ga., native turned 16 that November, but was still one of the youngest finalists during that season of the show, which aired in the first months of 2011. She’d previously performed in church and with a children’s choir, and won the Southern Stars Pageant at the age of eight and the American Model and Talent Competition at the age of 10. Alaina made her first trip to Nashville at the age of 12.
Alaina’s cousin Holly, who encouraged Alaina to start singing in the first place, accompanied the future star to her American Idol audition. As Alaina explained in a package sharing more about her hometown and life, she and Holly are more like sisters, and Alaina admires her quite a bit, so it was devastating to the singer when her cousin was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the late 2000s.
For judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, Alaina performed Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved at All.” Jackson praised her audition as the best they’d seen that day, which caused Alaina to tear up.
“See, I think you should cry. ‘Cause you’re gonna make 40 million people cry — tears of joy,” Tyler added, before the three judges unanimously voted Alaina through to Hollywood. As the trio continued to marvel over Alaina’s talent despite her young age, she rushed out of the room to bring them all back in. In front of all of them, she and Tyler then duetted on a few lines of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
10 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Lauren Alaina:
“I can hardly sandal that 10 yrs ago my life completely flip flopped (in more ways than one),” Alaina shared on Twitter on Thursday (Jan. 27), making puns based on her casual audition look while sharing footage of the big moment. “I wish I could give this scrunchy-haired, rainbow dressing, waist belting and flip flop wearing 15yo girl the biggest hug. Her braveness on 01.27.11 has given me everything I have now.”
Alaina performed songs by the Beatles, Reba McEntire, Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin and many others during her time on American Idol. She found herself in the bottom two during one week late in the season but, in the end, made her way to the Season 10 finale — but not without dealing with a vocal cord issue that almost forced her to drop out of the big show.
During the Season 10 Idol finale, Alaina performed Katrina Elam’s “Flat on the Floor,” Pam Tillis’ “Maybe It Was Memphis” — selected by former Idol winner Carrie Underwood — and Kristy Lee Cook’s “Like My Mother Does.” She also performed “Before He Cheats” with Underwood.
In the end, Alaina placed second to Scotty McCreery, whose audition (which took place in Milwaukee, Wisc.) aired one day before Alaina’s, on Jan. 26, 2011.
WATCH: The Most Memorable American Idol Auditions
Did You Know These Stars Were Rejected by American Idol?