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‘Idol’ semifinalist Jones honed voice at church

As a tear rolled down her face, LaKisha Jones received the news she so badly wanted to hear: She was an “American Idol” semifinalist.
/ Source: The Associated Press

As a tear rolled down her face, LaKisha Jones received the news she so badly wanted to hear: She was an “American Idol” semifinalist.

The 27-year-old single mother and bank employee who hails from the blue-collar city of Flint long has dreamed of making it in the music business. Now, she’s a step closer thanks to the hugely popular Fox talent show.

Jones, who bears both a vocal and physical resemblance to Aretha Franklin, wowed the judges with a pair of the Queen of Soul’s standards: “Think” and “Until You Come Back To Me.” After her initial audition earned her a trip to the next round in Hollywood, Jones jumped into the embraces of her waiting family, snatched up her daughter and broke into tears.

Even ultra-mean judge Simon Cowell smile. “Love this girl,” he said. “Love you, LaKisha. You’re a good old-fashioned belter.”

Fox declined a request to interview Jones. But in her appearances on the show and a video posted on the “Idol” Web site, she appears humble before the judges and passionate about her family — especially her daughter, Brionne, who turns 4 on Wednesday.

“I just believe in being real, being who you are and staying strong in your beliefs,” Jones said on the video.

Jones says the performer she most admires is Whitney Houston, who has had her share of ups and downs. She also identifies with Fantasia Barrino, a single mother who won in the show’s third season.

“It’s hard juggling, trying to live your life dream of becoming a singer and also being a mom, a full-time mom,” Jones said.

Jones’ grandmother, 89-year-old Ruth Morris of Flint, recalled how Jones’ passion for singing has grown since she got her start at age 5 at Flint’s Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

“She is a person that loved people and she’s always been great, wonderful,” Morris, who was among the family members who traveled to the New York audition, said in a telephone interview. “She loves the Lord, she loves the singing.”

Family at the forefrontJones’ profile on the “Idol” Web site lists her hometown as Fort Meade, Md., but she was born and raised in Flint, Morris said. While Jones is in Los Angeles filming “Idol,” her mother is taking care of Brionne, who is thrilled to watch.

“She just jumps up and down,” Morris said. “She’s just very devoted. She just admires her mother being on that TV.”

Despite her hopes for a singing career, family remains at the forefront for Jones. She says her proudest moment is giving birth to her daughter, and lists her mother and grandmother as her heroes.

“I pretty much give it to you like it is,” she said. “What you see is what you get.”

“Idol” trimmed down the competition last week, leaving Jones and 23 others — 12 men and 12 women — to vie for the title and a record contract. On Tuesday, the top 12 male singers are in the hot seat, and, on Wednesday, the women follow.

Jones wants to win, but is trying to keep it all in persecutive — and knows what she would do if she’s cut.

“I would probably go back to working at my bank and back in the routine of taking care of daughter every day,” Jones said. “Just being a mom.”