Modesto singer finding hard-won success on 'American Idol'

MODESTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A Northern California singer is overcoming her nerves and finding success on this season of American Idol. Effie Passero has made it through every round so far, wowing the judges with her powerhouse sound and vocal control. She spoke with ABC7 News anchor Natasha Zouves about the agony of Hollywood Week and what you won't see on television: the good luck charm she wears before every performance.

For Effie, years of "no's" finally led up to the American Idol Audition, and one big, golden "yes." Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan were so blown away big her big voice, Richie actually got out of his chair and approached her. Effie describes the whole audition, and their positive response, as an out-of-body experience.

"Well, I was kind of lost in the moment," said Effie, "It was crazy! I was just losing my mind."

RELATED: Modesto opera singer hopes to make a splash on 'American Idol'

Last week, viewers saw her make it through the first brutal cuts of Hollywood Week, when the best singers are packed into the Dolby Theater for rounds of additional competition. She says they're days filled with stress, pressure, and very few hours of sleep.

"Hollywood Week was its own sort of monster, I wouldn't put anyone through that kind of stress, not even my worst enemy," said Effie.

We asked her how she handles the nerves on stage.

"When I get nervous, my usual remedy is a shot of whiskey, but I can't do that during the show," said Effie with a laugh.

So she relies on her piano instead, she says being behind it calms her. As does this grounding thought: the idea that so many others with tremendous talent haven't made it this far, all she can do is keep trying her best.

One thing you won't see on television is her solo audition in Hollywood, the footage hit the cutting room floor. She sang a beautiful, emotional ballad version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," and recreated it for us. You can watch some of her rendition in the video above.

RELATED: Oakland singer Tory Teasley hitting the 'American Idol' stage
The property administrative manager from Modesto, who moved to Los Angeles to chase her dreams, is finally getting her first taste of mainstream success. Effie says she still feels most at home in Northern California, and showed us the dangly Pikachu earrings she picked up on a recent visit to San Francisco's Japan Town. She told us, though, there's one good luck charm she never goes without-- a way to honor and remember her best friend, who she lost last year.

"His name was Spencer, and it was very sudden, he just had a heart attack," said Effie. "I have his jacket, so any time I'm on my way to a performance, I just wear his jacket, it's always by my side. That's all I need, he's definitely with me all the time."

She says he'd be over the moon about her making it this far. Effie still sings with a voice full of anguish and about past struggles, but now she hopes this is is the start of something great. Being exposed to millions of new fans on American Idol is a surreal and heady experience; she says she received 500 Facebook friend requests from strangers after her first appearance and thousands of new followers on Instagram. She can't tell us if she made it all the way through to the show, but you can watch her journey continue to unfold this Sunday on ABC. She did say that if she wins the whole thing, she'll do two things: buy a Tesla and pay off her brother's student loans.

And by the way, she describes herself as a true Disney fan. Her favorite song to belt from the Disney canon is The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World."

"I want to be a Disney Princess so bad," said Passero.

We have some good news for her. She's on ABC now, which means she's an honorary Disney Princess to us.

Click here for more stories and videos related to "American Idol."
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.