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    The next time you tune in to American Idol, watch out for Chennai girl Rhea Raj, who hopes to do her country proud

    s she stood in front of the judges of American Idol, Rhea Raj kept asking herself, a�?Is this real?a�? Watching Jennifer Lopez sing right in front of her was surreal. a�?I decided right then that I was going to give this audition my very best a�� my 100 per cent,a�? she says.The music bug bit Raj when she was in elementary school. a�?I performed Miley Cyrusa�� When I look at you at my fourth grade talent show and instantly knew that this is what I wanted to do,a�? she says. Her mother Kavita Kuppuswamy recalls how, as a young girl, she picked up complete lyrics really fast, and had a flair for piano and guitar. The talented teenager has been writing, composing and singing for years. a�?I wrote my first song when I was 11, and believe it or not, it was about Harry Potter,a�? she laughs. a�?It was all dark and mysterious. I have written over 100 songs since then and play them on the piano or the guitar.a�?

    2Road to American Idol
    a�?I knew this was my first and last chance,a�? says Raj, who just turned 15 and eligible to qualify for American Idol. a�? I grew up inspired by the show, which is on its final season and I knew that I had to try out.a�? Her first audition was in Little Rock, Arkansas, and she performed a cover of Whitney Houstona��s How will I know? a�?My entire family was backstage, cheering me on. Everybody was so excited and encouraging, especially my little sister Laura. Winning the golden ticket was as much a family moment as my moment. The judges were so honest and practical with their feedback and Ia��m working on everything they said to improve my performance before I go on to the next level in Hollywood.a�?
    Music runs in Raja��s genes, a�?I come from a family of Carnatic and Hindustani musicians. My mother is a Bharatnatyam teacher. Growing up, my little sister and I were surrounded by music and dance,a�? she says. It surely does run in the family, as Raja��s sister Laura informs us that they must get going soon so that she can make her Broadway audition.

    3The Chennai connection
    a�?Both my parents are from Chennai. I spent three months in India this summer to get to know the city as a local and not a tourist. My sister and I spent a lot of time at Andhra Mahila Sabha working with children there and teaching them music.a�? The sounds, smells, sights of Chennai inspire her and she is a big fan of the food. a�?Everywhere we went the food was delicious. But my favorite meals by far were at home and cooked by our grandmother,a�? she smiles.

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    Rapid fire
    Idols: Shakira, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez
    Beyond music: Dance, yoga, painting. I love expressing myself through jazz, hip-hop, ballet and Bollywood style dance.Biggest sacrifice for music: There are no sacrifices when you are completely passionate about what you do. Currently Ia��m doing online schooling to focus on my musicA�Future speak: Ia��m interested in music beyond just the performance. Ia��m interested in how the industry runs, the business and financial sideA�Green warrior: My other passion is the environment. We have been given a beautiful home and should do our part to protect her. A lot of my original music is around this topic.

    a�� Kaavya Krishna

     

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