The Rise of Bria Kelly

Behind The Scenes Of The Smithfield Singers Wild Top 10 Run On NBC’s The Voice

(page 6 of 7)

THE SUMMER DAY was hot and thunderstorms predicted, but nothing would keep Bria Kelly’s fans from turning out in the hundreds. They waved signs and wore shirts with personalized messages. They lined up along Smithfield’s Main Street where a motorcade would soon carry a waving Bria through town. A man in a red convertible pulled up to find out where Bria would be singing later today. “Man,” he said, “that girl is good! I voted for her every time. The night she lost, though, I fell asleep.” He hung his head as if this unforgivable lapse had been the deciding factor in Bria’s ouster.

Here’s the thing: when someone hails from a small town and achieves pronounced success, everyone feels a sense of ownership. And everyone shares in the celebration.

“When Bria came back,” says Jan, “they had balloons all over the neighborhood and banners saying, Thank you for making Smithfield great. Someone said, ‘It’s not just about hams anymore. We have something else to be proud of.’”

“I never thought that I would be the one to do that in this town,” Bria says. “I never suspected that I would be the person that people would be waving at and everything. Their support means so much. It’s so cool and amazing.”

The motorcade deposited Bria at Smithfield Foods Headquarters, where fans sprawled across every available inch of grassy lawn and dignitaries waited at the top of the front steps to laud her exploits. When Bria arrived, they also showered her with gifts—everything from a banner signed by classmates to the key to the city. But it was a gift from Smithfield Foods that made her leap from her chair: a year’s supply of peanuts, ham and bacon.

“Bacon’s one of my favorite things,” she says with a huge smile.

When the proclamations and presents were done, Bria stepped up to the mic herself. She thanked everyone for their support, and then she did what she does best—she sang. Four of the five songs were acoustic versions of what she had performed on The Voice, and the fifth was a mournful, bluesy rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine When He’s Gone.”

When the songs were over and black clouds filled the horizon, no one thought about leaving. They lined up to get Bria’s autograph on a publicity photo of her or on a CD that featured six of her original songs. But they also asked her to sign their shirts, phones, footwear, and even various body parts. “One guy wanted me to sign his forehead,” Bria says. “That was the most interesting one.”

Most of the fans said hello or mentioned how proud they were of Bria, but a few were tongue-tied and merely smiled as Bria signed her name to whatever they proffered. Someone pointed out that their nerves were similar to what Bria felt when talking with The Voice judges.

“I’m just so happy that I can be a role model for people,” she says. “All I want is to be able to inspire people and show them that they can do what I do as well.

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