Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Competition is heating up on the hit NBC show "The Voice", and one of the contestants is a native Hoosier.

Cherie Oakley is on Team Christina Aguilera. She sat down with Eyewitness News to talk about how she got to Hollywood and her dream to make it big.

She's a petite performer, with a powerful set of pipes.

29-year-old Cherie Oakley is on quite a ride: a national stage on NBC, vying to become "The Voice".

"It's ups and it's downs. It's ups and downs and you know," Oakley said. "I don't know when I'm going to be off of it!"

While the experience of being on a hit show may seem like the pinnacle of success, Oakley's back story is quite extraordinary in itself.

She has been preparing for this moment all her life.

Her focus on music began with faith and family in small-town Indiana.

Born in Crawfordsville to parents who met in the theater, Cherie spent her childhood all over the map. On the road with her family, she sang and performed religious revivals in churches across the country.

But Cherie's singing soon went to the next level.

Cast in professional productions of Annie and other musicals, she got discovered, got an agent, and at age ten, took her talents to television.

Cherie competed on "Star Search", the same show that her now-mentor Christina Aguilera appeared on as a child.

The end result back in 1992 wasn't as she'd hoped.

"Well, I lost! But I'm totally fine with that because Christina Aguilera lost. Britney Spears lost. Justin Timberlake lost. Beyonce lost. So I'm in an incredible lineup of people that didn't win," Oakley said.

Turns out, that loss didn't matter.

Cherie eventually moved to Nashville and got a gig singing background vocals for country star Carrie Underwood.

She also sang back-up on tour with Gretchen Wilson.

Then this year, a song Cherie wrote, called "Turn On The Radio", went number one on the charts for Reba McEntire.

But Cherie wanted to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight on her own.

"I've met all these people. I've gotten to do all these incredible things. I've written a number one song, but I just never have had that opportunity, so I thought I'm just gonna go for it." Oakley said about deciding to audition for "The Voice".

"I Skyped auditioned in my kitchen! It was really crazy. I've never done anything like that," she said. "I thought well...if they don't call me to Hollywood, I don't even have to tell anybody that I didn't make it."

The unusual audition worked.

She got a call back for "The Voice" and flew out to Los Angeles the next day.

"From the moment you got there, to the blind audition, it was, you know it was a competition," she said. "That was really hard. It was really really hard!"

"It's almost worse on the parent! Because you want it so much for your child," said Cherie's dad, Mike Bebout.

Cherie's dad and husband were in the holding room with Carson Daly, while she took the stage.

Her goal: get one of the celebrity judges to like her voice, turn their chair around, and take her on their team.

"I think even in a promo, you see me take this big breath and then the song starts and the audience immediately was so into it," Oakley recalled.

"And I'm going come on! Turn! Turn turn turn! Because she was blowing it out," Bebout said.

"I thought it was over," Oakley said, "and then I hit this note, and at the very end of the note, Christina's chair turns around. I think my face says it all. I was like Oh my gosh! I can't believe this!"

"My son-in-law and I just went berserk," Bebout said.

Cherie was given the opportunity to work one-on-one with a star.

"She's one of the coolest people I've been around yet," Cherie said of Christina Aguilera. "I have nothing but incredible things to say about her. I just think she's, you know, I'm a bigger fan of hers now than I was before and I've gotten to learn a lot from her."

Cherie's now watching The Voice on television, just like all of us.

She isn't allowed to talk about what happens next, but promises intense battles each week.

"You know, they pair all these singers up and it's like, 'Man! You're really good!' You know, it definitely makes you feel like competition's tough and I really have to bring it to the table. But it's great TV!"

It's also a great experience, she says, to go from the background to the big time: a native Hoosier hoping her voice wins it all.

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