Northwest Indian College student to represent her faith, heritage on 'American Idol'

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 4, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - A Northwest Indian College student is through to the Hollywood round on this season of "American Idol," but, in a way, Aranesa Turner believes she's already won.

Turner's Facebook music page is already filling with comments of support, noting Turner is an inspiration to fellow Native Americans.

"That I've touched the life of even one person with my voice, that's worth more than a million dollars, a million diamonds and a million rubies," Turner said. "It's everything to me."

Turner, 20, made it through the audition stage of "American Idol" by singing "Pure Imagination" from the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." She will perform again starting Thursday, Feb. 6, during "Hollywood Week," the portion of the competition in which contestants are put in groups and perform solos and group songs. The show airs locally at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Turner started singing at age 4. By 7, she was performing in front of her Sacramento, Calif., church congregation that could include as many as 2,000 people, she said.

The pressure of singing in front of large crowds, or small crowds of important people, doesn't phase Turner, as she believes she was put on earth to sing.

"When you're created to do something, that's what you do," Turner said. "There's more pressure not to sing."

After graduating from high school in 2011, Turner went to a junior college in Santa Monica, Calif. She decided she wanted to attend a college that better represented her roots as a member of the Big Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indian Tribe.

"I kid you not, I Googled 'Native American colleges' and found Northwest Indian," Turner said. "It was either Bellingham or Arizona, and I was not going to deal with that heat."

Turner performed at Northwest Indian College while a student. Videos of those performances can be found on her YouTube page.

Many people suggested Turner audition for "American Idol," to which Turner once said she would "never" do. Turner had already tried for the shows "The Voice" and "The X Factor," neither of which worked out.

But her friends and family were finally able to convice her to give the Fox show a try. Turner now says it was one of the best decisions of her life, and the experience was vastly better than that of the other two shows.

She likes to bring every aspect of her life into her perfomances, she said, including her identity as a devout Christian, an African American and a Native American.

"It's amazing to be able to represent who I am and where I come from on a stage as big as 'American Idol,'" Turner said.

Reach James Kozanitis at 360-715-2249 or james.kozanitis@bellinghamherald.com.

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