It’s his time to shine
‘American Idol’ contestant Cam Amen took care of his younger siblings in Ocala before making it onto the hit ABC series.
Cam Amen nervously walked onto an “American Idol” audition set in New Orleans last Sunday night and walked off, quite possibly, a new star on the rise.
With sweaty palms, singing through tears, the former Ocala resident managed to give a soul-stirring performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during “Audition, Episode 605” of the ABC talent competition series.
“I had been already trying to audition and get on for about eight years,” Amen told the “Gazette.” “Through that time, I used to practice and get better, and just last year is when I said that I was going to start saying yes to every opportunity.”
Celebrity judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan were visibly moved throughout Amen’s performance, reacting with surprise to his high notes and emotive inflections. They gave a standing ovation and even embraced the contestant. The trio unanimously said “yes,” promoting Amen to another round.
Born Cameron Osterloh, Amen, now 27, grew up in Indianapolis and adopted his surname from his girlfriend Erica Amen, who joined him on the set of his successful audition. The couple met while he worked at World of Beer in The Villages, and she was celebrating her birthday on a Florida vacation. They now live together in Omaha.
“I was working, and they had karaoke, and she challenged me to get up there and sing,” Amen recalled. “She didn’t know that I was the guy that always sings on karaoke nights.”
Letting his emotions pour out with a raw but measured vibrato, Amen soulfully hit the high notes before the judges and his dynamic range revealed a gentle beauty and grace complemented by a weathered, blues-like maturity. The tune was a favorite of his late grandmother, to whom Amen pays tribute with an inscription on a cross he wears.
“My grandma would say that we have to keep that song in our hearts because we don’t have anyone else but God,” he said.
Before Amen’s audition, Bryan asked him to talk about his life growing up.
“It was a bit rough, not the normal life, of course,” Amen recounted. “We all got taken away from our mom.”
In a voiceover, Amen told a harrowing tale of when police officers took him out of his classroom (at the age of 13, he later told the “Gazette”). A montage of family pics filled the screen.
“I was holding my brother,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going on. We were crying, waiting for Mom. She never came. We were in foster care for a long, long time. I knew I had to raise them right and get them through high school.”
Two of his five siblings, Tyler and Sammie, wound up in Florida, he said, adding that he tracked them down and removed them from foster care when he aged out of the system at 18.
The sibs attended Lake Weir High School and Amen would work odd jobs in construction and restaurant work, and mowed lawns to make ends meet.
“All through my life, I’ve been doing karaoke and everything with my family,” he said. “Even before foster care, before we got taken away, everything was golden. We were a beautiful family. I mean, we still are a beautiful family. We were just broken up.”
Unfortunately, within hours of his success on the stage, Amen said he learned that people were taking advantage of him and his family by creating fake posts and appeals on social media and other sites. He said he immediately began to invest a lot of time and effort in stemming the false information, including spending several hours making sure that people who donated to false appeals got their money refunded.
“American Idol” Season 3 contestant Jennifer Hudson — who’s now known as an EGOT for her Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony wins — has been a big influence on Amen.
“She inspired me to keep going, never be scared and not worry about the hardships of singing. ‘You’ll get there; let’s just practice,’ she’d say to people online, and I’ll always remember that,” Amen said.
Bryan was captivated by Amen’s voice and story and said he was rewarding him with a platinum ticket, which would allow him to skip the elimination trials.
“You did your job and did it well, and now it’s your time,” “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest told Amen during a backstage pep talk.
“Welcome home. Now, it’s your time to shine,” Richie said. “You’ve been through a lot, but the rest of your life is waiting,” the Grammy-winning vocalist added.
“I can hardly breathe,” Bryan chimed in. “Your style is so beautiful, unique … I don’t have anyone I’ve seen in this chair to compare you to. You wanted you to do something amazing, you did it.”
Amen shared with the “Gazette” that he will be revealing a big surprise during his next appearance.
For TV episode information, visit abc.com/shows/american-idol.
Visit Amen’s social media sites at instagram.com/camamen23 and tiktok.com/@camamen23?lang=en