‘The Voice’ Blind Auditions make history with first trans contestant

Lyndsey Parker

The Voice has a long history of LGBTQ inclusivity, even winning a GLAAD Media Award in 2012. Openly gay singers regularly compete on The Voice, and on last season’s finale, a Christian drag queen, Chris “Nedra Belle” Weaver, stole the show. But Monday, we had a Voice USA first: the series’ first transgender contestant, Angel Bonilla.

(International trivia alert: Jordan Gray was the first trans contestant to compete on The Voice U.K., back in 2016; in 2014, trans man Tom Atias competed on The Voice Israel, but he didn’t come out until after his audition.)

“As early as 5 years old, I already knew that I am a girl trapped in a boy’s body,” Bonilla, who was born Carlos in the Philippines, told host Carson Daly. “Growing up in a very conservative family, it was very difficult for my father. When my dad saw me as a girl for the first time, he was puzzled. He’s not sure if I am his son, but he embraced me. I promised him that I will do great things. I wanted my father to be proud of me, and I’m doing this to honor him.”

As Papa Bonilla cheered on Angel’s performance of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down,” it was a special TV moment that could earn the Voice another GLAAD accolade. Maybe another Emmy. But will Angel, who joined Team Adam, win The Voice? That I do not know … BECAUSE HER PERFORMANCE WAS MONTAGED. What the heck?

Well, Angel is no stranger to singing competitions — she made it to Boot Camp on The X Factor Season 1 with a cover of “Killing Me Softly,” and was second runner-up in Bulgaria’s Discovery International Pop Song Festival — so hopefully we’ll hear more of her during the Battles. Check out some found footage of her killing it not-so-softly in an impressive cabaret performance below, then I’ll review Monday’s other successful auditioners.

Christiana Danielle, 22: “Hotline Bling”
The torch-singer daughter of a Christian rapper, this beautiful creature transformed Drake’s booty-call club banger into the haunted, heartbroken lament of a spurned lover. This was my favorite performance of Season 14 so far. My goosebumps had goosebumps.

Who turned? Adam Levine, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys.

Result: Team ­­­­Alicia. Adam called Christiana “one of the greatest gifts we have been given on this show,” but Alicia’s mention of Christiana’s idol, Ella Fitzgerald, sealed the deal.

Brett Hunter, 30: “She’s a Bad Mama Jama”
A shaggy Portlandia character come to life, from his jaunty fedora to his hipster ukulele, Brett was enjoyable, but gimmicky, with a reedy and affected voice. Blake Shelton’s likening him to novelty act Tiny Tim wasn’t a good sign.

Who turned? Just Blake, who must be a big Tiny Tim fan.

Result: Team Blake. Of course!

Jamai: “U Got It Bad”
Apparently singing telegrams are still a thing in 2018, and Jamai sings them for a living. That makes him a great entertainer but not quite the “New Age Bobby Brown” he claims to be. He looked sexy and supercool, but his vocals sounded goaty and strained.

Who turned? Kelly, Alicia.

Result: Team Alicia. Jamai sang his answer, of course.

Mia Boostrom, 24: “Pillowtalk”
I wish Mia hadn’t stayed in her lower register for most of the Zayn bedroom ballad — she didn’t turn any chairs until she hit a high note — but her control on the deeper notes was masterful, and there was a subtle sultriness to her approach.

Who turned? Just Adam, who said Mia might be the best one-chair turn in Voice history.

Result? Team Adam. Duh!

Jackie Foster, 21: “What About Us”

Jackie fronts a hard rock band, but there was nothing rawkin’ about this audition. Her Berklee/theater background came out, and I experienced flashbacks to the technically proficient but bland Emily Luther of Season 13. Jackie’s performance had none of P!nk’s fire. This was a very pale P!nk.

Who turned? Kelly and Alicia, surprisingly.

Result: Team Kelly. I’m not sure why we needed a commercial break cliffhanger to learn this unexciting news.

Reid Umstattd, 34: “Take Me to the Pilot”
I think the coaches were more excited about this Austin everyman’s song choice — who doesn’t love Elton John? — than they were about his generic bad-band voice. Not much charisma here.

Who turned? Adam, Alicia.

Result? Team Adam. Reid was a sucker for Adam’s typical “I believe you could win this show” lies hyperbole.

Jorge Eduardo, 24: “Despacito”
This son of a famous Mexican mariachi singer turned four chairs on La Voz, later placing fourth on that show. He had a competent, radio-ready pop voice but wasn’t quite quadruple-spin-worthy. I actually preferred it when Blake sang the lyrics of this song to the Eagles’ “Desperado.”

Who turned? Kelly. Just Kelly.

Result? Team Kelly. Maybe one chair is all it’ll take.

Jamella, 21: “Dive”
This pop/R&B girl was Monday’s other montage victim. I’m not even sure if the “Dive” she sang was the Ed Sheeran song.

Who turned? Kelly, Blake. I have no idea why.

Result? Team Kelly. OK, then.

Austin Giorgio, 21: “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”
Young crooners have appeared on singing competitions since American Idol’s John Stevens in 2004, but this sharp-suited kid was something else — charismatic, tons of fun, and a name that belongs in lights. Austin may not have the strongest or most versatile voice of the season, but he’s a superstar.

Who turned? Blake, Kelly.

Result? Team Blake. No surprise, given Blake’s longtime man-crush on Michael Bublé.

Johnny Bliss, 26: “Preciosa”
The half-Dominican, half-Puerto Rican karaoke host was the other contestant representing the Latin community Monday — but the only contestant to earn a four-chair turn. He had a robust, full-bodied voice on Marc Anthony’s classic ballad. This was not a karaoke performance.

Who turned? All four coaches … but Adam, remembering Kelly’s fondness for “Despacito” singer Jorge, used his Block button on her. Not cool, since Kelly was Johnny’s No. 1 coach choice. I hate this stupid new twist!

Result? Team Alicia. Alicia lured Johnny with a Spanish-language serenade of her hit “If I Ain’t Got You.” And now, Adam ain’t got Johnny.

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