She already made Ariana Grande cry on national TV. Now Ryleigh Plank wants to be Grande’s friend, too.
The Fort Myers singer joked and bantered easily with the judges during her Oct. 4 Blind Auditions performance on “The Voice” — a performance that moved Grande to tears.
For Plank, it wasn’t just an audition. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream: Meeting two of her idols — Grande and fellow “The Voice” judge Kelly Clarkson — and striking up a friendly chat.
“When I was younger, I was like, ‘I am going to be Ariana Grande’s friend one day,’” Plank says and laughs. “I said, ‘I’m going to make it happen.’
“So I was grasping at every opportunity that I had to build a relationship with two of the people that I looked up to so intensely as I was growing up. I couldn’t let that moment go to waste, you know?”
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Plank, 20, returns to “The Voice” soon for the show’s Battle Rounds, which start Monday and continue through Oct. 19.
Her performances were filmed over the summer in Los Angeles, and Plank says she can’t wait for people to see what’s next.
“I am so excited for the journey that’s going to be shown to the world,” she says. “Now that my Blind has aired, I’m really excited for what’s to come.”
Here’s everything you need to know about “The Voice” singer.
Ryleigh Plank always wanted to be a singer
Plank remembers watching pop stars like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston on TV and realizing she wanted to do the same thing.
She was 6 at the time.
“I wanted to be doing exactly what they were doing, and I still want to be doing that — and I think I always will,” she says. “I think it’s just one of those things. … It is just sort of what I am meant to do, and I think I just had that realization very early.”
“The Voice” is a key part of achieving that goal, and Plank hopes it kickstarts her musical career.
“It’s sort of crazy because my dreams that I’ve had since I was a child are sort of actualizing right before me,” she says. “And my little me would just be through the roof knowing that this was happening right now [laughs].”
Her Blind Auditions song wasn’t just any song. It was an anthem.
Plank has struggled with anxiety and depression, and she knows she’s not the only one. That’s partly why she chose Demi Lovato’s “Anyone” for her audition.
“I want people to know that it’s OK to struggle with these things,” she says. “I think it’s still sort of taboo to struggle with mental health. … I want people to know that they aren’t alone and that there is light somewhere in that darkness.”
Plank already felt a deep connection to Lovato and her music. And then she heard the 2021 song “Anyone.”
“I grew up admiring them for their decision to be so open about their mental health,” she says about Lovato. “And that was happening at a time that I was really starting to struggle with my own.
“So in that moment, when I saw how open they were about their own troubles, I decided that when I have my moment to sort of be an advocate for people that also struggle with depression and anxiety, I want to (do that).”
She’s overwhelmed by the response on social media and elsewhere
“I cried this morning, because I was just so overcome with gratitude,” she says. “I don’t know, it’s been nuts! Because I’m receiving such an insane amount of love — more than I even could have imagined — and I’m just beyond grateful for it.
“I don’t know if I could ever say thank you enough to the people who have been just so extremely kind. And it’s been a whirlwind.”
She attended the same high school as “American Idol” star Casey Bishop
Plank graduated from Cypress Lake High in 2019. It’s the same Fort Myers school attended by Casey Bishop, the Estero teen who made it into the Top 4 on “American Idol” in May.
They never met, though, Plank says. There’s a four-year age difference between the two.
Another connection: They both sang in the school’s award-winning vocal group, The A Cappella Group (TAG).
Plank credits TAG with a lot of her current success as a singer. She sang with the group during competitions and on albums.
“Honestly, I think that TAG was actually such an integral part of me becoming the performer that I am now,” she says. “Because we had so many opportunities all over the country that I got to participate in as a soloist.
“I’m very grateful for the fact that I had the chance to be on a stage as often as I was at Cypress and through Cypress.”
She even sang a solo of an Ariana Grande song during one competition — a competition that TAG won. And now she’s on Team Ariana on “The Voice.”
“That, in itself, is just bonkers,” she says.
She’d given up on reality TV
Plank had auditioned for years to get on a TV talent competition. But nobody seemed interested.
“I just was so persistent, and I tried out for so many shows,” she says. “Like ‘America’s Got Talent.’ ‘American Idol.’ Even ‘The Voice’ a couple of times.
“And I hadn’t gotten so far in them— to the point where I honestly was like, ‘Oh, I guess this just isn’t happening for me. I have to find other outlets to achieve these dreams.’”
Then the pandemic happened, and Plank says she was having a tough time finding safe places to perform. So her mom suggested auditioning one last time for a TV show.
“And I’m just so grateful that she did, because holy crap!” Plank says and laughs. “It’s just been surreal and so lovely. … You know, you just gotta keep pushing sometimes.”
She adores “The Voice” judges Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson
They’re not just pop singers to Plank.
“I really view them as such wonderful people, aside from being the stars they are,” she says. “And I was so grateful to be in their presence.”
Even better: They both loved her emotional performance of Lovato’s “Anyone.”
That meant a lot to Plank, she says.
“They had such complimentary things to say about the story that I was telling and the song that I sang,” she says. “It was just — I don’t know, it was just one of those moments that I had been envisioning, in a weird way, for a long time.
“And then the fact that it happened was just so beautiful. I’m just so thankful.
She wasn’t nervous during her Blind Auditions. Just excited.
“I was actually talking to somebody right before I went on, and they were like, ‘How are you so calm?’” she says. “You know, I don’t know! I think it’s just, this is what I’ve known that I wanted to do since I was a child, and I think I’ve learned — if I were to have nerves — to channel it into excitement.
“I don’t know if that would make too much sense for me, personally, to be scared to do the thing that I’ve been aspiring to do my whole life. So I just channel that into excitement and passion and drive to do the best I can.”
She writes and records her own songs.
“I do my own original music,” she says. “I have a little mini home studio here at my house, and I do tons of writing and demos.”
She describes her music as a melting pot of pop, alternative rock, R&B and soul.
She’s been singing since age 3 and often performs at fundraisers, karaoke spots and other places in Southwest Florida.
It’s all part of her plan to become a professional singer.
“I think I just want to keep pushing,” she says. “I want to do as much as I can musically and in the industry.
“I think that it’s just getting some songs out and maybe doing an EP or an album, and just keep doing gigs. Yeah, I just want to do it all!”
More about Ryleigh Plank
She was born in Fort Myers and raised by a single mother. Other than singing, she also enjoys fashion, yoga, dancing, acting and journaling.
The judges on “The Voice” loved Plank’s emo/punk look, including her buzz cut, single dangling earring, combat boots and belt chain.
Here’s what a “The Voice” news release said about that look: “After high school, Ryleigh shaved her head, fully embracing her edgy, artistic self, and is finally realizing her dream of being on ‘The Voice.’”
Learn more about Plank and her music at ryleighmusic.com.
— “The Voice” airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. Learn more at nbc.com/the-voice.
Connect with this reporter: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter) and @crunnells1 (Instagram).