This season's 'American Idol' features talent from NYC and NJ

GOSSIP & RUMORS: This season’s ‘American Idol’ features talent from NYC and NJ



These local talents are hitting all the right notes.

Singers from New York and New Jersey are showcasing their vocal chops on “American Idol’s” Hollywood Week episode, airing Sunday on ABC.

Among the aspiring “Idols” who wowed celebrity judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan was Brooklynite Ajii Hafeez, who credits his keyboard teacher at Ditmas Junior High School for inspiring him.

Born and raised in Flatbush, Hafeez credits his keyboard teacher at Ditmas Junior High School for inspiring him. Disney

“Shout out to Mr. Kass. He was the greatest teacher ever,” he told The Post. “He took music seriously and … would go hard to make sure that we sounded good.”

His audition impressed Richie — who said, “Hallelujah,” once he heard him belt out his first line.

Hafeez, 27, said he had no time to revel in that moment.

“My mindset was, ‘Hey, you gotta finish the song,’ I could have frozen up, but I just kept going,” he recalled.

Born and raised in Flatbush, Hafeez works the overnight shift at the front desk of a nursing home — and it was his coworker, Claire, who encouraged him to try out for “Idol.”

“She would just hear me singing behind the desk, in the hallways, and would just tell me all the time, ‘Dude, have you applied?’” he said.

Hafeez works the night shift at a nursing home and his coworker there encouraged him to apply to “Idol.” Courtesy of Ajii Hafeez

He said patients at the nursing home are sending their support.

“I have a few patients that reach out all the time,” he said. “It’s a big family.”

Hafeez, whose parents are natives of Pakistan, explained on the first episode of the season that they “didn’t have the means for music school … so my hometown was my teacher.”

While he was in high school, he would perform at his older pals’ college talent shows at schools like Baruch.

Hailey Mia Osorio, from Clifton, NJ, auditioned with Katy Perry’s song “Rise.” Disney

“I had friends that were in college and they’d be like, ‘Hey, you want to come sing at my talent show?’” he recalled.

He will watch the show on Sunday — where he’ll be singing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” — with his father.

“My mom is usually working, so she sees from her phone,” he said.

Hafeez said “words can’t explain” what the encouragement from his parents means to him.

A junior at Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, NJ, Osario will be singing “Love in the Dark” by Adele for Hollywood Week. Courtesy of Hailey Mia Osorio

“They’ve been there like, ‘Hey, you’re still you, and you just got to go there and be yourself and have fun, that’s the main thing,’” he explained.

“Because they’ve seen even before ‘Idol,’ how much fun I have with music and they just want me to keep having that smile on stage and off stage.”

Hailey Mia Osorio, from Clifton, NJ, auditioned with Perry’s song “Rise” — and Perry herself praised the rendition, saying, “To be reinspired by someone else singing, full body chills even in places where I’ve been Botoxed.”

Osorio, 16, said that although she usually forgets what happens during performances — she also competed on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2021 when she was 14 — she didn’t this time.

“New Kids on the Block” singer Donnie Wahlberg was impressed by Osario’s “Idol” audition. Courtesy of Hailey Mia Osorio

“I black out during the comments, even when I’m singing, but I do remember that moment she told me that. I was just in shock, it was just very surreal,” she said.

Another celebrity singer impressed by her performance was Donnie Wahlberg — who commented on her Instagram page that her audition was one of the best he’s heard on the show.

“My mom actually was the first one to see [Wahlberg’s comment] and she started freaking out, telling everybody,” said Osario.

A junior at Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, NJ, Osario will be singing “Love in the Dark” by Adele for Hollywood Week — and said her teachers and classmates will be cheering her on.

Her plans post “Idol” are to “do what I love doing and sing and just make music and hopefully inspire some people.”

Lower East Sider Nyachomba Muchai, who goes by Nya, brazenly described herself as “a superstar” during her “Idol” audition.

Lower East Sider Nyachomba Muchai, who goes by Nya, made her Broadway debut in 2021. Courtesy of Nyachomba Muchai

“When I watched it back with America, my jaw dropped. I was like, ‘I said that?’” she said.

A native of Kenya, Muchai, 28, grew up in Florida and moved to the Big Apple a month before her 21st birthday to pursue a career on stage — but before that, she was studying law in Tennessee.

“That’s what my family wanted me to do. I’m super Kenyan, super conservative family upbringing,” said Muchai, who will sing “Natural Woman” by Carole King for Hollywood Week.

Muchai will sing “Natural Woman,” composed by Carole King, during Hollywood Week. Disney

Muchai, who made her Broadway debut in 2021 in “Caroline, or Change” and recently starred in “Titanique” off-Broadway, never had any formal training — but taught herself to sing, dance, and play six instruments.

“My parents didn’t want me to do any of those things. They wouldn’t pay for it. If it’s not academics, it doesn’t make any sense,” she explained.

Her mother, however, is beginning to come around.

“I think the Lionel Richie part is really what’s making her OK with it,” she said.





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