Youthful 54-year-old grandmother wows crowd with rendition of Cece Winans' 'Alabaster Box'

“X-Factor USA” judges were in for a good time the moment Lillie McCloud came on stage, but they could not have known that the petite leotard-wearing lady before them was a bundle of talent and surprises.

YouTube/The X Factor USA

YouTube/The X Factor USA

McCloud, from Rochester, New York, told the show cameras:

“I always knew I wanted to be a singer. It just wasn’t my time ‘cos I wanted to just be around the family. I made the right decision. Even though I’m still searching that same dream, I would do it again this way. This is my chance. It’s now or never.”

The 54-year-old shocked the audience and panel when she disclosed her age. Audible gasps and unhidden gapes then turned to wonder as she launched into CeCe Winans’ gospel hit “Alabaster Box.”

A VOICE LIKE AN ANGEL

McCloud’s vocal abilities and soulful delivery of Winans’ track left the crowd transfixed. The audience swayed to the lyrics, and even the judges wore approving faces.

Simon Cowell, known as one of TV’s harshest personalities, could not hide a permanent smile, while Kelly Rowland and Demi Lovato found it hard to contain their emotions.

STANDING OVATION AND TEARS

The standing ovation McCloud got at the end of her performance was instant, and for a long time, the applause rang in the air.

Cowell, Rowland, Lovato, and Rubio all got to their feet in admiration of the soul-stirring performance by a mother-of-three and grandma-of-seven.

Mexican singer, Paulina Rubio breathed, “That was unbelievable.”

Former Destiny’s Child singer, Rowland, had gotten teary during McCloud’s rendition, and when it was her turn to comment, the “Like This” crooner did not hold back.  

“Where you been hiding?” she asked. “The fact that you sang to people a song they didn’t know, and y’all could feel that, couldn’t you? Every single part of this room, you touched with your voice. You blessed us all. Thank You.”

“X-Factor” creator, Cowell had only words of commendation for McCloud as well:

“I think you have an incredible voice. You absolutely nailed it.”

Former Disney star, Lovato, compared McCloud’s voice to the music maestro, Whitney Houston’s, adding that:

“I feel like maybe your time wasn’t supposed to happen until now…”

A GENTLE GIANT

CeCe Winans, who sang “Alabaster Box” in 1999, would also have been proud of McCloud’s rendition. Despite not making music as she used to, CeCe remains one of the top names in the history of gospel music.

The 10-time Grammy Winner opened up in a 2017 interview about why she took some time off music.

“About five years ago my husband and I started a church called Nashville Life, and that just took all of my time and my focus,” CeCe shared and continued to reveal one of her greatest shocks as a pastor:

“The thing that has surprised me the most is how much I love it, how much I enjoy it. It’s nothing my husband and I ever thought we would do. But it’s amazing how God birthed it in our home and with our kids’ friends and to see young people — that’s another surprise — how many young people, millennials, really do want to have faith in God. And they really do want to have a real relationship (with God and community). They’re not interested in religion. But they’re interested in relationship.”

MORE THAN JUST MUSIC

CeCe’s latest album, “Let Them Fall In Love,” was released in 2017 and was her first solo CD in almost a decade. The album produced and co-written by her son Alvin Love III earned her two Grammy nominations.

Asked about the album title, and how she came about it, CeCe, 53, explained:

“I knew I wanted that to be the title before we were finished writing all the music. And that is because of my prayer: when people hear this music that it’s more than entertainment; that it touches the heart and the mind and it encourages people and it uplifts them and it turns their heart toward God so that they can experience what real love is.”

The soulful singer also expressed her convictions concerning the album. “The situation that our world is facing right now, we need something that is going to be impactful, and I am so proud of the CD, Let Them Fall In Love because I know that people are going to find Jesus through this record.”

CeCe, who has been around as far back as 1995, credits her relationship with Jesus for her continued relevance as a gospel artist.

“It has nothing to do with CeCe the artist or CeCe the pastor… It’s through that relationship, I think you will always be relevant no matter who you are,” she concluded.

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