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American Idol’s Mike Parker talks fighting racial barriers in country music

Mike Parker singing on American Idol
Mike Parker singing on American Idol. Pic credit: ABC

One of the more uplifting moments came in Hawaii when Jimmie Allen showed up as a mentor for the singers.

He met Mike Parker, a Black country singer, and Jimmie saw a little of himself in the performer. However, when he learned how much of himself was in Mike, it brought tears to Jimmie’s eyes.

In that episode, Mike told Jimmie that he looked up to him as a successful Black country singer and saw him as proof that someone who looked like him could succeed in the genre.

These sentiments touched Jimmie, who had a similar story. Jimmie looked to Charlie Pride as someone who proved to him that anything was possible.

Now, he has become that person for a young country superstar. Mike, who almost went home before the top 14, knows he has a lot to learn. 

The judges had to save Mike Parker in the top 14

The fans didn’t vote Mike Parker into their top 10, but the judges had a chance to add four of the singers who didn’t get voted in and one of those was Mike.

“When my name was called, obviously, I was pleased,” Mike told Parade.com. “I think it’s life-changing. I look at the competition a little differently now because I know that no one is safe.”

Mike saw that he still had to sell himself to many of the fans at home if he wanted to move on, and that is how his focus has changed.

“But I signed up for Idol for a reason, and I’m glad the judges believe in me and are giving me a second shot,” Mike said. “Because that’s what I’m looking at it as, as a second shot.”

However, no matter how well he does on American Idol, Mike knows he faces an uphill journey in the country music industry.

Mike Parker on the racial barriers in country music

Mike Parker turned to Jimmie Allen as someone who proved that people could make it in the country music industry no matter how they looked.

Mike said Jimmie told him not to worry about appearances because country music comes from the heart.

“Getting that advice from him definitely propelled the energy that I had for this round,” Mike said. “I had him in the back of my mind. I was in a sense singing to him, so I hope I made him proud.”

“Hawaii was so special for me, I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life, the rest of my career. And that’s what I’m singing for. I’m singing so people believe me, so that I’m believable.”

Mike also sees more than Jimmie Allen out there right now, and he wants to be part of that group of Black country performers.

“I want to be at the forefront of that. I think Jimmie, Blanco [Brown], Breland, Mickey Guyton, they’re all doing that. They’re all stepping out.”

American Idol airs on Sunday and Monday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

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