‘American Idol’ Nepo Babies, Like Dave Stewart’s Daughter, Dominate Season 21 Auditions; So What Else Is New?

“American Idol” may be a platform for aspiring unknown singers to showcase their talent outside of their bedrooms, but some contestants may have an advantage over others: being born into famous families.

Season 21 has already shown several so-called “Nepo Babies” — contestants with ties to the entertainment business — competing for the crown, including Kaya Stewart, daughter of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics (pictured).

“With all your different opportunities and connections and stuff, how did you even land on ‘American Idol?’” Judge Katy Perry asked before her audition.

It’s a fair question, but “nepo babies” competing on “American Idol” is nothing new. In the past, the offspring of parents with varying backgrounds from music, acting, sports, and politics have all found their way in front of the judges.

Actor Jim Carrey’s daughter, Jane, earned a golden ticket in season 11; Aretha Franklin’s granddaughter, Grace, auditioned last season; and Lara Johnston, daughter of Doobie Brothers lead singer Tom Johnston also made it to Hollywood on season 10. Gianna Isabella, daughter of Brenda K. Starr, did quite well on season 15 of “Idol,” as did Alex Preston, a cousin of Jo Dee Messina who carved his own independent path on season 13.

Politics open doors for “Idol” contestants as well: former Donald Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway’s daughter, Claudia, auditioned in 2021, and Ayla Brown, daughter of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), finished in the top 16 of the show’s fifth season.

Baseball and football players’ kids also had an in with “Idol”: Nikko Smith, son of St. Louis Cardinals player, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Ozzie Smith, had a successful run on season 4, while Shannon Magrane, daughter of Joe Magrane, a St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher who played in the Majors from 1987 to 1996, finished 11th on Season 11. Meanwhile, NFL player Phillippi Sparks’ daughter, Jordin Sparks, went on to “Idol” glory winning season six.

As recently as last season, the show placed two top 10 “nepo” contestants: Ava Maybee, daughter of Chad Smith, drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Leah Marlene, the daughter of Derry Grehan, the guitarist for Honeymoon Suite.

The tradition continues this season, as five “nepo” contestants compete for the top 10. They are:

McKayla Stacey
The 16-year-old daughter of season 6 contestant Phil Stacey joins the growing list of second-generation Idols, including season 4 finalist Nadia Turner’s daughter, Zaréh’s, and Tristen Langley, the son of late season one top three finalist Nikki McKibbin. Stacey was accompanied by her father on piano as she auditioned with a Sara Bareilles song, earning her trip to Hollywood.

Cay Aliese
The 24-year-old mother from Dandridge, Tennessee is the daughter of the late Nolan Neal, who passed away from a drug overdose two months ago. Neal was a former contestant on “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice.” Aliese earned her trip to Hollywood performing an original song, “City of Nashville.”

Haven Madison
Madison is the 16-year-old daughter of Christian singer Jason Roy, whose band is the Grammy-nominated Christian contemporary band, Building 429. Madison impressed judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie with her original song, “Fifteen,” accompanied by her father on acoustic guitar. The Tennessee native, who said she grew up on a tour bus, competed for a Platinum Ticket to audition.

Lyric Mederios
Mederios is the daughter of ’80s pop star Glenn Mederios, who had hits with the songs “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You” and “‘Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone.” Although being linked to a hit song maker helped to get her through the door, her “Idol” journey wasn’t an easy one. She originally auditioned in 2016, was eliminated before going in front of the judges. This time, her performances of “Love Me Like You Mean It” by Kelsea Ballerini and “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood — with an assist from Katy Perry — earned her a trip to Hollywood.

Kaya Stewart
The daughter of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and New Wave icon Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics had a definite advantage — her father was recently inducted into the Hall alongside “Idol” judge Lionel Richie. He even brought a guitar to accompany his daughter for her audition song, an original entitled “This Tattoo.” Stewart earned her Golden Ticket and will continue to compete in the Hollywood round.

The competition continues tonight (April 2) as the Hollywood rounds feature “Idol” mentors Justin Guarini (season 1), Clay Aiken (season 2), Jordin Sparks (season 6), David Archuleta (season 7), Phillip Phillips (season 11), Catie Turner (season 16) and Noah Thompson (season 20).

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