Nadia Wilkes, of Pleasantville, managed to finish in second place during a recently aired episode of FOX-TV’s “Showtime at the Apollo” competition show even though her mother died six months prior to taping.

“I am happy that I got as far as I did, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t win. I view ‘Showtime At The Apollo’ to be a stepping stone for something else in my career,” Wilkes said. “I have always wanted to be in the music industry.”

Wilkes was hurt emotionally when her mother, Aviva Wilkes, died on Dec. 4, 2016, at age 44 of cancer. The singer, who works at the Olive Garden in Mays Landing, almost gave up on music.

“A week before she passed, she said, ‘You are going to be on stage one day. You need to be on stage one day,’” said Wilkes, 25. “I said, ‘OK, Mom,’ and kind of brushed it off.”

A few months later, Wilkes saw that auditions were being held for “Showtime at the Apollo.” She filled out the application online.

The audition process went on for months.. They said, ‘You didn’t get on the show just yet. However, congratulations on making it this far in the audition process,’” said Wilkes, who added the process included her sending them videos of her singing different songs.

“When they finally approved for me to be on the show six months later, it was a dream come true, just the fact that, one day, I was going to be on TV. It made me so happy. I went to the experience saying, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I win, I win. If I don’t, I don’t,” Wilkes said. “I know I can sing. ... Singing has always been my life since I was a little girl.”

Wilkes’ interest in music started before she went to college for music. She was a 2011 graduate of Chartertech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point.

Seven years have passed, but Lew London, the school’s artistic coordinator and executive director, remembers Wilkes.

The school houses a recording studio. London said he used to record her a great deal and taught her during a recording studio course. London played guitar in the Bubba Mac Blues Band. When Wilkes was college age, she was a backup singer in the group toward the end of its existence, he said.

“She really flourished. As a kid in high school, she could really sing, but the maturity she developed after high school, both as a person and as a singer, was wonderful to see. She is a good, strong singer. She has a lot of soul. She is a talented kid,” London said.

Six months after Wilkes’ mother died, Wilkes was told she would be on “Showtime at the Apollo.” She was still dealing with the grieving process and was not at her best vocally, but decided to accept the invitation.

“I said, ‘This is a blessing in itself, that fact that I will be going to New York.’ I went up there and stayed in New York for a week,” said Wilkes, who added this was June of last year.

When Wilkes finally stepped onto the stage of the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y., she was competing against 10 other performers. She sang a powerhouse version of the song “Bust Your Windows,” a No. 4 R&B hit in 2008 by vocalist Jazmine Sullivan. She has been familiar with the single since she was 16.

“It was a great experience,” Wilkes said.

The winner receives $15,000. As the second-place finisher, Wilkes did not receive anything. But the video of her singing from April 5 has been viewed 648,000 times on the “Showtime at the Apollo” Facebook page as of Monday.

Wilkes did not win, but she hopes other opportunities open up because of her appearance.

The singer is taking her exposure from the show and heading into a studio to record original R&B songs with jazz and blues influences.

“Everyone wants a chance, who can sing. Hopefully, I will get a following from this,” Wilkes said.

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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