The X Factor opened its third season on Fox Wednesday night with auditions in Los Angeles and Charleston, South Carolina. The episode marked the debuts of new judges Kelly Rowland, a former member of Destiny's Child, and Mexican pop star Paulina Rubio. The returning Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato rounded out the judges' panel.
Once the audition process is complete, the contestants will be divided into four categories: the boys, the girls, the singers over the age of 25, and the groups. Each category will be mentored by one of the judges.
Here's a rundown of Wednesday's episode:
Carlito Olivero, a 23-year-old barista who was born and raised in Chicago, started the season off right with his version of Rihanna's "Stay." All four judges endorsed Carlito, with Simon saying he liked everything about the young man. Paulina, who exchanged pleasantries with Carlito in Spanish after he walked onto the stage, said she adored him. Kelly declared that they had witnessed a star. Carlito is moving on in the competition.
Simon welcomed 55-year-old nurse Sally Hessnice by sarcastically telling her she resembled Demi. After an extended musical intro that left Simon somewhat impatient, Sally finally launched into an off-key performance of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All." Kelly and Demi were diplomatic in rejecting Sally, but Simon quipped that eight thousand dogs had tried to enter the venue as she sang.
Lillie McCloud, an Orlando-based singer who looked much younger than her 54 years, had the crowd cheering with CeCe Winans' gospel song "Alabaster Box." Paulina simply stated that it was "unbelievable." Kelly was moved by Lillie's talent, asking her, "Where have you been hiding?" An emotional Demi said Lillie's singing reminded her of Whitney Houston. The panel unanimously passed her through to the next round.
Alex & Sierra, a boyfriend-girlfriend duo in their early 20s, put a soulful, acoustic spin on "Toxic," by former X Factor judge Britney Spears. Demi was visibly smitten with the couple, saying they gave her chills because they were so magical together. Paulina was inspired by the love they shared. Simon was initially skeptical of Alex & Sierra's act, but they won him over with their quirkiness. They received a "yes" from each judge.
The final contestant of the episode was 13-year-old Rion Paige from Jacksonville, Florida. She suffers from arthrogryposis multiplex congenital, a condition that she said affects her joints and which has caused her hands to curve differently. She also revealed that she is almost permanently blind in her right eye.
Rion got the female judges on their feet with her take on Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away." Demi raved about Rion's positivity, and Kelly noted the girl's passion. Simon said Rion reminded him of Carrie -- whom he judged in his American Idol days -- in that he knows she'll "go on to do special things."
The X Factor season premiere will continue Thursday night on Fox with a two-hour episode that begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
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