Bluffton’s own “American Idol” Lee Jean Jr. is grateful to his fans, followers, family and God for the amazing journey he has recently enjoyed.
After the Bluffton High School junior was eliminated March 10, he posted on his Facebook page, “Thank You Everyone for all the love and support; this is just the beginning for me … I thank the Lord above for getting me this far and Idol for giving me the tools I need to prepare me for what’s ahead.”
Part of what’s ahead is a year on the road with the American Idol tour.
After that, Jean’s family plans to follow his career path and continue to support him as he pursues his dream. His mother, Veronica Jean, texted his friend and publicist Thursday night, “My email is flooding … from producers. He made history. We are so proud.”
The 16-year-old Jean first took to the stage at the Idol Atlanta auditions and secured his golden ticket to Hollywood with his cover of Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire.”
Throughout the season, he wowed the judges and the American people with his playful demeanor, relatable voice, and self-taught guitar chops, giving the Lowcountry someone to rally behind on a nationwide scale.
As he continued to make it through to the next round, Jean’s family called on the Lowcountry to celebrate with them. Several viewing parties were held, including one at the Rooftop bar at Poseidon in Hilton Head Island on March 3.
Family, friends and local support filled the room to show their support for Lee who, along with the other top 10 performers, faced elimination.
The event included a live performance from the band Native, comprised of Lee’s friends, as well as a raffle and pre-taped video message from Lee to his supporters. Lee made it clear that the overwhelming support was pushing him forward, and that he was having the time of his life.
It wasn’t long into the night before the crowd and teary-eyed family members leapt to their feet in celebration as Lee secured his place in the top 8 and began his performance of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.”
Among the crowd’s loudest and most energetic cheerleaders were Jean’s mom, Veronica, and siblings Daniel and Aaleigha, who all sported matching “FamiLEE” shirts.
His father, Lee Jean, Sr. and Veronica have been taking turns on Hollywood trips, while his brother Darrell has stayed with Jean as a guardian.
“He started singing at a very young age and began to dabble into different styles and instruments,” said Veronica Jean. “He started with [the videogame] Rock Band, and we kept upgrading from there.”
Though Lee was eliminated, his Bluffton-backed movement remains a powerful force.
“It is very exciting to have a student from Bluffton make it all the way to the top 8 of American Idol,” said Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka. “He is as humble and likable in person as he appears on TV. This is great for Bluffton, and the entire community and region is coming to his side to support him in this journey.”
On the night Jean made the top 8, his mother knew his future would be bright. “Win or lose, Lee has already made history,” said Veronica Jean. “He made it into the top 10 on the last season of American Idol. The nation knows his name.”
Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.