Lakewood 'American Idol' hopeful Grace Kinstler eliminated in finale's first round of voting

Lakewood native and Crystal Lake Central High School graduate Grace Kinstler was eliminated partway through Sunday's season finale of “American Idol.”

Kinstler and fellow finalists Willie Spence and Chayce Beckham began the episode with the hope of being named an “American Idol.” When the episode's first round of voting concluded, however, Kinstler had to wave goodbye to her supporters as Spence and Beckham proceeded to the final round.

Beckham was named the winner at the end of Sunday's show.

“I am in shock. I don't know what I was expecting but to lose any of those three is ridiculous,” judge Lionel Richie said.

Kinstler began the finale with a performance of “All By Myself” by Celine Dion, winning the praise of the show's judges, Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry.

“You're a storyteller, not only a great voice,” Richie said. “You're a storyteller with a great voice.”

Kinstler, a Berklee College of Music student, performed in high school and community theater productions throughout the Chicago area before auditioning for “American Idol.”

Last week, the 20-year-old returned to her roots when she came home for a recorded live performance and “hometown celebration.” Hundreds of McHenry County residents gathered Tuesday along the route between Crystal Lake Central High School and the city's downtown, cheering as she drove by in a yellow convertible.

Video clips of Kinstler's visit almost brought the singer to tears Sunday just before she sang Whitney Houston's “I Have Nothing.”

“I hadn't seen the cut of my hometown that's why I was just like, 'OK Grace don't cry, don't cry.' We start a capella. You can't cry right now,” Kinstler said.

Despite the evening's high emotions, Kinstler's take of Whitney Houston's classic won over the judges.

“Honestly, young lady, you have absolutely outdone yourself,” Richie said. “It was an absolutely amazing performance. Amazing.”

Kinstler's performances have consistently impressed the judges since her audition, which Bryan compared to the likes of earlier “Idol” stars Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson.

Although Kinstler is a self-proclaimed fan of Clarkson's, it was the Lakewood woman's late father, Mitch Kinstler, who inspired her “American Idol” audition choice. Mitch Kinstler died unexpectedly in February 2020, and his memory has continued to motivate Kinstler throughout the competition.

“He just thought I was a star all the time, but that's because he was my dad,” Kinstler said as she sifted through her father's writing during her homecoming visit last week. “This one says 'life goes pretty fast if you don't look around often enough you could miss it.'”

During a recorded trip last week to Guaranteed Rate Field — Kinstler sang the national anthem there when she was 14 — the singer confessed she never thought she'd come so far.

“Daddy and I both knew you'd get to this point,” said Grace's mother, Sherry Kinstler.

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