‘America’s Got Talent’ finalist visits SRU to perform and discuss life journey

Published by adviser, Author: Amber Cannon - Campus Life Editor, Date: October 13, 2015

Alice Tan Ridley, finalist on America’s Got Talent and mother of actress Gabourey Sidibe, will kick off Slippery Rock University’s 2015-2016 Performing Arts Series on Friday with an inspirational lecture about her life journey, challenges and successes at 2 p.m. followed by a concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the University Union.
Growing up, Ridley began singing when she was just a child. According to Ridley’s mother, Ridley said she was singing before she could even talk. As time went on, Ridley began to work with her sister in a daycare. She didn’t want kids at first, but she had children when she was 30. At this time, she was working for the Board of Education in New York City.
One day, when Ridley was taking the subway, she heard a familiar voice singing Stand by Me by Ben E. King. It was her brother. Ridley said she started to sing with him and suddenly the audience parted to let her through. When Ridley and her brother finished the song, everyone in the subway and out in the streets started clapping, Ridley said.
For over 20 years, Ridley busked in the New York City subways to help support her family. She said it was something she loved to do and something people loved watching her do.
Ridley said her fans from the subways once told her to go on American Idol, but when she found out American Idol’s age range stops at 28 years old, she went to America’s Got Talent, where she made it all the way to the semifinals.
Ever since America’s Got Talent, Ridley has been traveling all over the world from Germany, Morocco and Argentina with her 7-piece band. She also has performed 12 shows at the Cotton Club in New York during their Brunch & Gospel event and with orchestras and symphonies.
When Ridley’s not on tour, she said she still goes down to the subways to perform.
“When I couldn’t get a job on Broadway, I went under Broadway, and look what it did for me and my family,” Ridley said. “It helped to make the subway not such a scary place when you’re alone and I think my contribution to what I’ve given down there is worthy of praises. The reason theaters were made was because people were busking on the street. People who had talent showed their talent because it was God-given.”
Ridley said visiting the subway when she’s home gives her a chance to keep in touch with old fans and make new fans.
Ridley said one of the biggest accomplishments for her this far is her upcoming album.
“We don’t have a release date yet,” Ridley said. “We started a Kickstarter and the people who helped with the Kickstarter is the reason why I had money to make the album. It wasn’t easy to record the album because it’s very costly.”
At the age of 63, Ridley said it feels amazing to be able to create her first album.
Ridley said it feels great knowing that all her hard work is paying off. She said she wants to inspire people to do what it is that they want to do and to not give up on their dreams.
“A lot of people give up on their dreams,” Ridley said. “I like to inspire people. Don’t just give up. You just never know. Do whatever you want to make yourself happy, as long as it’s not hurting anybody. God gives blessings every day.”
At her concert on Friday, Ridley will be singing hit songs by Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Gladys Knight and The Pips and Whitney Houston. Tickets for the concert are $22 for adults, $20 for adults 62 years old and older, $18 for teenagers who are 17 years old and younger and $8 for SRU students. The lecture at 2 p.m. is free.


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