Janet Hines-Norris, 53, a 5-foot-1 housecleaner from Mishawaka, Ind., who for years has sung her way through each workday, just might have a career change in store.
With two songs, she blew away a panel of music legends, twice brought an audience of thousands to its feet, beat out four fellow competitors — and left the stage the winner of the 2015 AARP Superstar singing competition that was hosted by Arsenio Hall.
A balmy night in Miami Beach turned torrid as Hines-Norris belted out her rendition of the Whitney Houston classic “The Greatest Love of All.” Grammy-winning producer Tena Clark was left open-mouthed by Hines-Norris’s final notes, and Chaka Khan, who has sold 70 million records, could say only, “You sang that better than I could!”
The Superstar competition capped a second day of AARP’s Life@50+ member event, with more than 2,000 enthusiastic audience members crowding into the AARP Theater of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Using their phones, audience participants texted their choice for winner from the first round of performances featuring five finalists, narrowing it to two: Hines-Norris and Rudy Torrellas, an 85-year-old grandfather from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, who sang the Frank Sinatra classic “Fly Me to the Moon.”
“Rudy, do you mind if I come over there and give you a hug?” asked judge Emilio Estefan.
In the second round, Torrellas sang another Sinatra standard, “Strangers in the Night,” while Hines-Norris performed the Bette Midler barn burner, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
In the end, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins handed Hines-Norris the prize check for $5,000. In addition, Hines-Norris will travel to Pasadena, Calif., for a professional recording session at DMI Music studios.
Judge Kenny Loggins wrapped up the evening and the 2015 competition, rocking the crowd with his hit song “Footloose.”
“I’ve gotta tell you,” Loggins said, “I was not prepared for the level of talent we saw here tonight. This is what AARP is all about — it’s about never giving up on your dreams.”
Photo and video by Bill Newcott
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