Born in the Sun City, 25-year-old Eli Zamora caught the attention of “The Voice” judge and pop star Kelly Clarkson when he sang a ballad – in Spanish – during blind auditions.
Clarkson sat mouth agape before turning her chair as Zamora powered through Juan Gabriel’s “Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas” (“I Know That You’re Leaving”).
“Oh my God, so much passion, I’m like fighting tears,” Clarkson told Zamora, selecting him to join her team on the NBC singing competition that has also seen other borderland artists on its stage over the years.
“I had so many emotional states. Your tone was so gorgeous and rich and romantic, that’s the powerful thing about ‘The Voice’ is that it doesn’t matter what you’re saying – I’m in,” Clarkson said.
The bilingual Zamora, who spent most of his youth between the U.S. and Mexico, last year also competed on ‘La Voz,’ the Mexican edition of the competition.
“You guys don’t understand how long and hard I worked to get here,” Zamora told Clarkson and the other judges after his October performance.
“I didn’t change anything of who I am to get on this American stage.”
Zamora, who studied at Berklee College of Music and now lives in Las Vegas, comes from a musical family.
“My Dad’s a singer, he grew up singing in church,” Zamora, a graduate of Montwood High School, told YouTube channel FabTV. “I think he’s living through me, through this experience.”
He spoke about the challenges of shooting ‘The Voice’ in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we got there we had to do two weeks of quarantine – we had to stay in our rooms the whole time, we have plexiglass all over, and we have to take COVID tests every two days. I think production did a very good job keeping us safe. It was a learning experience for us as well as them.”
“At the end of the day, we do it for the love of the music,” he added.
Despite advancing to the show’s first battle round, Zamora was eliminated Nov. 9, losing to fellow contestant Madeline Consoer.
The two battled it out with a bilingual rendition of Ricky Martin’s ballad “Solo Quiero Amarte” (“Nobody Wants to Be Lonely.”)
“It was disappointing,” Zamora said after his elimination. “This was definitely not the outcome I was hoping for, but it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life.”
In 2018, Zamora released a Spanish-language album and still maintains a YouTube channel and various social media platforms featuring both original songs and covers of contemporary hits such as Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted” and Whitney Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Zamora was the latest borderland artist to be featured on the show, with El Paso’s Jonny Gray, Valerie Ponzio and Elia Esparza and Mescalero’s Khaliya Kimberlie previously leaving their mark on the competition.