American Idol Update: Margie Mays Brings us Behind the Scenes in Hawaii

Margie Mays performed with three other contestants on Group Night. Their performance was not shown on ABC. But Mays says this was her best and favorite yet on American Idol.

Seemingly coasting (but actually running on fumes) through three rounds of auditions in front of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, Delaware’s Margie Mays returns to American Idol this Sunday night at 8pm.

Mays says Hollywood Week was the most intense Idol test yet and that the relentless rehearsals, filming, and fierce competition gave her many a sleepless night. The rigor of the week’s pace led to some contestants even losing their voice.

But the Wilmington native survived, landing a coveted Top 40 spot and a trip to Hawaii.


Now well known by national audiences for her perky, energetic personality and signature denim blue and yellow outfits, Mays promises a complete makeover in the three-hour Hawaii episode starting at 8 pm.

We checked in with our hometown favorite this week to get the skinny on what’s happening behind the scenes on American Idol leading into this Sunday’s big episode.

Mays shared this teaser pic on Facebook to get her fans excited about the American Idol Hawaii episode on Sunday

Town Square Delaware: Making it into American Idol’s top 40 is an incredible achievement. Knowing that so many of your peers would be going home after Hollywood Week, it must have been an incredible rush to learn your fate.

Margie Mays: Well, we all saw the emotional breakdown I had before Solo Round (actually, if I’m being honest, that was an ABBREVIATION of the actual breakdown, and it wasn’t the only one I had that week).

Let’s put this in perspective: Hollywood Week is six of the most intense days of a singer’s life. Literally every single thing is working against you: the freezing cold temperatures in Downtown LA (okay, freezing cold for me, which was about 40 degrees… but I was wearing dresses the whole time); the freezing cold Orpheum Theatre (what you don’t see if me shivering the entire time I’m sitting in the auditorium); the lack of food and water and bathroom breaks; the lack of sleep… I’m talking, an hour and a half max most nights… I would see the clock at 3 am and pray that I could fall asleep and get some shut-eye before I would see the clock again at 4:30 am when I had to wake up for my call time.

Mays told her American Idol vocal coach that the journey has been exhausting and intimidating. “It’s six of the most intense days of a singer’s life.”

Something you guys did NOT see was my Group Round. I was with three other contestants and we named ourselves The Reject Four because we were either all left out of groups (me) or were kicked out of another group – it’s brutal on the American Idol Hollywood Week turf. However, knowing that I hadn’t sung well my first round, I knew I needed to prove myself.

To be honest, I thought there was NO chance of surviving group round.

However, it ended up being one of my strongest performances. We sang “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas. We got a standing ovation from Luke, Lionel, and Katy. This time around, they all directed the praise toward me. Katy started out by saying, “Margie, you rose to the top tonight. You kind of fell flat last round, but you have something about you – this aura – that we needed to give a second chance to. But we won’t be doing that again.” (Also, officially Lionel is on my time – he looked at me and said, “You’ve got the goods.” That felt SO good.)


That being said, I made it through group night (one of the four got cut that round) at about 10 pm. Then, I had about an hour left watching the rest of the groups, and then we all got bussed over to the Biltmore Hotel where we had to RUN (it’s called the “mad dash”) with the other 68 remaining contestants to sign up for our solo night songs.

Mays performed “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” in her solo performance during Hollywood Week

Mind you, I only had ONE song prepared for that round, and they make us DASH to the sign-up sheets, and only four people can sing each song. I was running for my life. By the grace of God, I got to the front of the dash. I JUMPED the staircase (luckily I wore sneakers all week) and found the song I sang for solo night before anyone else.

By then, it’s midnight and you have to run to the vocal coaching rooms to get a rehearsal in before bed. That’s where my breakdown ensued. Rightfully so. I never expected to make it this far. And then, of course, singing “Never Enough” was the cherry on top to my emotional breakdown.

Mays takes the ‘dog walker’ moniker in stride. She also teaches vocal lessons.

The song was so perfect for this time in my life, and I had even bought the perfect dress the week prior to Hollywood Week – I remember telling my mom, if I can make it to Solo Round and have that moment on stage, I think I will go through.

It was truly my princess moment.

That, right there, was one of the best, most emotional, most proud moments of my whole life. I knew, even if I didn’t make the cut to Top 40, I could have gone home, because I got to have my moment. (I’m fortunate enough that the world is able to share it with me).

TSD: You are in a very small, selective group at this point. Are you starting to see a commonality among the remaining candidates? When you look around the room at the remaining contestants, what do you see?

Mays: The given commonality is TALENT, baby! These competitors all make me shake in my boots. The other commonality is authenticity – something I admire about each and every one of the 39 people I stand left with.

Margie Mays (Saunders, left) and best friend Brooke Kelly in a 2011 Tower Hill Vocal Ensemble backstage photo 

Part of the competition process that you guys don’t see as much of is the interview process – they’re weeding out the fakes and the unkind humans.

The humans remaining, I am so thrilled to say and proud to be a part of, are all not only talented but are authentic, genuine, kind, and inspiring human beings. That’s what American Idol is searching for. It’s not just about the voice, it’s about the whole package – the human behind the voice means so much more.

TSD: What kind of resolve do you plan to bring to the Top 40 round? And will your preparation change at all? Can your boyfriend join you on the trip?

Mays: This round I want to show confidence. It’s something I lacked during Hollywood Week. I want to show confidence.

While our travel and stay at Disney Aulani Resort is paid for, we don’t get a “plus one,” but I did ask my mom to come. I figured, I’m singing for my life, and I never expected to get this far. But, if this is the last time I get to sing on the American Idol stage, I’d like to have someone to hug at the end of this all. So, my mom was there with me.

TSD: Song selection for the Hawaii round: Do the votes of the judges affect your song choice? Honestly, how could you even guess which song might appeal more to any of the judges?

Mays: I don’t pick songs based on the judges. The name of the game is to pick songs that help narrate YOUR journey. This time I wanted to show transformation and that I am CONFIDENT on that stage. I will not only wear my heart on my sleeve, but I can also be a rock star up there. After all, this is the ENTERTAINMENT industry. I can do both.

Mays’ parents Alice Saunders (striped top) and Dr. Chris Saunders (right) at their viewing party for the American Idol premiere

TSD: A trip to Hawaii courtesy of American Idol! What was it like to film there? Any time for a ‘vacation’? And by this point, are you forming friendships with any of the contestants?

Mays: Aulani resort is nothing short of picturesque. I felt like I was on a movie set. What a dream to get to stay there for 8 days. While they say it’s no “vacation” (and some days it truly was work, work, work), there was some downtime. The resort is absolutely gorgeous.

And to the other portion of your question: yes. This is the point in the show where things get personal. I made friends. This is a group of people where you can sit next to any one of the 40 of us and you feel comfortable and cared for. I love my competitors; they will forever hold a special place in my heart because this is one of the most precious journeys of our lives and doing this together will bond us for a lifetime.

Joining the American Idol family is one of the best privileges of my life. It is everything that little Margie dreamed of, and so much more.

Mays says having the support of fans and friends back home in Wilmington is half the fun

TSD: Noticing a blue theme with your choice of attire on American Idol. Can you tell us what you might wear in the Hawaii round?

Mays: Oh, get ready for a wardrobe MAKEOVER 🙂 I wanted to showcase my confidence, and I miss no details… the wardrobe will speak for itself. I know my brand, and I stick to it, but I made this one particularly loud. I’m excited for everyone to see it… you can’t miss it.

TSD: Can you give us maybe two clues as to what you might sing in Hawaii? It would be fun for us all to guess.

Mays: It’s a song that conveys confidence – a glad change of pace for my narrative on the show. That’s all I’ll say!!!

TSD: How many days were you in Hawaii? Did you share a room with any other contestants?

Mays: We were there for about eight days. I shared a room with another contestant! We all had roommates. She is a doll. (You haven’t seen much of her on TV, unfortunately).

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.


  • Fabulous, insightful article! Loved it! So excited for Margie and her family! Great job, Christy!

  • YAY Margie You have a heart of gold we enjoy watching you soooo much never know what you are going to do or say. I love your voice. You got this 1 Of Your Biggest Fans. I enjoy talking to your Uncle Jonathan about you when I go see him. Best Of Luck