CLAYTON — Family means everything to Seretha Guinn; and to her family, she will always be an “American Idol.”
The Charlotte native, 27, returned to Clayton to attend the annual reunion of the Vinson and Nunn families, who gathered July 20 at American Legion Post 71. Guinn’s mother, Babette Vinson Schuler, grew up in Clayton.
At last year’s gathering, the room erupted in cheers when Guinn announced she had landed a coveted spot on the popular television singing competition. Then came the monthslong wait for the show to air.
Her aunt, Betty Corbin, was bursting with pride and had a hard time containing her enthusiasm. “We were all ready to watch the show in January,” Corbin said. “I told everyone I knew from church to work that Seretha was going to be on ‘American Idol.’ ”
Guinn’s first taste of “American Idol” came during the Season 12 auditions at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. She was interviewed by host Ryan Seacrest and performed for judges Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson. Guinn’s 4-year-old daughter, London, stood by her mother’s side as she sang a version of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” that impressed the judges enough to advance her to the next round of competition in California.
“The experience taught me a lot,” said Guinn, a former hairdresser. “It humbled me and allowed me to see that celebrities are people, too.”
Despite her talent, her stay in Hollywood was short-lived. Guinn was eliminated from the competition in the group rounds.
“We are so proud of her,” said her cousin, Odella Vinson, who traveled from Baltimore to attend the reunion. “We watched every time she was on the show, up until she was eliminated. I know that one day she’ll be back on there again.”
“Seretha can definitely sing her tail off,” said family member Tammie McNeill of Clayton.
Guinn said her exposure on the show opened the door to a career in music. She is working on her debut album, a mixture of rhythm and blues and pop material. She is also performing in clubs in the Charlotte area.
“It’s opened a lot of doors for me, and I’m certainly not as shy as I was before,” Guinn said.
In Clayton, Guinn enjoyed the chance to spend time with her large extended family. An estimated 200 people spanning six generations attended the reunion, a yearly event that dates back to the 1920s.
“I just love being around my family,” Guinn said. “Everyone is really close. We laugh a lot and enjoy one another’s company.”