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'The Voice' contestant has local connection
celeste betton
Celeste Betton sang "Love You I do," from the movie "Dreamgirls," for her blind audition to get on "The Voice." - photo by Photo from 'The Voice' website

A former Hinesville resident has made the cut on NBC’s “The Voice” singing competition.

During Tuesday’s episode, Celeste Betton sang “Love You I Do” from the movie “Dreamgirls” during the blind auditions in front of a cheering crowd.

As she sang soulfully, hitting high and low notes, she despaired that none of the judges turned a chair. But then Betton decided that even if a single chair did not turn, she would give her best performance for the audience.

And at the last minute, Pharell hit his button.

In a clip from the show, Pharell told Betton, “You are great and amazing. I have some soulful singers on my team already and I almost didn’t push, but after a while, I realized you were singing because it really meant something to you and you just kept punching it. I couldn’t not hit my button. I had to reward all that ambition on that stage. I’m happy to have you on my team.”

Betton and her family — husband Kevin Betton Jr., daughter Kendall and son Judah — moved from Fort Stewart to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, a few weeks ago. She also has a stepdaughter who lives in New York.

Celeste Betton, a native of Ozark, Alabama, calls Hinesville and coastal Georgia her second home.

“I so wanted to be there (in Hinesville) when the show aired because that area has really taken me in, and it’s a big part of the reason I am who I am today. It’s given me platforms to sing and to minister,” she said. “I have so much eternal family there. So many relationships that I made there that I will never forget. My heart is still there. I’m excited to represent you all.”

Betton and her family attended Cathedral of Praise Church Ministries in Hinesville, where her father-in-law, Kevin L. Betton Sr., is the bishop. Her friend Verjuana Foreman and one of her daughters, both of whom also attend Cathedral of Praise, were backstage on the set of “The Voice” to cheer for Betton, along with Betton’s mother, Carla Graham, husband and two of their children, Kendall and Judah.

Love for singing

Betton always loved to sing, but didn’t know she had a special gift. She was part of a singing group with her cousins when she briefly lived with her grandmother in Valdosta. Then she reconnected with her mother in Alabama and started to sing in church there. She began to notice that people kept complimenting her on having a beautiful voice.

Betton called her parents her first fans. They encouraged her to sing more and chase after her dreams. Her parents also instilled in her the importance of supporting oneself while chasing after dreams. She went to school part-time, sang in open-mic nights and networked.

Last year, Betton won Operation Rising Star, a Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield competition. She went on to become one of six finalists in the Operation Rising Star competition in San Antonio and finished second. Betton continued to compete.

“I also auditioned for ‘Sunday’s Best’ twice. Each time you get a little further, but ultimately I was never able to make it to the main platform. It was kind of disheartening because you go in, ‘This is for me. This is my time.’ And then it’s not,” Betton said. “I had such an amazing support system back in Hinesville. Even though I said I’m not going to do this anymore. People said, ‘Keep going. Stay. Keep fighting. This is what you’re supposed to be doing.’”

While competing in Operation Rising Star, Betton connected with Victor Hurtado, artistic director of the Army Soldier Show. She expressed her interest in auditioning at the open call for “The Voice.” Hurtado made some calls, and Betton was able to have a private audition.

“It’s been an awesome experience. I’ve never experienced this level of excellence. The people that work with ‘The Voice’ are so nice. They treat you as if you already made it,” she said. “What I love about ‘The Voice’ is that they don’t look to exploit you as an artist.”

Betton said that all of the show’s contestants on the show have become like family. They call and text one another and are genuinely excited to watch each other perform.

The blind audition

The first thing that went through Betton’s mind while going to the stage was to not trip on national television. She didn’t want that to run in the bloopers footage. Then, she focused on controlling her breathing and making sure that every note was intentional.

When Pharell turned his chair around, Betton was relieved. It meant that she didn’t go through everything only to return emptyhanded. She was overwhelmed with tears when she left the stage.

“I could not even compose myself for a minute because everything that I had done through up until this point has brought me to this point, regardless of naysayers and my own negative thoughts. Someone said, ‘I hear something special and I feel something special in this individual, and I’m going to go and take a chance.’ And that means the world to someone like me, who is really trying to find their footing in the music industry,” she said.

She described Pharell as an amazing, monumental person and figure in music. Betton is looking forward to learning from him.

Betton chose to sing “Love You I Do” for her husband. After he obtained his master’s degree, he encouraged her to chase after her own dreams.

He told her, “Now is your time. I really want to push you to go for your dreams and do what you want to do. You have an amazing gift.”

Betton said her husband has put her in a place where she doesn’t have to worry about her children lacking in anything because she decided to chase her dream.

She also chose the song because it was fun and spans the scope of what one can do musically.

Next for Betton is the battle rounds, in which she will be paired with a teammate for a performance. Pharrell will choose which one advances.

To her friends and family in Hinesville Betton said, “Thank you all so much for your love and support and being behind me and pushing me. I can’t truly find enough words to say thank you. I love you all — I really, really do. That’s my second home and I hope I make you all proud. Bringing God glory and making you all proud would make me super-happy. You all have done so much for my family and I just want to represent you all well.” 

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