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Normal West rallies behind Leah Marlene as B-N singer reaches top three on 'American Idol'

Jack Podlesnik
Hundreds gathered Sunday night at Normal West high school for an "American Idol" watch party for alum Leah Marlene.

Normal West Community High School showed its support for Leah Marlene on Sunday as she advanced to the top three of "American Idol." A hometown concert is set for Tuesday in Normal.

The event started in the school’s parking lot with a pre-party before the show began. A sea of yellow shirts covered the area, enjoying food trucks, live music, and concessions.

Marlene’s increasing fame has brought plenty of eyes to Normal. That may bring in more tourism, especially because Marlene will be performing the free concert Tuesday during a hometown celebration. Ryan Seacrest even gave The Garlic Press in Uptown Normal — and it's Leah-themed popcorn flavor — a shoutout during Sunday's show.

Parker Williams, a sophomore at Normal Community High School and the son of Marlene’s high school choir teacher Sara Williams, says he’s happy for her success — and that Normal is in the spotlight.

“I think it’s a big win for the community,” Williams said. “I think more people are going to know Normal for Leah Marlene.”

Following the pre-party outside, supporters moved indoors for a watch party. Prior to the night’s episode, it was revealed Marlene, a Normal West alum, recorded a video for her supporters back home.

Jack Podlesnik
"American Idol" finalist Leah Marlene recorded a video message for her supporters at Normal West on Sunday.

In the video she thanked her friends, family, and the Normal community for all of their love and #BloNoLovesLeah support.

“I have a whole community cheering me on harder than anything right now,” said Marlene in the video. “Thank you for that, it really has helped me through so much.”

Marlene’s bubbly personality lit up the room, smiles decorating the gymnasium crowd. And that personality, Marlene’s down-to-earth nature is part of what makes her special, says Dayna Brown, a spokesperson for Unit 5 schools.

“That’s one of the things that’s so exciting about this. The Leah you see on American Idol is Leah,” Brown said. “She is that person. She is as real as real can be.”

Brown adds that Marlene’s journey to the top three of American Idol has been special to watch. Not just because of Marlene’s success, but because of what it’s done for the community.

"We're coming off such a strange time, and it's so exciting to see the entire community wear yellow and show their support, and just celebrate something so happy and so positive and so exciting,” Brown said. “I think it's just been such a unifying thing for the community."

Brown said a parade is in the works for Marlene’s return to Normal, along with the free concert Tuesday. Venues and times are to be determined.

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