Rion Paige, a 13-year-old who grew up performing on the stage at the Suwannee River Music Park, will be competing for a $5 million recording contract on the X Factor as a top four finalist in the girls category. - Photo: Bryant Thigpen

“My name is Rion Paige. I’m going into the eighth grade and I’m from Jacksonville, Florida,” sounded like the typical introduction for the typical person her age. However, that introduction came from a very special 13-year-old girl who is a top four finalist in the Top 4 Girls category on Fox’s hit TV show the X Factor. Not only does Paige have an amazing voice, but she has an incredible story to tell with her unique personality.

Paige’s passion for singing developed at a very early age.

“Well, when I was a baby, I started singing in the back of my car seat and I actually started singing ‘Redneck Woman’ by Gretchen Wilson, which my mom would start laughing at me like all the time,” Paige said.

From the car seat, Paige made her way to a small stage at a karaoke place in Jacksonville, where she learned singing was her ultimate passion.

“It was really cool because when I was like four or five, my mom took me with her friend and my mom held the mic for me and I stood there and sang my little heart out. Ever since then, I’ve just been glued to the stage,” she said, laughing. “But I really started finding out I wanted to go sing whenever regular families would go take their kids to T-ball or baseball...we made it our theme that every Friday night, we would go sing at a karaoke place called Wing-It near where I lived.”

Around the age of 10, Paige’s unique voice had made its way to Suwannee County where she would perform, and still does, very frequently at The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

“I have been singing in Live Oak, like, all my life,” Paige said. “I love it (Suwannee County),” she said. “It’s so much fun. All the golf carts and screaming and fun music, it’s like awesome.”

In fact, she was at the Park when she found out she had made the show.

“It was in May (2013) when I actually did the audition, and I actually found out that I was going to make an appearance on the X Factor when I was performing at the Suwannee River Jam and it was the day before my birthday,” she said.

“I was watching the season finale with Tate Stevens when he won because he is an amazing country artist,” she said. “I saw they were having auditions in Charleston, South Carolina, which is about four-and-a-half hours from Jacksonville. My mom always said she always knew that if I did try out, I might have a shot because I do sing a lot and I love it to death and I have a real passion for it. So she prayed about it long and hard and was like, ‘God, is this what you want me to do with my daughter?’ because this thing could go somewhere.”

Paige began preparing for the journey of her life.

“So, she (mother) made me put this book together of everything I wanted to do and all the paperwork off the X Factor website that you have to sign so far, basically, what was entailed for this trip. I even printed out the directions to get there and pictures of the place. I was just so pumped,” she said, laughing.

“Whenever I  saw the competition and they were letting kids 12 and up perform, which hasn’t been in a lot of other competitions, and I’m also in love with the X Factor, right then I just knew whenever my mom finally gave me the OK, that I had to start working and trying to get even better so I can be ready for that audition,” Paige said. “I spent about three months (training for the show) because we really didn’t get that much of a heads up before I got the OK, but I’ve been singing a while so I’ve been basically preparing my whole life.”

However, one of the most nerve-wrecking moments for Paige was performing in front of the X Factor judges.

“I honestly don’t think you could be human and not be nervous,” she said. “It’s just so nerve wrecking, and Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Roland, Paulina Rubio, these amazing artists have had amazing careers so far. It was really nerve wrecking to know they have your fate in their hands. But I just prayed and said ‘God, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get on that stage because I am freaking out.’”

She continued, “So it was really a crazy experience. But when I got on stage and I stepped foot on there I was like, ‘I gotta show them who I am. I only have a minute or so or however much time they allow you to sing.’”

Within a few minutes, Paige had captured the hearts of the judges. Every song she had sung and every hour spent rehearsing paid off when she took the stage in front of the X Factor judges.

“It was really neat because I got to sing the whole song, but they didn’t show it on the show,” she said.

In a televised audition, shared her story of growing up with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a disease that has left her wrist joints deformed. However, Paige has never let that stop her from reaching her full potential.

Paige was given a standing ovation by the judges before she completed the song, “Blown Away.” In the most recent episode, which aired Thursday night, Paige performed “I Won’t Let Go,” which once again captivated the judges.

Paige has made her way up to be a top four finalist in the girls category and will be competing for a $5 million recording contract.

You can catch Rion on the X Factor on Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox.


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