Miami Liftoff: Isa Peña

The Miami native and Ransom Everglades grad is appearing on American Idol

Socializing in Miami might be shut down, but you can support a local by staying home and watching American Idol this Sunday night. Yes, 19-year-old Isa Peña – the singer who’s performed the national anthem before Miami HEAT, Miami Dolphins and the Miami Marlins games has won a slot on the country’s most popular star-launching production, American Idol. Peña, a graduate of Ransom Everglades School, is from Key Biscayne and attends Harvard University, where she’s at the same time working toward a master’s degree at Berklee College of Music. Both the show and Peña are tight-lipped about the competition that lies ahead, but that’s okay, we’ll be watching anyway. 

When she first started singing: “I first started in musical theater classes here on Key Biscayne, and went into straight singing in middle and high school…and I never stopped. I started an Instagram account where I’d post cover songs called “mash ups” because I’d take an older song and a newer one with a similar title, and mash them. I was still involved in musical theater but also with Rock for Relief, which puts on concerts for charity.

The most exciting part of filming American Idol: “Meeting the judges – Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie — and watching them both on-camera and off. They were always really sweet and always had our best interests at heart. But off-camera they’d goof off, ease everyone’s nerves and make us all feel comfortable.”

Scariest moment: “There were a lot! But during Round One of Hollywood week, I thought I was going to be eliminated. Katy Perry told us some would be going home and then she called my name first. Everyone was sitting in the audience, I was totally freaking out, and – being in the Rock Genre – she said, “Some of you should not be in the Rock Genre.” I thought she was talking about me, so I awkwardly put out a peace sign. Then she called other people and we were the ones making it to the next round. That was insane.” 

What’s to miss about Miami: “The obvious answer: The beach. I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I was far away. And Cuban food, I was raised on Cuban food! Now I’ll call my mom and ask what she’s having for dinner and she’ll say “ropa vieja.” 

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