May 5, 2020
Former CFISD student Ren Patrick wowed judges on the hit show American Idol and become one of season No. 18’s early stars when she told platinum-selling artist Katy Perry that her advice years ago eventually helped her escape an unhealthy relationship and move back home to reconnect with loved ones. Patrick earned her way through the preliminary and regional auditions, and to Hollywood for multiple rounds.
May 5, 2020—For former Cy-Fair High School student Ren Patrick, getting a chance to share a hug with her mother and superstar singer Katy Perry wasn’t the defining ‘cherry on top’ for a journey from deep depression to the hit show American Idol. It’s instead become a springboard to a new platform and doors opening more opportunities.
Patrick excelled through the audition process for American Idol, the long-running singing competition where hopefuls across the country try to impress celebrity judges. Talented musicians are selected from various cities and the competition eventually ends in Hollywood, where the final portion is televised and viewers help select the overall winner. Patrick, a 26-year-old singer and songwriter, earned a spot in Hollywood but not to the televised rounds, which returned in late April following a suspension in production due to COVID-19.
She did, however, come away with one of the show’s top moments during its early episodes in March. At her regional audition in Milwaukee, Wis., Patrick won over famed musicians Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie with not only her voice but her story of overcoming a long abusive relationship and subsequent depression.
Patrick even told Perry how the platinum-selling artist’s words of advice years ago at a Halloween party stayed with her and eventually helped her move back home. Perry walked by as Patrick and her former significant other were in an argument she described as “super toxic.”
Perry told Patrick, “Girl, dump him.”
The moment was more embarrassment then eye-opening for Patrick at the time, but it stayed with her.
“I didn’t want anyone to think that there were cracks in the foundation of my relationship,” Patrick said of the argument Perry witnessed. “It’s crazy to see how it came full circle in me getting to tell Katy Perry that she did that and I actually took her advice seven years later.”
Twenty-six-year-old Ren Patrick smiles inside the Milwaukee Art Museum where she earned a golden ticket to Hollywood on the show American Idol. The singer and songwriter attended Farney Elementary School, Goodson Middle School and Cy-Fair High School before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a music career.
Patrick’s clip from the show is posted on YouTube, where it’s drawn nearly 2 million views. On American Idol’s official Facebook page, Patrick’s video has more than 128,000 reactions and 24,000 shares. A number of the 4,400-plus comments were people championing her success story or sharing various versions of their own.
“Even with not making it, the response was so incredible,” Patrick said. “I received so many messages from women that have been in abusive relationships or are still in those relationships. They reached out to talk to me and I feel like that made it all worth it.
“I went from being in an abusive relationship and having a panic attack from having to sing in front of people again to making it and having people tell me that I inspired them to leave their abusive relationships. That was awesome and felt very meant to be.”
Just months before, Patrick wasn’t in a place to be showcased on television or even live her normal life. Returning home following her breakup, Patrick was in a deep depression and didn’t have the confidence she once had to step up to a microphone.
This wasn’t the norm for Patrick, who loved performing from a young age and did so as she grew up attending Hamilton and Farney elementary schools, Goodson Middle School and Cy-Fair High School from 1999-2010. Patrick even finished high school early to move out to Los Angeles and pursue her dream.
Joining Ren Patrick on her journey on American Idol included, from left, her younger sister, Riley, best friends, Anna Kopsy and Kim Schroeder, and mother, Meiling Zelahy.
Her mother, Meiling Zelahy, didn’t give up with her encouragement. The two are extremely close but Patrick’s relationship fractured the bond with her mother.
“She’d have to go out in her car and drive before she could talk to me,” Zelahy said. “I could never text her. I never liked him. So to have her back is sort of like old times.”
Patrick finally agreed to go with Zelahy to a preliminary audition in August in Waco, with the emphasis being more on the mother-daughter road trip and fun than trying to make the show. She did, however, survive a hectic day with multiple performances in front of producers and casting personnel.
“Honestly, just making it out there was just the best feeling,” Patrick said. “I was so anxious to audition in the first place for that round, so when I made it, I was just proud of myself. It made for a good mother-daughter moment.”
Patrick went to another preliminary audition a month later in Nashville, Tenn., and again advanced in the competition. Then came the regional audition in October, where Patrick and Zelahy were joined by Patrick’s younger sister, Riley, and two best friends, Anna Kopsy and Kim Schroeder, in making the trip to Milwaukee, Wis.
Former CFISD product Ren Patrick smiles as she shows her golden ticket from the hit show American Idol. Patrick earned the ticket at a regional audition in Milwaukee in October, landing her a spot in Hollywood where she advanced in the singing competition. The show’s celebrity judges, famed musicians Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, presented one golden to Patrick and another to her mother, Meiling Zelahy, who encouraged Patrick to try out as a way to gain her confidence back.
“It was this crazy, overwhelming feeling to be surrounded by a ton of musicians that want the exact same thing that you do,” Patrick said. “I knew everyone there was really good because they made it this far, so there’s that excitement. And I love meeting other musicians.”
The regional audition is where Patrick had the moment millions would later see. After walking out and introducing herself to Perry, Richie and Bryan, Patrick told the judges the journey “chose me” when asked how she reached that point. The show played Patrick’s backstory, with her describing the unhealthy relationship and Zelahy’s support.
“Well, I’m glad that you put some glasses on,” Perry said before Patrick told her, the other judges and the viewing audience of that pivotal moment years prior.
Patrick’s talent and story won over the judges, who rewarded her with the iconic golden ticket to Hollywood. But in another twist, Zelahy was called on stage and presented with a ticket from Perry herself.
Meiling Zelahy, left, poses with her daughter, Ren Patrick. The two reconnected on Patrick’s journey competing on the hit show American Idol. Zelahy was called on stage to celebrated Patrick earning her golden ticket to Hollywood.
“You saw her go through all that, you believed in her and you helped pick her up,” Perry said to an emotional Zelahy, who was wearing an “I love Ren Patrick” shirt and quickly made it over to Patrick.
Said Patrick: “We were all crying and it was such a beautiful moment. I remember hugging my mom and it felt like time stood still.”
Now back home, Patrick is busy continuing work on her music career. She recently released an EP titled Stick Around. In addition to media interviews and inquiries, Patrick has also done numerous online auditions and sought out other opportunities.
“I feel really lucky to be here,” she said. “It’s been so incredible to see what’s happened in the last year. Not only what I’ve accomplished but the friendships I’ve made and the relationships that have come from meeting all these people. Even my mom and I getting to experience all this together has been just unreal.”