HunterGirl joins the Chattanooga-area roster of singers on TV reality shows


Noah Thompson, a 20-year-old construction worker from Louisa, Kentucky, prevailed in the 20th season finale of "American Idol" Sunday night, leaving Tennessee native HunterGirl as runner-up in the ABC reality singing competition.

HunterGirl, whose real name is Hunter Wolkonowski, was born in Gruetli-Laager and raised in Winchester. She now lives in Nashville, where she is pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter.

The other Top 3 finalist, Leah Marlene of Normal, Illinois, was eliminated about halfway through the three-hour show.

HunterGirl's first single, "Red Bird," which she co-wrote with Austin Goodloe and Matt McKinney, is streaming.


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"American Idol" finalist HunterGirl, who was born in Grundy County and raised in Franklin County, Tennessee, will learn her fate Sunday night on the 20th season finale of the ABC reality show. She's not the only contestant from the Chattanooga area who's sought stardom in televised singing competitions.

Remember these performers?

- Lauren Alaina: The Rossville, Georgia, native was runner-up on the 10th season of "American Idol" on Fox in 2011, losing out to fellow country artist Scotty McCreery. In addition to her music projects, she has written a book, starred in a couple of movies, appeared on reality shows "Dancing With the Stars" on ABC and "Beyond the Edge" on CBS and realized a lifelong dream when she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in February.

(READ MORE: With new album, Lauren Alaina is turning heartache into hits)

- Clark Beckham: The Lee University alumnus, who grew up in White House, Tennessee, near Nashville, was runner-up to Nick Fradiani on Season 14 of "American Idol" on Fox in 2015.

(READ MORE: Clark Beckham credits Lee prep for his success)

- Kane Brown (honorable mention): The Chattanooga native tried out for a couple of reality shows, but viewers never saw him on television. He told that he tried out for "American Idol" after watching his friend and former classmate Lauren Alaina achieve success, but was rejected, he said, because "they didn't need another Scotty McCreery." He was later selected for Fox's "The X Factor" but quit the show, he said, when they tried to put him in a boy band. "I went home and did my own 'American Idol' with covers online," he told the country music news site. A video of him covering Lee Brice's "I Don't Dance" had "like, 60,000 shares" by the next day," he said.

(READ MORE: Country music superstar Kane Brown making his own way back home to Chattanooga)

- Amber Carrington: The Texas native now living in Chattanooga finished fourth on the fourth season of NBC's "The Voice" in 2013, with Adam Levine as her coach.

- Chase Guyton: The Lee University alumnus was a Hollywood finalist on season seven of "American Idol" in 2008.

(READ MORE: Brothers in barbershop)

- Ben Honeycutt: The Chattanooga native who attended elementary school in Trenton, Georgia, and graduated from Plainview High School in Rainsville, Alabama, advanced to the Top 96 in the ninth season of "American Idol" in 2010 before being eliminated in the group round. He and fellow contestant Jermaine Purifory were picked by USA Today as singers to watch while auditions were underway.

(READ MORE: Two area singers bounced from 'American Idol')

- Paul McDonald: Raised in Huntsville, Alabama, McDonald was based in Nashville when he appeared on the 10th season of "American Idol" (with Lauren Alaina), finishing eighth. His mother, Susan McDonald, is an instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

(READ MORE: McDonald: 'Idol' was search for credibility)

- Jermaine Purifory: The Lee University alumnus from Cleveland, Tennessee, made it to the final Hollywood round in season nine of "American Idol" on Fox in 2010. He later sang backup vocals on the hit Fox TV show "Glee" and sang lead with The Impressions on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group's Farewell Tour in the United States and United Kingdom.

(READ MORE: Cleveland resident's original song wins him trip to the Grammys)

photo Brooke Simpson, who placed third on Season 13 of "The Voice" / Contributed photo by NBC

- Brooke Simpson: The Lee University alumnae, a Hollister, North Carolina, native, finished third on season 13 of NBC's "The Voice" in 2017, with Miley Cyrus as her coach, and fourth on season 16 of NBC's "America's Got Talent."

(READ MORE: Lee alum Brooke Simpson singing for 'The Voice' title)

- Jordan Smith: The Harlan, Kentucky, native was a student at Lee University when he won season nine of NBC's "The Voice" in 2015. Earlier this year, he represented Kentucky on NBC's "American Song Contest," finishing third with the song "Sparrow."

(READ MORE: Who's nervous? Not Lee University's Jordan Smith on 'The Voice')

- Phil Stacey: His first appearance on "American Idol's" sixth season revealed that the Lee University alumnus and U.S. Navy officer was missing the birth of his first second daughter to audition for the show in Memphis. He ultimately finished sixth in that 2007 season.

(READ MORE: Phil Stacey shifting career into Christian music)

- Ruben Studdard: The season two winner, who calls Birmingham, Alabama, home, recently joined the full-time faculty at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

(READ MORE: 'American Idol' winner Ruben Studdard giving UTC students lessons that can't be found in a book)

photo Voices of Lee director Danny Murray rehearses the singers before their appearance on NBC's "The Sing-Off" in 2009.

- Voices of Lee: The Lee University ensemble appeared in the first season of NBC's a cappella competition "The Sing Off" in 2009, finishing third.

(READ MORE: A behind-the-scenes glimpse of 'The Sing Off')

photo Candace Whittington, third from right, with members of Delilah. The female octet is composed of singers who performed in either Season 1 or 2 of "The Sing-Off." Photo: NBC

- Candace Whittington: The Mentone, Alabama, native sang with Voices of Lee when the co-ed ensemble competed in the first season of "The Sing Off" and returned in the third season with a group of eight women who had appeared in groups in the previous seasons, singing under the name Delilah. They finished eighth in the competition.

(READ MORE: Former Lee University singer back on NBC's 'Sing-Off'

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.