Raquel Trinidad and Shevonne Philidor never crossed paths before meeting in Hollywood.
Philidor, 28, moved around in a military family before graduating in 2009 from Blake High School, where she was a decorated theater student. Trinidad, 20, played trumpet in the Alonso High School marching band before graduating and moving to Miami.
It took American Idol — and a trip halfway around the world — to bring the two Tampa-bred singers together.
This week, Trinidad and Philidor made it through to Idol's top 40 round, which airs Sunday on ABC. They and 38 other contestants flew out to Hawaii to vie for a spot in the top 20, the first round of which will air Monday.
For Trinidad, the Hollywood spotlight came naturally. After moving from Chicago to Tampa at age 3, she booked occasional commercial and voice-over roles, including a singing voice on Dora the Explorer. In 2014, she won a scholarship to the Grammy Museum's Music Revolution Project, a student music industry workshop at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
Through a friend of a friend, her YouTube channel caught the ear of singer Jon Secada, who offered to mentor her as a singer and songwriter. After high school, she moved to Miami, where she worked as a restaurant server while learning the ropes of the business.
Her connections paid off when Idol producers invited her to audition in Louisville, Ky. She and her father, a real estate agent, hopped in his Scion and drove north, where her audition songs included the Fugees' Killling Me Softly, Stevie Wonder's Living for the City and an original song on acoustic guitar.
"The judges were so into it," Trinidad said. "They loved it. Katy Perry told me I could win the entire competition."
Trinidad got her first on-screen close-up March 25, singing Roberta Flack's The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face. Just 30 seconds on screen boosted her social media follower counts by more than 100, she said — proof that even her brief run on Idol is already paying dividends.
"It's changing my life because it's making me change my mindset, and it's making me practice all the time," she said. "When I came back, I was like, Wow, I'm realizing that I'm going somewhere every single day."
Philidor, on the other hand, received her ticket to the top 40 March 24, but producers have yet to show her singing this season. Eagle-eyed viewers have only gotten glimpses, mostly in crowd shots and one brief close-up during this week's opening credits.
"It's unfortunate, because I feel like I have the whole city of Tampa rooting for me right now," said Philidor, who goes simply by Shevonne on the show. "I love my city, and they all know it, so it's unfortunate they haven't shown it, but it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason."
But the Idol experience isn't new to Philidor. She's auditioned for the show at least eight times — not to mention others, including America's Got Talent — and was featured during Idol's final season on Fox in 2016. Producers remembered her and invited her back to audition last fall in New York.
Even though she hasn't been spotlighted, she said everything has gone as well as she could have hoped.
"I've gotten standing ovations with every performance, besides my initial audition," she said. "Lionel (Richie) told me I brought him an identity; I told him who I was straight-up when I walked through the door."
Outside Idol, Philidor is a full-time working musician, grinding out regular gigs across Tampa Bay, including a Tuesday night residency at Hyde Park Village steakhouse Timpano. But she decided to do it again because each new connection can pay off in some way.
"I know that I may not be the artist they're necessarily used to working with, because they have a formula, right? The Kelly Clarksons and the Carrie Underwoods, that's their formula," she said. "I'm more of a Lenny Kravitz individual. But I keep coming back because it's an opportunity. I don't lose anything from doing this."
Trinidad and Philidor aren't the only Tampa singers making TV waves in 2019. Over on NBC's The Voice, 18-year-old Domenic Haynes won his first battle round this week with a performance of Aloe Blacc's I Need a Dollar that coach Adam Levine — who had previously called Haynes his favorite Voice singer ever — said showed him "something that I've never really seen before."
Over the next few weeks, all three singers should pop back up on screen in some fashion — starting with Trinidad, who's expected to be featured on Sunday singing Daryl Hall and John Oates' Rich Girl.
"Hands down, that was the most amazing time of my entire life," Trinidad said. "It was just constant good feedback, good learning, making real friends who are really talented, and making connections through that, too. I'm just excited to see what happens. I'm waiting to benefit from everything."
Contact Jay Cridlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.
The top 40 round airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC. The top 20 will continue at 8 p.m. Monday.