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  1. All Eyes

For years she couldn’t speak, then she found her voice through song

Jennifer Reynolds, 42 and her daughter, Cierra Reynolds, 18, pose for a portrait together at their home in Largo. 
MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE   |   Times
Jennifer Reynolds, 42 and her daughter, Cierra Reynolds, 18, pose for a portrait together at their home in Largo. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times
Published Jul. 24, 2019
Updated Jul. 25, 2019

For a time she wasn’t understood.

Cierra Reynolds was diagnosed with autism when her parents noticed she wasn’t meeting certain milestones. She would flap her arms, wouldn’t talk.

MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times

Her mother, Jennifer Reynolds took her to a doctor who confirmed, high-functioning autism. She would be fine, but she’d probably be a little slower than the other kids, not process things as quickly. The doctor told Jennifer that Cierra would probably be the kid who misses the joke.

"I didn’t think that was very funny,” Jennifer said. “My kid will get the joke.”

Monday night at Tropicana Field, Cierra sang the national anthem at the Rays series opener against the Red Sox. She wore a red dress and hoped she wouldn’t be taken for a Sox fan.

Cierra Reynolds, 18, takes the mic at Tropicana Field to sing the national anthem at the Rays game on Monday. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times

When she sings, it’s as if Cierra’s making up for those years she couldn’t speak. She has a strong, clear voice; commanding and steady. She never seemed nervous.

“I’m not nervous,” Cierra said. “I’m just going to sing for fun.”

Jennifer filmed from the sidelines, tears sliding down her cheeks. She is her daughter’s biggest supporter; her videographer, her promoter and her best friend. Cierra finished strong with a smile that suggested she didn’t expect anything less. There was clapping, applause and her mother’s waiting arms.

Saturday Cierra will audition for The Voice. She will sing “Diamond Heart” by Lady Gaga, she feels that song describes her. Jennifer knows she will be amazing. She never doubted Cierra would be heard.

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