American Idol mentor opens up about relationship (with video)

Xavier Smith • Feb 6, 2016 at 10:00 AM

This season’s American Idol features a familiar face to some local residents and it’s no coincidence.

Lori Seay, of Lebanon, is a mentor/family friend/personal stylist to American Idol contestant Tristan McIntosh, of Nashville, and her relationship with McIntosh and family was displayed on previous episodes of the show.

McIntosh recently claimed her spot as one of this season’s top 24 contestants. Seay said the relationship with McIntosh started because of her relationship with another local idol – CoCo Jones.

“She’s a fan of CoCo Jones and she found out I was CoCo’s stylist,” said Seay, who said the connection grew after meeting the McIntosh family. Seay also said McIntosh and Jones met and made a connection from their love of music, which was displayed on McIntosh’s Instagram page.


A little Alicia Keys with @cocojones @thebest.of.covers

A video posted by Tristan McIntosh (@trismcintosh) on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:04pm PDT

“They’re both up and coming – well, CoCo has made it – but they’re both young and beautiful singers and great people,” Seay said.

McIntosh won the hearts of American Idol judges Jennifer “J. Lo” Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban with her rendition of Mickey Guyton’s “Why Baby Why.”

However, the most emotional part of McIntosh’s performance featured her mother, Amy, who surprised her daughter after the audition after being deployed to the Middle East. Amy McIntosh, at the time, was a U.S. Army Major. She has since retired.

McIntosh, along with Seay, burst into tears as she walked around a corner and surprised her daughter.

“I had no idea. We started at 6 a.m. and when we would talk to her, she would talk about the overcast and some pizza places she heard about in Little Rock,” Seay said.

Seay said when she entered the audition, it turned into another world that she didn’t expect American Idol to be, and understood what separates it from other auditions.

“At that point, I was wishing her mom could there because something of that magnitude and for her not to be there would be a big missed opportunity,” she said. Seay said the moment, which caused a shriek, made her feel like she was watching the show at her own home.

Meanwhile, in the audition room, Lopez praised McIntosh on her voice, style and personality.

“I see, in you, something very, very special,” Lopez said. “I’m really good friends with Alicia Keys and not only do you remind me of her because of how you look, but because of your heart. It’s just beautiful and special.”

Seay said the comments made the moment more special. “It was very heartfelt and I’ve heard those things before from other people – even from right here in Lebanon. She heard it from CoCo,” she said.

“It’s like a one in a million chance to have the opportunity to have someone like J. Lo say ‘she might win’ was an iconic moment. Unbelievable.”

Seay said the performance caught the attention of Guyton, who wanted to meet McIntosh. Seay said the duo met at a Starbucks, where Guyton asked McIntosh to join her onstage for a performance of the song at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works. Seay said she has also been swept up in McIntosh’s overnight exposure.

“I’ve become that lady (on the show). They ask me if I could stop that girl,” said Seay of what happens often when they’re out together.

However, Seay said McIntosh has remained humble since the audition.

“She still does the things she did in the beginning. She’s excited, of course, but she doesn’t have the big head,” Seay said. McIntosh enjoys reading, knitting and lizards, according to Seay.

“She’s friendly, humble and kind. She’s an all-around kid. She has straight A’s. Lebanon has really taken a liking to her.”

McIntosh has performed at several local events and local places, such as Sammy B’s, have held watch parties for the local favorite.

“I appreciate the support we’ve been getting from Lebanon,” Seay said. McIntosh’s resemblance of Keys is something Seay said is not hard to steer away from when she styles the new star.

“Tristan has big say in what she wears. She doesn’t like anything too over the top, so I kind of have to pull that out, sometimes,” she said. However, Seay said McIntosh has skills as a makeup artist, which helps when there’s short time for wardrobe changes.

Seay said above all, she’s doing something she loves – helping young women.

“I enjoy mentoring young ladies. I don’t care if it’s an American Idol or down the street,” said Seay, noting activities include swimming, coffee dates, fishing and even the symphony.

McIntosh reads music and when she went to a symphony with Seay, she became excited when talking about the composer.

“She recognized a Gershwin piece. She’s 15 and recognizes Gershwin. She brilliant. She’s so articulate,” Seay said.

Seay said the journey with McIntosh is one in a lifetime, although relationships and life situations make it hard to leave Lebanon, at times.

“This is a journey of a lifetime. It’s exhilarating and life changing. I’ve seen so many things that helped me open my eyes and helped me. If I help someone else, I feel like my heart is good,” she said.

“Most of all, she’s having fun,” Seay said. 

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