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Vocal powerhouse Iliana Incandela

Iliana Incandela

Iliana Incandela

Iliana Incandela is a well-known voice throughout the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Her powerful presence on stage keeps an audience in awe of her vocal delivery and beauty.

Incandela was named the Columbus Day Queen in 2010, and is incredibly grateful for the support she has received from the community. She’s also a recipient of a 2010 David Award from the IANU Foundation, which further raised her profile.

On August 30, Incandela took her game to a whole new level, treating the audience in a taping at the Vic Theatre to a powerhouse version of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” and winning the right to represent Chicago as a finalist in the CW’s newest show, “The Next.”

Unlike other vocal talent competitions, “The Next” eschews the typical cattle call for a more discriminating approach. The judges assess their contestants based not only on talent but also their local following.

Incandela has an incredible group of fans throughout Chicagoland and beyond. Not only was she the Columbus Day Queen, she sings with her father Enzo weekly at Bella Via Ristorante in Highland Park during the summer months. She also wowed the crowds at this year’s Festa Italiana in Milwaukee, and she was the opening act when Il Volo performed in that city in 2011.

“This is what I want to do. This is what I am put on this earth for,” she passionately states. “To make people happy through my music.”

At the tender age of 17 years old, Incandela had a chance encounter with singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan in an airport in Madrid, after completing an internship with Hugo Boss.

Being star-struck and never expecting to run into her idol, Incandela wasn’t able to work up the nerve to talk to her, but that momentary sighting had a profound impact on her.

Estefan ended being the subject of Incandela’s senior thesis at Dominican University. “Gloria Estefan has been one of my idols, and there were signs and symbols in my life that related to her,” states Incandela.

After graduating from Dominican with a degree in communications, Incandela decided to pursue her musical dreams while working at her freelance graphic design business, i2 Designs.

After hearing about “The Next” from a musical producer she had worked with, Incandela sent in an audition tape and resume in May 2012, waiting for what seemed like forever to find out if she had made the cut.

Fast forward to July 2012, and none other than Gloria Estefan shows up in a waitress uniform at Bella Via Ristorante, surprising Incandela with the news that she would be a contestant on the show!

Incandela was in utter shock to discover that all of her hard work and patience had paid off. Estefan would become Incandela’s mentor on the show, with pop stars like Joe Jonas, John Rich and Nelly supporting the other contestants.

For 72 hours, Estefan immersed herself in Incandela’s home life in Glenview before making the trek to Los Angeles for the live shows. “She is Cuban and has a lot of vitality,” Incandela explains. “We had an espresso contest and did a congo line in my kitchen to her music, she fit right in with my family!”

Estefan provided Incandela with emotional as well as professional support, tapping into a time when she was an up-and-coming singer making her way in show business. The star helped Incandela tailor the songs she sang live on the show, such as Sarah Bareilles’ “King of Anything.” She also stressed the importance of adding her own touch to the popular musical numbers so that the audience and voters at home would remember Incandela for her unique voice.

Incandela wowed the crowd, making it to the finale on the strength of her incredible talent as well as the support of her family, her community and Estefan. “Gloria is extremely honest and sweet,” Incandela says. “I consider her like family.”

As America voted at home on their computers and cell phones, members of Incandela’s immediate family — including, her mother, Nella, and her father, local vocal legend Enzo Incandela — were in the audience for every round, showing their love and support.

Incandela’s shared her talent, spirit, glamour and pizzazz with the entire nation during her string of bravura performances in the City of Angels. The experience and exposure she gained will stand her in good stead as she follows in the footsteps of her idol.

For more, visit ilianainc.com or facebook.com/ilianamusic1.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary's college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.