Brooke Mills Simpson’s incredible run on the NBC singing competition show “The Voice” has become about more than one young woman trying to be a star.
Simpson, currently in the show’s Top 8, has become a symbol of pride for her hometown community of Hollister, her Haliwa-Saponi tribe and Native American groups across the country.
The support of family and fans, and of Native Americans in particular, has meant the world to her, Simpson said in an interview Friday.
“Just the support of my tribe has been insane,” she said. “They’ve been so supportive in letting me know they’re behind me 100 percent. But then on top of that, I have so many other tribes across the country messaging me, emailing me, figuring out ways to contact me and let me know I’m representing them as well, and how proud they are of me.”
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Archie Lynch, the tribal administrator for the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Hollister, says the community has a lot of things to be proud of, and Simpson is one of them.
Hollister, an unincorporated community about 55 miles northeast of Raleigh in Halifax County, is home to many of the 3,800 members of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. The community is full of flags and signs and posters boosting the singer, Lynch said.
“We’re a very small community and it has given us a sense of pride to support one of our own at that level,” Lynch said. “And it has gotten people together probably, that ordinarily wouldn’t be. I think everybody in the community has a T-shirt that says ‘Brooke’ on it.”
Simpson is grateful for the support.
“It’s such a huge honor and, I don’t know, I never expected to play that role in their lives,” Simpson said. “Just to be able to play a small role in shedding light on people that a lot of time are forgotten, that’s so special.”
The 26-year-old singer quickly became one of the most popular contestants on the program, with show-stopping performances and high praise from coaches week after week. All four coaches on the show – Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Jennifer Hudson and Miley Cyrus – competed to nab Simpson in the show’s season premiere. Simpson picked pop star Cyrus.
“Brooke has the biggest voice in this competition,” Cyrus said during last week’s performance show. During a show in early November, Hudson told Simpson, “You have a voice that’s like, beyond.” In the same episode, Levine told her, “I’ll see you in the finale, and I will cry because I love you and I wanted you on my team.”
Simpson has gotten stronger and more confident each week.
Two weeks ago she sang Pink’s “What About Us,” dedicating the stirring, drum-heavy anthem to Native American fans who have been writing her with support. Last week, Simpson blew everyone away with a powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace” that landed her near the top of the iTunes charts.
She performs again on Monday night’s show, and will once again need the votes of fans to advance. The show’s finale airs next week, with a winner named on the Dec. 19 episode.
The chance to perform on the show is a dream, Simpson said.
“Just to be able to have this opportunity is everything that I’ve ever dreamed of. Sometimes it feels normal and then sometimes it’ll randomly hit me ... and I’ll just burst out in tears because I realize after 26 years of thinking that this would never happen, it’s happening.”
And what about that “Amazing Grace” single that had her at No. 2 on iTunes, just below Beyonce?
“That was crazy!” Simpson said. She found out when her phone started blowing up after the performance with messages from friends. “They were like, ‘Look, you’re Number 2! Your name is next to Beyonce!’ Yeah, it was wild. It was crazy.”
Life before ‘The Voice’
Before she started singing for an audience of about 10 million viewers each week, Simpson worked as a creative assistant at a church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., alongside her husband, Ray, who is the church’s worship leader.
Simpson said the two of them would sing together whenever they could – “open mic nights, casinos, coffee shops, anywhere we can find an opportunity to sing original songs. ... That was my outlet before ‘The Voice.’ ”
While she’s been on the show, her husband has been taking care of things at home, including their cat and two dogs. (“I miss them so much, I feel like a mom that’s abandoning her children,” she said.) He has even taken on some of her workload.
“My husband has been the best support system in the entire world,” Simpson said. “He’s been holding down the fort at home with work and everything. He’s doing everything that we’d do as a team for everyday life.”
But he made it out to Los Angeles for the first live show and plans to be in the audience this week. Her mother, Jimille Mills, has attended every live show until this week; she’s staying in Hollister on Monday for a big watch party. Simpson’s brother and sister made the trip two weeks ago and her father, Mike Mills, was present last week. Her parents are evangelists.
“My dad was able to come last week for the Top 10 show and that was really special because since (my mom) has been coming, he’s had to stay behind and do all of the ministry work, because that’s their full-time job. But he was able to come back out for the first time since the blind auditions.”
‘I just want to sing my music’
No matter what happens on “The Voice,” Simpson has no plans to stop singing.
“I want to make music my career for the rest of my life,” she said. “If I can do that on a larger scale, that’s awesome. But even if that opportunity doesn’t come and I can just make a living by singing even to 10 people a night, singing the songs I write and reaching them, honestly, that’s the dream. I just want to sing my music.”
With her fans behind her, that larger-scale scenario isn’t a crazy one. Her fans are devoted, and they have so far voted in force. And Simpson definitely feels – and appreciates – her connection with them.
“I don’t even call them my fans, they’re like my family – my fan-family,” she said. “I’m so grateful for them and the fact that at the beginning of this show I was just counting on one person – Miley – to believe in me, and now every week millions and millions of people never fail to believe in me. That’s insane and so overwhelming, and I’m just so grateful.”
Watch ‘The Voice’
“The Voice” airs at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC. During that show, fans can begin voting for their favorites online, with voting going until noon on Tuesday. The results show airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The finale of the “The Voice” will air in two parts next week. The first part of the finale airs 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18. The winner of the competition will be named in the finale airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19.
How to vote on ‘The Voice’
There are many ways to vote.
You can vote online at NBC.com or on “The Voice” Facebook page. You can vote through The Voice mobile app. You can vote at iTunes by purchasing eligible songs by the artists or by streaming the songs through Apple Music.
Comcast cable viewers can also vote through X1 remote or at The xfinity website.
Here are all the rules.