Heart-Wrenching Idol Audition: Teen Reveals Loss of Friends after Illness Caused Weight Gain


Maddie Zahm, 19, from Boise, Idaho, overcame a huge personal battle when she auditioned for American Idol. As a child, she was extremely passionate about music, even throwing American Idol themed birthday parties.

Zahm is a special education teacher and helps her students live out their own passion for music. Her best friend of six years, Marcus, also came to her audition. He has down syndrome. Zahm said that Marcus sees her for who she is and really helped her get through a difficult time in which she didn’t have many friends.

Her senior year of high school, Zahm began to gain weight — about 100 pounds in one year. She knew something wasn’t right. When she went to the doctor, she was told that she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance in women that can cause fatigue, infertility, and weight gain. About 10 million women in the world have this condition.

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As a teenager, Zahm’s weight gain really lowered her self-esteem. It even affected her friendships and her love for music.

She told the Idaho Statesman, “Music was something I hid because I was fearful, I don’t know, that they were going to overlook that and just focus on me being plus-sized.”

She kept putting off auditioning for American Idol because she wanted to wait for the right time — when she had lost the weight and was skinnier.

Then one day she was sitting in class and realized, “there is no right time.” For Zahm, auditioning for American Idol was a way to prove to herself that she could use her talents to inspire confidence in others. Especially those who don’t fit the mold, like her students.

Knowing that music is something that Zahm loves for the way it brings people together, she really had to evaluate her reason for entering a competition.

Zahm explained it this way, “My purpose is NOT to beat these people. My purpose to create relationships and my purpose is to be able to use this confidence that I’ve found. And not only that, but to prove my special ed students that you can overcome anything.”

America is already loving her and showing their support. On her Facebook page, people have left sweet notes of encouragement in the reviews section. One woman wrote, “Maddie I want to encourage you to continue to push fwd with confidence and amazing voice in this competition! I too found out I had PCOS in high school. I know the emotional toll it can take! But, you aren’t letting that stop you! I don’t even know you and can tell how much of a big heart you have!”

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Maddie is already accomplishing her goal for this competition by inspiring many across the country. It will be fun to watch her story continue to unfold throughout the season.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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