Willie Spence, the runner-up on Season 19 of American Idol, reportedly died after succumbing to injuries from a Oct. 11 car accident in Tennessee. The rising talent, who spoke with HollywoodLife in 2021 about his career ambitions, was only 23 at the time of the tragedy. Sadly, his last Instagram post was an announcement for an upcoming concert in London.
The singer’s local newspaper, Douglas Now, was first to report the news of his death on Facebook. “He was an extraordinary talent and a ray of light to millions across the world,” the outlet added. “He will be missed.” Katharine McPhee, who performed with Willie during his time on Idol, took to her Instagram Story shortly after the announcement, writing, “Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised.” She added, “God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you.”
Keep reading to find out more about the exceptional singer, below.
1. Wille Underwent A Major Weight Loss
Before his audition on American Idol, Willie opened up about a health scare that pushed him to lose weight to save his own life. “I turned myself into the hospital to get a checkup because I had pain in my chest,” Willie explained. “The doctors told me they found fluid in my lungs. I weighed 600 pounds. When they told me that, I knew I had to focus more on my health. I went from 600 pounds to 400 pounds.”
2. How Did Willie Lose The Weight?
Willie’s story impressed host, Ryan Seacrest, who asked him how he was able to get himself into better shape. “My eating was a big part of it,” Willie admitted. “I have a trainer now. I’m doing better. I have no fluid.” Altogether, Willie lost over 180 pounds by the time he auditioned. “I’m just being healthy and focusing,” he said. “If I don’t have good health, I won’t be able to sing.”
3. Willie Has Already Released His Own Original Music
It’s still unclear how things will play out for Willie on American Idol, but he’s already working towards his dreams of being a musician. Earlier this year, Willie released his latest single, “So Gone,” and even put out a music video for the song. On his official YouTube page, he posts many videos of himself covering other artists’ songs, but also shares his own original music, as well.
4. Willie Is Extremely Close With His Family
Willie credits his family with helping him get through the hard times. “I do this for my family,” he said before his audition. “They’ve always supported me. They’ve been there since the very beginning.” During showstopper week, Willie added, “This year has been a tough year. Being in the hospital really scared me. I thought I wasn’t going to survive. My family got me through it, as well, and I’m very thankful.
Willie’s family even made a virtual appearance during the episode. “We all love you with all of our hearts,” his mom, Sharon, gushed. “We pray that you continue and let God let you climb this ladder of success with American Idol.”
5. Where Is Willie From?
Willie was born in Florida and raised in Douglas, Georgia. Willie has a strong connection to his hometown. While speaking to the judges after his showstopper round performance, Willie said he knows that the people back home in Douglas are “very happy” and “proud” of him.