Lillie Nicole McCloud, 54, always dreamed of being a singer. Since she was 5 years old she was singing and dancing around her house inspired by her mother's soulful voice. Originally from Rochester, NY, McCloud has since been an Orlando resident, and her latest mission is vying for her dream on The X Factor. Last night, she performed as one of the show's top ten.
But McCloud's talent, praised by X Factor judges including the notoriously picky Simon Cowell, has also led her into controversy. Some fans of the show have accused McCloud of lying about her past experience as a singer, claiming she's a professional who doesn't belong on an amateur talent competition.
During our phone interview with the singer, McCloud brought up the whole ordeal herself and said she wanted to clear the record.
"Some of the public was questioning or assuming that I was trying to keep a secret by calling myself Lillie instead of Nicole," McCloud says. "What do they want me to call myself? All of my names, which are Lillie Arlene Nicole Jade McCloud?" In the biz, she explains, you can't have more than three names, and she just thought Nicole sounded better than Lillie.
So for years, McCloud performed as Nicole. She got her start in the 1980s, when she went out to a nightclub with one of her girlfriends. There happened to be a live band and with the encouragement (and literal push) of her friend, McCloud took the stage and delivered a powerhouse performance. The club owner noticed her, and "he actually became the first investor and put the money behind my first record," says McCloud.
Using the investment, McCloud went out and found herself a producer. Soon, her songs were charting in the U.S. and Europe. "I thought at that time that that was going to really plunge my career into superstardom," she remembers. But her success was short-lived. At least for the time being.
"When you put a record out, there's no hiding, you put your name on the Internet and all the information is going to come up," McCloud says, "so I didn't understand how they [AKA the haters] could think that I was trying to hide."
McCloud also claims that the haters need to check their facts. While it's true that McCloud did enjoy some success, she says, some of her accomplishments have been embellished. "I've never worked with some of these artists that they say that I've worked with. I was on the same stage, in front of the same audience, but one-on-one, I never did that. And the only red carpet I've ever walked on (before the X Factor), was the one that I vacuumed with my own vacuum cleaner."
She also says the only reason she now performs as Lillie McCloud instead of Nicole is because Cowell started it: "Simon started calling me Lillie and I figured, well okay, I guess I'm Lillie then." She adds that she wouldn't have used that name otherwise. "The only [other] people that call me Lillie are the bill collectors."
Regardless of that minor mishap, McCloud is very happy that she gets to use her first name while in the spotlight. "My mother is proud of that; she's 90 years old and for the first time, she can say it's Lillie, and she's really proud of that."
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