John Joseph was having a diva meltdown before he went on stage to sing “Lion King” during his second-grade talent show.
“Where’s my tail? Where’s my mane?” he asked, as he marched around backstage. “Do I get a spotlight?”
That’s when Joseph’s father knew he was going to be a singer, and it didn’t take long for Joseph to realize it, as well.
“I was way too comfortable being on stage,” Joseph said, adding that somehow he knew that if he wiggled his tail, he’d make the audience laugh. “I just knew what I wanted to do.”
Years later, the pop musician has continued working toward his dream, and he’s now competing in Radio.com’s “Opening Act” competition, a contest decided entirely by public vote.
“I kind of signed up as a joke — I didn’t think anything of it,” Joseph said. “Then I made it through, and I’ve been no. 1 in my group ever since.”
The winner of the competition receives $10,000 and the chance to perform as the opening act for the We Can Survive concert at the Hollywood Bowl, singing their original music in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,000 and live-streamed to millions more, as well as be given their own private dressing room and a chance to meet the headlining artists, such as the Jonas Brothers, Billie Eilish and Marshmello, according to organizers.
“I’ve idolized all these people for so long and the opportunity to open up for them and to be doing so well in the competition is so mind boggling to me,” Joseph said.
The competition, which began with 1,200 competitors, is now down to the semi-finals with less than 50.
“My page has already grown 1,000 views across all videos — I wasn’t ready for that,” he said. “It’s been cool to see that my hard work is paying off.”
Since a young age, Joseph’s parents said he has never changed career paths.
“I skipped career day in high school,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe in a Plan B. “The only reason you’re thinking of a Plan B is because you don’t believe in your Plan A.”
Though Joseph was always sure of himself as a singer, that didn’t mean he had it easy.
“I’ve been the underdog my whole life, and I was bullied really bad in school for singing,” he said, but keeping his eye on the prize kept him going.
“For me, singing is proving that you can do anything you set your mind to,” he added.
Now, he wants to use singing as a platform to become a role model for others.
“I want to raise awareness for bullying and people struggling with body image,” he said. “The overall message that I want people to get when they listen to my music and when they see me is self-love.”
Many of his songs tackle issues like this, turning his obstacles in life into a positive message for others.
Joseph is no stranger to the Santa Clarita Valley, and can often be seen performing around town at places like The Canyon and Canyon Theatre Guild, as well as for events such as Hart of the Holidays and Relay for Life.
“You name it, I’ve probably done it,” he said. “I love to give back to the community in the way that I know how, which is through my voice.”
Every year it gets bigger and bigger, and he’s performed at the Staples Center and headlined at Palm Springs Pride.
“I just want to continue to grow, write more music, record more music and take it from there,” he said.
Joseph wants to use the competition as a stepping stone, and hopes he can one day become the singer others want to open for.
“It’s such a big opportunity, and I can’t believe I’m doing so well,” he said, adding that it’s been stressful to watch the standings and see some of the votes.
While a lot have been names he doesn’t recognize, some have come from people he hasn’t talked to in years, sharing messages like, “I believe in you, I’ve always believed in you.”
“It’s been so humbling,” he said. “Knowing that years later, you realize you had just as big of an impact in their life as they made in yours.”
Joseph said he has truly been blown away by the support he’s gotten from the local community.
“The city’s outreach to me has been so amazing and so uplifting,” he said. “The fact that people remember me from high school or a show I did 10 years ago at the Canyon Theatre Guild … I don’t take any of it for granted.”
But the most surprising part has been seeing some of his former bullies sharing his links.
“They were kids, so I totally forgive them, but it’s just funny because they’re commenting, ‘We’re so proud of you’ — it’s a full-circle moment,” he said.
Voting for the “Opening Act” competition closes on Oct. 3 and the We Can Survive concert is scheduled Saturday, Oct. 19.