Shaina "Shi" Scott got about one hour of sleep before she and her three teammates performed a group rendition of Michael Jackson's "Pretty Young Thing" before a slate of "American Idol" judges, but she pushed through the sleep deprivation to give a successful performance and advance to the next round of the popular televised singing competition.
"It's a crash course on working hard and becoming a superstar and learning the music," Scott, a 19-year-old former Harford County resident, said Tuesday.
The group performances, which are part of the series' Hollywood Week, aired last week. Scott advanced to the solo performance round, and her latest performance is scheduled to air Thursday on Fox at 8 p.m.
"American Idol" is in its 14th season.
"It's one of the hardest and greatest things I've ever done in my life," Scott said of her Hollywood Week experience.
Hollywood Week performances were taped during October 2014 in Los Angeles. Scott said that phase of the competition, in which 218 contestants were whittled down to 48, is about separating "people who are about being a star and people who don't necessarily have it in them yet."
"It's about people who have a good work ethic and are committed," she continued.
Scott and her teammates – Andrew Bloom, of California, Adam Ezegelian, of New York, and Ron "Big Ron" Wilson, of Florida – had just one day to learn their song before they performed in front of judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.
"You're learning the music the night before, and you're staying up all night to do it," she said.
Scott said she "spent about 10 hours trying to relearn words that my mind couldn't hold onto anymore."
"The judges really, really know what they're talking about," she said.
Scott lives in Gaithersburg and is a recent graduate of Gaithersburg High School. She grew up in Belcamp and attended Church Creek Elementary School and Aberdeen Middle School before moving to Montgomery County.
She works as a freelance model and party motivator, and she has been singing since she was a child. Scott began writing songs at age 14.
Scott said "pretty much everything" the judges have told her during the competition has had value to her, citing their experience as performers.
Urban is a Grammy-winning country music artist. Lopez, also known as J.Lo, is a chart-topping pop music artist and actress, and Connick is a singer and musician specializing in jazz, pop and big band, as well as an actor.
Scott said the number one piece of advice she received from the judges is that "performance is the key."
"When people are watching you perform music, they come to experience you, not just hear you," she said.
Scott said she has been "pushing myself as a human trying to connect to other humans."
If Scott makes it through the solo round, she will be one of 48 remaining contestants who will perform in front of a live audience at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, according to a Fox news release. That pre-taped episode is scheduled to air Feb. 18.
The 24 people who make the cut will perform in Detroit, which will be the first time fans can vote on their favorite performers. That part of the contest will air on two nights, Feb. 25 and Feb. 26.