The year is 2011, American Idol alum Lauren Alaina is only 16 years old, and she has just made her Grand Ole Opry debut, with her dad watching in the wings. Fast forward to the current times, her picture has been hung on the wall and she has been officially inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry with Trisha Yearwood by her side.
Standing in the women of country dressing room backstage at the Opry and wearing the exact same necklace she wore during her debut, Alaina spoke to Country Now and several other media outlets in preparation for her special night.
“I’ve been told since a little girl how important the Grand Ole Opry is to country music. Obviously, all I’ve ever wanted was to be a family member in the country music community…it’s the highest honor in country music and I’m so excited,” she gushed just moments before her big moment.
“The last to three years I have really felt like a part of the family,” she continued. “I haven’t officially had my name on the wall or my picture on the wall, but I really felt like, honestly since day one I have felt loved and accepted. But in the last few years, I think people really realized how much the Opry means to me and it means so much to them as well…everybody makes me feel like family already so to officially become a part of the family is hard to put into words.”
She reminisced on the magical night in December that started it all, when Yearwood surprised her with the invitation to become a member and how she felt the next day.
“I did the thing that my mom usually does, I watched the video 100 times and just cried on the couch like such a weirdo,” she said laughing. “I can never tease my mother for this ever again because I’m now doing it. It was such a magical moment for me and it still hasn’t really sunk in I don’t think.”
Just hours before she arrived at the Opry, Alaina was busy prepping mentally and physically. She had a normal day that consisted of a few extra steps – she cleaned, she ate and she cried as she made her way to soundcheck. Once the show began, she stepped into the circle in a stunning dress, sang a few of her hit songs, shared the stage with Yearwood and Garth Brooks, and received a special video message from the iconic Dolly Parton.
“You and I have a lot in common,” Parton began. “We both started young, we love country music, and we love the Grand Ole Opry and I would give a million dollars if I could be there with Trisha and Garth, and all the folks that love you to get you inducted to the Grand Ole Opry. Nothin’ like it, I’ll never forget when got to be on the Grand Ole Opry and when I got to be a member in 1969…but I loved it and I love it still. I just want to wish you the best in your whole career and good luck at the Grand Ole Opry. We love you.”
Yearwood followed Dolly with her own loving speech, before officially inducting Alaina as a member, “This is on behalf of myself, all the members of the grand ole Opry, the crew, everybody who’s associated with the Opry, you are now officially a member of the Grand Old Opry, Miss Lauren Alaina.”
The audience rose for a standing ovation as Alaina took the mic. “This is so awesome,” she shared fighting back joyful tears. “I just wanna say that I promise to do everything I can to represent country music…and I promise to represent this family well. I have felt like a family here as long as I can remember from the people who help us with our parking spots to these guys that play on the stage with me to people who put you in your seats. Everyone at the Opry has always made me feel like family.”
“Most little girls dream of their weddings, I dreamed of this,” Alaina added.
She performed five songs, the most she’s ever done on this stage before – “Getting Over Him,” “One Beer,” “What Ifs,” “Road Less Traveled,” and a cover of “Walkaway Joe” with Yearwood.
Not only is Alaina the youngest living member of the Opry, but she is also the sixth straight member to be a solo female artist or a group that contains female artists.
She received an overwhelming amount of support on Saturday, February 12, the night her “biggest dream come true.” From those that were present, her family, friends and team members, and those who were rooting her on from afar, including Parton, Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood and more, Alaina received congratulatory gifts, encouraging messages and plenty of love.
Other performers of the night included Lorrie Morgan, The Issacs, Wendy Moten, Riders in the Sky, Connie Smith and Mark Wills.