When Grace Kinstler stepped out on the “American Idol” stage last Sunday, the lights were dimmed so fans could only see an outline of the singer.
“I can hear you but I won’t,” Kinstler sings as she begins her “Into The Unknown” cover for Disney night, wearing a tight blue floor length sparkly dress, reminiscent of Elsa.
Instead of discussing her voice, online trolls began body shaming the plus size singer, suggesting she needs to “dress better for her body style” or go to the gym. But those comments were drowned out by hundreds of positive responses from young girls and women.
“They want people to stick to like the old norms of if you’re plus size you can’t do this because you don’t fit the mold or you shouldn’t wear this,” Kinstler told MassLive. “I don’t agree with that. “
The singer’s outfit on Sunday wasn’t just a look for “American Idol”, it’s the 20-year-old Berklee College of Music student style, she said.
“I like to wear things that I feel good in,” she said. “I think I look nice, so I like to share that.”
She’s always looked up to celebrities such as Ashley Graham and Lizzo. She also has a lot of encouragement from her friends and family.
Now, she hopes to be that for other people.
“There are a lot of people who appreciate the message that I’m sending for their kids and their daughters. Even older women have reached out to me saying, ‘I am 40 years old but I still look up to you because I wish I had that confidence. You’re making me regain my confidence.’” Kinstler said. “And that means the world to me.”
“Dear Grace, you really are an inspiration for all young girls,” one women Tweeted. “Wish I had your confidence when I was growing up.”
“I hope you get a record deal even if you don’t win. Cause as a plus sized lady myself we need more singers who look like you,” another person commented on Instagram.
But the confidence starts with yourself, she said.
“You can’t love yourself just because someone else loves you,” she said. “You have to love yourself because you love you. Because at the end of the day, you’re all that you really have.”
Although, she admits her level of confidence doesn’t come naturally at all times.
“Even despite all that support, sometimes it’s still hard,” she said. “It’s hard but once you get there it’s a very rewarding place.”
Kinstler loves getting supportive messages from fans but avoids reading comments where trolls are involved. But, she admits, her mom still reads those.
“She’s always like, ‘Oh sweetie, people don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t worry about it,” Kinstler said laughing, adding that she loves her mom very much.
On May 9, Kinstler will be performing to make this season of “American Idol’s” top 5. She is among only one other woman and is the last Berklee student left in the competition.
For future rounds, Kinstler said she’ll be tapping into “the vulnerability side and the emotional side, instead of like the confident performative side because I feel like that’s how you connect with [people].”
Contestants are singing Coldplay songs on Sunday. But for her second song, Grace said she’ll be performing a song from Adele to help show that side vulnerable of her.
Kinstler has been open about the death of her father in February 2020.
A year ago, she previously told MassLive, she was in “a very rough place” after her dad died and with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wish he was here so I could call him and tell him what’s going on,” she said in an interview with “American Idol.” “I really miss my dad.”
But she’s also looking to be vulnerable in other aspects of her life, including topics such as friendship and love.
One of those friendships was with ‘American Idol’ contestant Alyssa Wray, who was sent home last episode.
“I was so shocked that she got sent home, and I know a lot of people were too,” Kinstler said. “And it’s just crazy because there are so many amazingly, amazingly talented people who should still be here.”
The look of shock and sadness on Kinstler’s face when it was announced her friend was going home on Sunday night was apparent. As Kinstler moves forward in the competition, it’s those kinds of emotions she wants her fans to feel right along side her as she performs.
Kinstler has also already released some of her music on Spotify and iTunes.
Something she hopes to continue doing after “American Idol” as she hopes to carve out a spot permanently in Hollywood that is all her own. Her music, she envisions, will be somewhere between Demi Lovato and Adele — but still all her own.