"This is kind of funny," De'Borah Garner said in a phone interview. "The biggest connection I have with Chicago Heights is the bus routes. I know how to get anywhere."
A Heights resident, Garner is arguably the most intriguing contestant on the third season of NBC's The Voice. She's been mistaken for a man because of her short hair, mannerisms and attire, and she announced to the world that she is gay for the first time—right before her blind audition on the show. Needless to say, the woman stands out.
Last week, the 25-year-old singer shared her feelings about coming out on national television with Patch.
"I had never mentioned the words 'I am gay' before," Garner said. "You can look at me and assume, and I had been living that type of lifestyle, but it was needed. Somebody needed to step up to the plate and I find myself in that position and, the gay thing is overwhelming but at the same time it was a big relief so I'm actually happy I said it."
As for the response to her revelation, Garner said her friends and family were hardly surprised. "I got a lot of 'Well duh. We kind of figured that."
The daughter of two Christian pastors, some might wonder how Garner's parents reacted to her coming out.
"Well, I'm their child," Garner said. "They raised me. It's different in my household. Love is a big thing and family is always first. It was no big thing for my parents. Preachers and all, before they're pastors, they're mom and dad."
Message in a Bottle
While Garner's coming out didn't surprise many, she blew away her vocal coach, Christina Aguilera, when she performed "Message in a Bottle," against teammate Nelly's Echo in the battle rounds, which aired Oct. 8.
In fact, that performance drew favorable comparisons to Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill, an observation Garner is used to.
"I've been compared to her since I was like 12," Garner said. "I didn't have (any) idea about her style of music but I've heard her sing in Sister Act 2 and stuff. I see the comparison and I know the rationale is in her riff and run choice. It's actually a big compliment."
Pushing through two rounds of The Voice, Garner is becoming a quickly recognizable face among the 40 remaining contestants on the show. The singer said the next step, the knockout rounds, combines elements of the blind auditions and the battle rounds for another way to judge the performers.
"We sing a solo, and this time we get to be seen," Garner said. "It's a big step. They see what we can do by ourselves. I'm pretty excited about it."
Regardless of how she fares on the next stage of The Voice, Garner said her biggest goal in music is to walk across a different stage.
"My next step is to work hard to get to the Grammys," she said. I've got to get to the Grammys. It's been a lifelong dream since I was seven."
While The Voice officials declined to disclose when Garner will next appear on the show, she has appeared in the previews for the knockout rounds. The singer said she'll be watching the show with her family every night it airs.
"Some of the family will come and watch me jump up and down," she said. "I get so excited when I'm watching it that sometimes I become entertainment while watching myself on TV, which is like a double whammy."
To see De'Borah and the other contestants, watch The Voice Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on NBC.