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Friday, May 27, 2022

Rion Paige blew away the judges on THE X FACTOR with her cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” on Aug. 11.

They smiled as Paige skipped across the stage and greeted the judges, cheerfully explaining her disability, Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, an abnormal curving of the hands. Simon Cowell’s signature stone expression quickly turned to a grin when Paige belted out the song’s chorus.

Katie Lawless, a UF alumna and former entertainment overall for Dance Marathon at the University of Florida, said the first time she saw Paige was when she booked Gainesville musician Jamie Davis, who requested Paige as his opening performance.

She said Paige hopped onto the stage in her cowboy boots, curly blonde hair and sparkly dress and greeted the crowd with a bubbly “howdy y’all!”

“I just thought ‘Oh my god this girl is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,’ and then she started singing,” Lawless said. “The voice that came out of that mouth was stunning.”

She went on to perform twice at Dance Marathon in April, once as an opening act and another with her own 40-minute set.

“I believe the crowd truly loves her because of her energy,” she said. “She’s so young, so it’s pure talent.”

Christine Diaz, a 20-year-old psychology UF transfer student, said she was blown away by Paige’s performance on THE X FACTOR.

“At first I felt bad for her because of her disability,” she said. “But once she started singing I was mesmerized.”

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