A True Tear-Jerker: It’s been a wild 12 months for Marlana

by:Ryan Clark05/14/15


  Marlana Why is there a stigma against men who cry? I mean, we all know it’s there, right? Men are not supposed to cry. Weddings, funerals, graduations — we have to be the rock. We have to remain stoic. Never let ‘em see you cry. Well I just can’t do that. Matt Jones shared recently on the radio that one of his friends cried when he watched Con Air. I had to laugh at that. I can’t cry at action movies. That’s silly. But I can definitely cry at a movie like Miracle or Brian’s Song. I still can’t make it through “One Shining Moment” without tearing up. There’s no harm in that, right? But I always try to hide it. You know — there’s something in my eye. I have allergies. I got stung by a jellyfish. Anything. Then I saw Marlana VanHoose sing the national anthem when UK played Alabama last season. I couldn’t hold back then, either. I had to wipe away tears. I still felt sheepish about it. I tried as best as I could not to let anyone see me cry in such a public setting. It didn’t work. Then I thought: Wow, this teenage girl is powerful. Even when I don’t want someone to see me cry, she can make me do it, anyway. That kid, I thought, must be special. marla The celebrity of Denver, Ky. Marlana VanHoose just keeps adding to her list of accomplishments. At first it was a UK women’s basketball game here and there. She would, with the help of her mother, step out to the Memorial Coliseum basketball court clad in a UK T-shirt and her trademark shades. She’d approach the microphone and more than a few people in the crowd would be wondering: Who is this girl? What’s with the sunglasses? More importantly, as they realized she was getting ready to sing the national anthem: Can she sing? And then she would start, and the crowd would then understand. She could, most definitely, sing. She has now sung for crowds at Kentucky men’s games, a NASCAR Sprint Series race, and at a Brooklyn Nets NBA game. She has sung at the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day festival and even at Rand Paul’s ceremony to announce his candidacy to run for President of the United States. She has been featured on ESPN, the CBS Evening News, in Time Magazine and in the Huffington Post. As her 20th birthday approaches in June, it has been a little over a year since an ESPN E:60 documentary introduced her to the world. Now she has traveled the country, and it seems that at no matter the event, the audience comes away amazed. “Damn she had some pipes!” one admirer from the Rand Paul announcement ceremony said on Twitter. “That was incredible!” raved another. “I don’t know who this little lady is, but she just belted out a powerful National Anthem,” typed another. Forgive her if sometimes she upstages her hosts. For those who don’t know, the story starts in Denver, an unincorporated coal town in rural Eastern Kentucky, just seven miles from Paintsville. There, Marlana was born with cerebral palsy, and without a fully formed optic nerve, which left her unable to see. Doctors said she would live for one year. They were wrong. And as it turns out, the VanHoose family was about to learn a lot more about their daughter. “She was humming ‘Jesus Loves Me’ before she could talk,” her mother, Teresa, says. “By the time she was 2 years old she taught herself to play the piano.” Years later, Marlana started performing at local events and churches. Of course, the family had always been Kentucky basketball fans. They would all get in front of the television to watch, while Marlana would listen to the sounds of the commentators’ voices, the crowd and the sneaker-squeaks. “I had been trying for several years to get her at a men's basketball game with some people trying to help,” Teresa says. “A friend finally helped to get her at the women’s games in 2012.” Word reached the UK sports administrative staff, and they extended an invite — of course, Marlana showed up and brought the Coliseum house down. One experience led to others, which led to even more, including UK men’s games. Now she is a singing superstar. She appeared on the Atlanta Live Gospel Show and has become a member of the Artist Music Guild. And of course, there was that ESPN appearance — that was huge. “It has been much busier,” Teresa says. “And The Rock saw her on ESPN and tweeted about Marlana!” Their schedule has filled up. Her appearances now include festivals in Portland, Ore., Indianapolis, northern Kentucky, Boston, Lexington, Winchester, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. It all fits in to what Teresa hopes Marlana can do. “We hope for her to travel around the world to inspire others,” she says. “Marlana has had so many comments on how she has inspired people, and several of those were from the military and veterans. The comments are just overwhelming with people being inspired and amazed with her talent as well as her personality.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpLL0WdZEaE Never nervous A typical day for the young superstar consists of staying home listening to music, searching videos on YouTube, composing music with her keyboards and taping them on her tape recorders. She loves listening to oldies, as well as Whitney Houston, Adele, and LeAnn Rimes. But don’t forget Shania Twain, or Michael Jackson, or even Johnny and June Cash. It’s an eclectic mix, but one characteristic connects them all: They’re all great singers. Marlana says she isn’t nervous when she’s singing, not even when she knows it’s in front of tens of thousands of spectators, all eyes on her. “I’m never nervous,” she says. “It doesn't bother me to sing in front of a million people. I’m like, ‘Woooo! Pumped up!’” But it’s a lot different for her parents. “Sometimes my legs are shaking during and after she sings,” Teresa says. “Especially when it’s on live TV.” Along the way, they’ve been able to meet some interesting people, including activist Anthony Shriver, Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, “Mini-Me” Verne Troyer, songwriter Desmond Child, Turtleman Ernie Brown, Jr., NBA guard Deron Williams, Reds owner Bob Castellini, NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano, and UK’s Willie Cauley-Stein (one of her favorite athletes), the Harrison twins, Marcus Lee, and John Calipari. That’s quite a list. But all of this does have an end game for Marlana. “I want a music career,” she says. “I want to travel to meet a lot of people.” She’s already done that. Now she’s just adding to those lists. And there’s no doubt that wherever she goes, it’ll be hard to find a dry eye in the house. For more info about Marlana, visit www.littlemarlana.com.


Do you all remember a memorable National Anthem or My Old Kentucky Home performance? I know people will want to talk about Happy Chandler. Did anyone see him perform before or after a game? I remember I saw Billy Ray Cyrus perform the anthem once before a UK game. It was pretty memorable, I think. But I did NOT cry. I’m sure of that. Leave your stories below and let us know. Or email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter: @rhinoKSR and maybe I’ll share them. Go Big Blue!

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