Get to know the host and judges for East Texas Idol

East Texas Idol is around the corner, and 15 contestants from all around East Texas will be singing live for a chance to earn a silver ticket to an American Idol judge city. Each contestant will test their talent live in front of three judges: Billie Jo, Vivian Villapudua and Charles Praytor.

This year, the judges are bringing in their own skill set with their own performances ranging from local East Texas stages to national stages to help decide who will be the next East Texas Idol.

And the first time ever, East Texas Idol is also bringing in a local host for the event: RJ Norman.

Let’s get to know our host and judges:

RJ Norman


RJ Norman has been acting and singing professionally since 1998. He appeared on television as an American Idol Hollywood semifinalist in 2006, and went on to sing in local rock band Sunset Veil. He is now seen regularly performing at Liberty Hall or private corporate events with improv comedy group Card 53 Comedy. 2019 marks their 10th year of making East Texas laugh!

He has been married to his best friend Natalie for 9 years, and enjoys keeping life young and fun with his 7 year old son, Ryder.

Card 53’s next show is Saturday, August 24th at Liberty Hall in Tyler. And Card 53’s Jamey Whitley will be hosting an adult improv workshop at Tyler Civic Theatre Center on September 7th.

Check out Card 53 Comedy here.

Billie Jo


A proud native of Texas, Billie Jo is a country singer and songwriter. Most recently, Billie Jo was chosen by Shania Twain and featured on the USA Network’s “Real Country.” She has also been on American Idol and The Voice! Billie Jo has opened for Ray Price, Gene Watson, The Oakridge Boys, and many more.

Billie Jo released her first single in October of 2018 called “Favorite Place To Be”. That song is currently up for song of the year with the Texas Country Music Awards and she is also nominated for Female Vocalist Of The Year. The Texas Country Music Awards will be held at Billy Bobs on Sunday September 22nd.

Recently Billie Jo just released a brand new single called “It Scares Me” go check it out on ITunes, Spotify and Apple Music! You can also see Billie Jo perform at the East Texas State Fair on September 28th.

Follow Billie Jo and her music here.

Vivian Villapudua


Vivian Villapudua has been singing for her friends and family ever since she can remember. She particularly enjoys the melodious nature of blues and soul music, with one of her biggest inspirations being Etta James and her singing style that overflows with emotion. Music has always been a pivotal component in her life.

In addition to her innate passion for music, she graduated from UT Austin with a degree in Economics and a certificate in Business Foundations. Vivian aspires to share her love and enthusiasm for music by singing for people.

Vivian appeared in ABC’s second season of American Idol, making it all the way to Hollywood week.

Follow Vivian and her music on her Facebook page.

Charles Praytor


A native of Texas, Charles Praytor was raised in the Dallas metroplex but moved to East Texas as a teen. Charles attended Tyler Junior College his freshman and sophomore years of college, earning an associates degree in Music while studying piano under Kerry Baham. He completed his education at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he earned a masters degree in piano performance under the direction of John Solomons.

Charles returned to East Texas where he was hired as professor of piano and music at TJC. He is active in Tyler’s theatre community, serving as music director and stage director of many shows at Tyler Civic Theatre, and serving as music director for shows at Tyler Junior College. He also plays bass with his band Al and the Longshots. Charles resides in Tyler with his wife Casey and their son Arthur.

Learn more about Al and the Longshots on their Facebook page.

East Texas Idol is happening Friday, August 23rd at 6:30 p.m. at Liberty Hall in Tyler. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. You can watch the entire competition live on East Texas Now.

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Related:

Get to know the top 15 contestants for East Texas Idol