The Vandalia Leader

Follow Us On:


Posted on Thursday, December 28, 2023 at 8:20 am

THE VOICE — “Live Finale Part 1” Episode 2422A — Pictured: (l-r) Ruby Leigh, Carson Daly — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)


Missouri’s own Ruby Leigh finishes second on ‘The Voice’

By Gregory Orear

Lincoln County

Journal Publisher

LOS ANGELES—She was the youngest contestant on the reality show “The Voice,” from the smallest of towns, Foley, Mo., population 93, which sports one Dollar General store, and what’s been described as one “nifty” spotlight.

But 16-year-old Ruby Leigh wasted no time making the biggest impression, earning the coveted four-chair approval from the judges with her rendition of “I Wanna Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” during blind auditions. Featuring her yodeling signature, Leigh’s performance went viral racking up more than 15 million views online.

Backed by her coach, Reba McEntire, Ruby Leigh tore through the “Battles” and “Playoffs” rounds, with her coach choosing Leigh over other teammates to advance eventually to the playoffs, where viewers of the show decided who would advance each week.

By that point, Leigh had not only won the hearts of McEntire but the nation and easily moved from the field of 12 to nine down to the final round of five.

In that final episode Tuesday night, Ruby kept winning as the show’s host, Carson Daly, started announcing places.

Fifth place, Lilah Forde.

Fourth place, Jacquie Roar.

Third place, Mara Justine.

It was time to cut to the commercial to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Only Ruby Leigh and Michael Huntley remained on the stage.

The two performers couldn’t be more different. Ruby is country western. Huntley is self-described as a “blues rocker.” Ruby is 16 and single while Huntley is more than twice that age with daughters of his own. Ruby is new to the national scene while Huntley had previously auditioned not once, but twice for American Idol. And well, Ruby looks like a typical 16-year-old from the Midwest while Huntley looks part Viking, part grizzly bear.

When the show returned, after a minor dramatic build-up, Daly announced the news: Ruby had finally, met her match.

When Huntley’s name was announced, with tears in his eyes, he immediately turned and embraced Ruby, his closest competition.

Ruby and Huntley had been the odds-on favorites to win the 24th season of the show from the start of the finals three weeks ago. Heading into their final solo performances Monday night last week, followed by the overnight voting by viewers, either musician seemingly had an equal chance at winning the $100,000 prize and a recording contract.

Ruby, who had primarily stuck fairly close to her country western roots in song selections throughout, showcased a little more diversity Monday night, opening with her version of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”

“I think this is perfect because everyone knows this song,” McEntire said of the selection before the performance. “When they hear the beginning, everybody’s going to be very curious to see what Ruby is going to do with it.”

What she did—is what she has done all season long. There were no explosions, no dancing around the stage. Just a voice. Ruby’s voice. And it was enough to do what she has done all season long: wow the judges.

“You’re so remarkable, I’ve been a fan from the very beginning,” John Legend agreed. “Your voice has so much heft and maturity, it feels like everything’s in bold type.”

Legend, in fact, could make the claim he was Leigh’s first fan as he turned his chair before the other three judges during her now-famous blind audition.

And of course, Leigh’s coach had plenty of praise to add.

“You have amazed me every time you get on that stage,” McEntire told her. “Elvis Presley might have recorded it first, but you Ruby-ized it … You did it like a champ, and the pro that you are.”

For her ballad selection, Leigh ended with a cover of the Eagles’ famous hit, “Desperado.”

This time, it was Gwen Stefani singing Ruby’s praises.

“Sometimes you just wanna cry on TV … .” Stefani told her. “That was so perfect and beautiful, and it’s just mesmerizing that you’re 16 and you can sing like that.”

Earlier in the show, McEntire explained Ruby wasn’t a singer.

“You have singers and stylists,” she said. “You are definitely a stylist. That sets you apart from everybody else. You know it when Ruby comes on the radio.”

And although Ruby finished this chapter of her life and career one step from her goal, her father, Casey Anderson, reminded her during a coaching session with McEntire that she has already achieved so much.

“You’ve inspired so many young kids to take a chance [and] don’t be afraid to dream,” he said.

Before her performance, Ruby told her coach, mentor and friend how important her influence had been.

“Thank you so much for believing in me from the beginning and pushing me through to where I’m at,” she said. “I already feel like a winner. Whatever happens, I’ve made it farther than a lot of people can say, and I feel so blessed and I’m so glad I picked you.”

Those who had the privilege to see Ruby perform live during Louisiana’s Colorfest and Clarksville’s Applefest, they can consider themselves lucky.