On New Year's Day 2011, Brandie Drumwright performed in her first singing competition, an event called "It's Your Time" in Rocky Mount, hosted by Joe Gray, stage producer of New York City's legendary Apollo Theater.
She won first place that day, but that's not all.
Gray was so impressed with her performance that he decided to submit footage from the concert, along with her video submission for the competition, to Marion Caffey, executive producer of "Amateur Night at the Apollo."
By March 2011, Drumwright had been asked to perform at "Amateur Night" that April.
"I was overwhelmed and completely excited about the whole experience," said Drumwright, 29, who lives near Harris Boulevard and Mallard Creek Church Road.
The UNC Greensboro graduate said the Rocky Mount competition was the first time she'd ever won anything.
"It was a humbling experience, but it also made me realize my self-worth," she said. "To me, I'm a giver, and I had to learn to accept praise."
Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater is held each Wednesday. It presents singers, comedians, dancers and actors to the community and gives them a stage to present their work for local and national audiences.
On April 18, 2011, Brandie Nicole - her stage name - competed as the only Southern woman against a lineup of New Yorkers, but she said she wasn't afraid.
"For me, it wasn't a competition; it was the experience of a lifetime," Drumwright said. "Never in a million years would I have dreamed of going, and I was committed to enjoying it, no matter what happens."
She sang "Fools Fall in Love" as it was performed in the musical revue "Smokey Joe's Café." She won second place for the night.
Unfortunately, Drumwright didn't place in the semifinals, but she has been asked to return to compete on May 25. This time, Brandie plans to sing Patty LaBelle's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Drumwright said her voice has been compared to LaBelle, Deniece Williams and Fantasia Barrino.
She has been singing professionally since the summer of 2004, performing at the 2011 fundraiser for the Raleigh-Wake Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., at the James Stephen III Scholarship Foundation Gala for several years, and at the 2011 Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta.
She has sung the national anthem at the MEAC basketball tournament in Winston Salem for the past two years.
She also performs at private events, such as birthday parties, retirement parties and weddings.
She is working with local voice coach Jeanetta Deavers on writing songs for what will be her first album.
Her ultimate goal is to sing on Broadway.
The most important thing Drumwright has learned through this process, she said, is about herself:
"It's owning my power, owning my greatness," she said. "We can all exist in this world with our talents and lift each other up.
"This is my gift, and I have to share it," she said.