Soon to be a sophomore at Umatilla High School, 15-year-old Chelsea Fudge is a member of the National Honor Society interested in biology and writing; she plays volleyball and basketball, competes with Dance Unlimited, and she took on the role of Mina Harker in Umatilla High's recent drama production of "Dracula."

But during FunFest, Chelsea demonstrated another of her loves as she sang her way to the Hermiston's Junior Idol title by taking top honors in the youth division of the competition.

"I really enjoyed it. I love to perform in front of people," the teen said. "The hardest part for me is the nerves, but it's gotten a lot easier over the years."

Chelsea has performed at schools and nursing homes as well as singing the national anthem Saturday nights at Columbia Motor Speedway. As part of her Idol award, Chelsea will sing the national anthem to open entertainment at the Umatilla County Fair Aug. 10.

"I've been singing pretty much since I could talk, but I actually started finding a voice when I was 9," Chelsea said. "I started listening to other people, then I started performing, and I just self-taught. I've always enjoyed singing, but now that I've found more freedom with it, and I can express myself."

The teen said she continues to work on her voice and her favorite place to perform is in front of a mirror so she can critique herself. She also writes her own music and said Carrie Underwood - whose song "Jesus Take the Wheel" earned Chelsea her local Idol honors - is a big inspiration.

"Writing music really helps me express myself and say how I really feel in a way nothing else can," she said.

And as for performing, Chelsea's tastes cover a wide range.

"My favorite song to sing? It's anything that's playing on the radio. I'll sing along no matter what genre it is," she said. "If I know it, I'll sing."

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