From Home to Hollywood

H-F Alumna competing on The Voice


Adekemi Kasali, News Editor

H-F alumna Janelle Butler, a.k.a Oliv Blu, is currently competing on the singing competition show, The Voice.

Janelle, who graduated in 2016, was chosen to join John Legend’s team after singing Erykah Badu’s “On & On.”

“A producer from the show reached out to me and invited me to audition for the show. I thought the audition was fake actually and almost didn’t do it, but I said to myself, I’ve got nothing to lose. You really can’t let your doubts turn you away from what you want to do because on the other side of fear is greatness,” Janelle said.

From a young age she has always loved music and is inspired by artists such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Ella Fitzgerald, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Esperanza Spalding, H.E.R and Stevie Wonder. She said she envisions herself as being a “mixture of Beyonce and Erykah Badu.”

However, in eighth grade, Janelle was put off of singing after messing up during a girls ensemble performance at Parker Junior High School, which made her terrified to be in the spotlight.

In her junior year a high school she took the Industry of Music class and shortly afterwards was invited to join the music collective Freesole, which includes artists from the Matteson area and nine other H-F alumni.

“They believed in me and really pushed me into pursuing a career in music again,” Janelle said. “After graduating high school and doing local shows with Freesole, we all started to branch out and do shows of our own and that’s when I really started to blossom.”

Janelle’s sister, H-F Spanish teacher Sara Brown, said it’s empowering to see her compete on the Voice.
“It’s been neat to see her step into something that is positioning her to be a little bit more vulnerable and develop a skill that is natural for her, but it still hard because competing is intense,” Brown said.

During her senior year, Janelle was set on attending Spelman College, but this wasn’t financially possible.

“Knowing Janelle’s brilliant I’ve always wanted to take the route of getting her degree, but we really have faith in her ability to explore her dreams and that she’s going to be taken care of no matter what,” Brown said.

Janelle’s mom, Bana Butler, said she has always seen a talent in her and was exciting when Janelle became more serious about pursuing music.

“I’ve always told my kids ‘do what you love so it doesn’t feel like work’,” Bana said. “She’s become more level headed and I think she’s patient enough to go with the flow, not get overly excited about things and take them as they go.”

Janelle’s family surrounded her with support when her blind audition aired on TV.

“We threw a party to uplift her and when her audition aired we invited family and friends for a viewing party,” Janelle’s twin sister Brooke Butler said. “We believe that family is where the heart is and where support comes the strongest.”

One of Janelle’s favorite teachers at H-F was Spanish teacher and interim foreign language department chair Jonathan Miller. He said it was a cool experience to see Janelle sing on The Voice.

“When I found out that she would be participating I absolutely tuned in. It was really touching to see the kind of young woman she has grown into and the kind of character she has,” Miller said. “I was blown away by her voice and I didn’t know that she was that talented.”

Janelle describes her journey on the Voice so far as one word. Growth.

“I’ve grown so much along this journey and you’ll see that on the show. Between the blinds and the battles I grew so much, not only vocally but also as a person in general. I’ve grown from timid to bold. I’ve learned to follow my gut and have faith that God’s plan will always prevail,” she said. To see Janelle perform, watch The Voice Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC at 7 p.m.