Bria Kelly aims to make mom proud

Published 10:18 pm Thursday, March 27, 2014

Smithfield’s Bria Kelly belts it out during Monday night’s “The Voice” battle round, from which she emerged victorious against teammate Tess Boyer, progressing to the next round. (Tyler Golden/NBC)

Smithfield’s Bria Kelly belts it out during Monday night’s “The Voice” battle round, from which she emerged victorious against teammate Tess Boyer, progressing to the next round. (Tyler Golden/NBC)

After besting her teammate during a battle round on Monday, Smithfield’s NBC’s “The Voice” contestant has opened up about the inspiration she derives from her mother, who overcame a serious health scare last year.

Smithfield High School senior Bria Kelly, 18, spoke about mom Jan Kelly’s near-fatal illness, on the phone from Los Angeles, after Usher had named her the winner of a head-to-head onstage battle with Tess Boyer.

“During April last year, my mom had what she thought was a normal cold,” Bria Kelly said. “(But) over a couple of days, she became incoherent and was taken to the hospital, and the doctor said she had gone into septic shock.”

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Septic shock is classified as a medical emergency, and patients are normally admitted to the intensive care unit. It’s caused when the body has a strong inflammatory reaction to toxins.

“The doctors were telling us they weren’t sure she was going to make it,” Kelly said. “It was really hard.”

But her mother improved over the course of four days, the teen said, and was eventually released after more than a month in the hospital.

“I want to make her proud, because she has always been my No.-1 supporter,” Bria Kelly said.

“During that time, it was tough not having her at all my shows. I just want to give back to her for everything she’s done for me over the years.”

Bria Kelly said she had been keeping in touch with Jan and dad Bob Kelly, as well as close friends, with lots of phone calls.

“Everybody’s super-supportive back home,” she said. “I’m really, really happy about that, because it’s tough out here.”

In battle rounds, contestants only learn the identity of their opponent when they step onto the stage.

As they plowed into Janis Joplin’s raspy “Piece of My Heart” — which would seem well-matched to her singing style — Kelly had thought she was evenly matched with Boyer. “I didn’t think that I had an advantage at all,” she said.

Kelly will return home to Hampton Roads when she is either knocked out of the intense competition, or wins it.

“Everything is so humbling and so amazing,” she said of the experience she’s having. “Coming from a small town, it’s really good for me.”

Her next challenge is the second battle round.

“At this point, it’s the best of the best,” she said. “It’s just a matter of going onstage and doing everything that I can to get into the next round. … I’m just going to do absolutely everything I can to please Usher and just put it all out on the stage.”