Celina Graves was born to sing, but it took her 30 years to find a big break void of any strings attached to her image.
The Mira Mesa native and daughter of Ed Graves, a professional singer and bass player well known in San Diego's music industry, is still alive on NBC's 'America's Got Talent' where the judges applauded her voice and her style.
"I pictured myself on that red x with the microphone and it's here, it's happened, it's weird, I've manifested that, I truly believe that," said Graves.
Graves hasn't always been judged kindly. She said her tattoos, clothing, hair, makeup, and overall image hasn't fit the mold with what music producers and record labels have been looking for.
Their message was essentially: we like your voice, but you need to change.
"My whole life I've always doubted myself because of the things people would say to me and I essentially lost confidence in myself to pursue my dream," said Graves.
Despite the criticism Graves has continued to push towards her dream of a career in the music industry.
She juggles a full-time job as a security officer at a local casino while seeking out opportunities to sing on the side.
In early March, just before COVID-19 shut down the auditions in front of live studio audiences, Graves performed on AGT and wowed the crowd.
But it was the advice from the brutally honest Simon Cowell which felt like redemption after years of rejection.
"My only advice is don't let a stylist go near you. Stay you," said Cowell.
"Just for him to validate the fact I don't have to change meant a lot to me," said Graves.
Today she is still alive on the show and awaiting her second performance which has yet to air.
She is making connections and hopeful about a life in the music industry where she can inspire others to be themselves.
"It doesn't matter how old you are, how you dress, what people tell you. Just keep following your dreams," said Graves