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A gay ex-NFL player and a drag queen church leader highlight 'The Voice' premiere

Nick Paschal
Supervising Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

Season 13 of The Voice kicked off Monday night with new judge, Jennifer Hudson, joining the team. Hudson has had plenty of experience with singing competition shows. She finished in seventh place on the third season of American Idol, and became the first female coach to win The Voice UK.

Pro Football Pipes

One person Hudson turned her chair for was former NFL player Esera Tuaolo. Esera came out as a gay man after he retired from football, and said that it was “like this huge mountain just crumbled.” Esera continued, “You know, I felt light as a feather, but when I jumped on the scale, I was still the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Samoan that’s gay and played in the NFL.”

Esera sang Andra Day’s hit, “Rise Up,” and got Hudson and Blake Shelton to turn their chairs. It was a difficult decision, but Esera ended up picking Blake as his coach. But the fact that anyone turned a chair was a super win for the former football player. “It’s like the Super Bowl. Seriously, it’s like the Super Bowl,” Esera said backstage. When Carson Daly asked what was better — this moment or winning the NFC Championship to go to the Super Bowl, Esera replied, “Uh, I think that moment right there.”

The Best of the Rest

Another standout performance came from church worship leader Chris Weaver — also known as Nedra Belle in certain drag queen circles. Hudson loved Chris so much that she threw a shoe at him. “Where I come from, y’all, that’s a compliment,” she said after tossing Miley Cyrus’s shoe on the stage.

But the most surprising moment of the night was when grocery store cashier Lucas Holliday shocked the judges with his soulful voice. Hudson was the only one who turned her chair for Holliday, and the look of shock on her face when she got a look at him was priceless. Holliday is a 26-year-old white guy from Lansing, Mich., but he sounds just like the singer-songwriter Maxwell. When Adam Levine saw Holliday, he said, “No offense, because you’re brilliant — you’re like the whitest dude.” Hudson liked her new team member so much that she got up on stage and sang with him.

The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC. Watch clips and full episodes of The Voice free on Yahoo View.

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