Brooke Simpson in the playoff rounds of “The Voice” on NBC. NBC Tyler Golden/NBC
Brooke Simpson in the playoff rounds of “The Voice” on NBC. NBC Tyler Golden/NBC

Durham County

Brooke Simpson’s ‘Voice’ stardom thrills parents, entire Native American tribe

By Colin Warren-Hicks

December 11, 2017 06:14 PM


Jimille Mills sat in the front row right behind Adam Levine as blue lights silhouetted her daughter on the Los Angeles stage and a soft, white spotlight slowly illuminated the face of the young woman her baby, Brooke Simpson, had become.

“I just felt like, I was in her dreams,” Mills said.

Last week, Simpson sang “Amazing Grace” on the hit television show “The Voice.

Jimille and her husband, Micheal Mills, have listened to their now 26-year-old daughter’s singing voice for the past 24 years.

“We recorded a little duet of Brooke with her mother when she was 2. Back then, she had a little lisp,” Michael Mills said. “She would sing ‘Jesuth loveth me.’”

The reality show’s celebrity judges, like Levine, praised her sung hymn and Simpson moved on to the next round of competition. She’ll sing again at 8 p.m. tonight on NBC.

“Her dreams of wanting to do this for a living and do this for a life. This dream, was coming to pass,” Jimille Mills said.

Jimille Mills has seen every one of Simpson’s performances on “The Voice” from a front-row seat.

Last week, Simpson sang in a black dress sparkled by rhinestones.

“It was absolutely incredible when she came out,” Jimille Mills said. “I think she got lost in the song.”

Simpson’s “Amazing Grace” shot to No. 2 on iTunes and quickly became the most popular iTunes Gospel download.

“You’re so excited, but it’s a roller coaster,” Michael Mills said. “You’re so nervous for your child too.”

Simpson’s recent fame has thrilled her parents, her entire hometown and her Native-American tribe, the Haliwa-Saponi.

“Our people, especially within the tribal community, are very supportive and I think that it has meant a great deal to them – having something positive to come from our small community,” Michael Mills said. “A few years back, we had the tragedy of Faith Hedgepeth.”

“Our people, especially within the tribal community, are very supportive and I think that it has meant a great deal to them,” Michael Mills said of his daughter Faith’s success on NBC’s “The Voice.”
courtesy of the family

Hedgepeth, 19, a Haliwa-Saponi also from Hollister, was found in a Chapel Hill apartment murdered in 2012. Hedgepeth and Simpson were cousins.

“The tragedy of her death, that’s been like a shadow of sadness over our community,” Michael Mills said. “And Faith’s immediate family have been so supportive of Brooke, and it’s just been a good thing. I’ll jut say that.”

Monday night Michael and Jimille Mills will watch “The Voice” at home in Hollister. Simpson’s husband will attend the live show in person. Michael and Jimille expect their daughter to dedicate her song to him.

But the parents have rented big TVs and will host a viewing party at a community center. About 200 people are expected to attend.

For Jimille Mills, the sight of her daughter singing in front of a televised audience of millions took her right back to memories of her girl’s childhood.

The Mills run an evangelical ministry, The Mills Family Ministries, and for years the parents traveled with their three children to churches up and down the East Coast where Michael spoke to Sunday worshipers and the entire Mills family sang.

“It just took me back to when she first started singing, sacrificing, spending cold nights in the back of our RV, bus, our van, whatever we were traveling in,” Jimille Mills said. “I thought about all those years of sacrificing – traveling with us from city to city and state to state.”


Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks


“The Voice” airs at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC. During that show, fans can begin voting for their favorites online, with voting going until noon on Tuesday. The results show airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The finale of the “The Voice” will air in two parts next week. The first part of the finale airs 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18. The winner of the competition will be named in the finale airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19.There are many ways to vote.

You can vote online at or on “The Voice” Facebook page. You can vote through The Voice mobile app. You can vote at iTunes by purchasing eligible songs by the artists or by streaming the songs through Apple Music.

Comcast cable viewers can also vote through X1 remote or at The xfinity website.

Here are all the rules.

Staff writer Brooke Cain