Arlington woman shows off her skills on 'Singing Bee'

ARLINGTON -- Mollie Richardson defeated thyroid cancer and went to junior college on a choir scholarship, but she knows her real gift isn't her singing voice.

It's her ability to memorize lyrics.

They don't give Grammy Awards for that, but she did get a shot at a $10,000 prize that the TV show Singing Bee awards to the most lyrically accurate singers.

The episode featuring Richardson and five other contestants airs at 8 p.m. Friday on Country Music Television.

"I sang in college, but I don't do it anymore," said Richardson, 24, who teaches at a private Arlington preschool now but wants to use her journalism degree. "I would like to be a reporter, truly. But that's about it. No big aspirations."

The results of the contest are known to the participants, but Richardson isn't talking. Everyone involved has to sign secrecy contracts that carry the threat of a $1 million penalty for leaking, Singing Bee officials said.

Singing Bee, which is in its second season on CMT, should not be confused with the glitzier American Idol on Fox.

The difference is there's $10,000 in winner-take-all prize money riding on a contestant's ability to continue singing the lyrics when the song abruptly stops.

"She really has a knack for that," said her mother, Davana Eaton, who lives in Richardson's hometown of Athens and is hosting a Singing Bee-watching party Friday night.

"She was probably 3 years old and friends would be in the car with us with the radio on, and they were surprised that she could memorize the words at such a young age," she said.

Richardson, whose name was Mollie Bumgardner until she married on Sept. 13, doesn't seem comfortable talking about herself, about her singing voice or about her confrontation with thyroid cancer six years ago. Her mother brought up the latter. "I was at a doctor's appointment," Richardson said. "They did blood work and it just showed up."

The required surgery to remove a diseased thyroid can put vocal chords at risk of accidental damage. That was an added concern, because at age 18 she had just earned a scholarship to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens after auditioning for its choir.

But the surgery was successful, and she's cancer-free. And she's the same singer she was -- one who doesn't like to talk about her singing. "I know that on the show I wasn't very good, because I wasn't concentrating on that," she said. "I was just focusing on the words."

Now, thanks to a week of TV promos for the show, she's getting recognition she's not accustomed to. "I'm very nervous," she said. "I've never seen myself on TV before. I just saw a commercial about 30 minutes ago, and somebody called me. I'm just kind of embarrassed."