The University of Houston Moores School of Music alumnae became a national sensation, singing her way to the finals of NBC's "America's Got Talent" in Las Vegas.
When the final votes were counted, Padilla ended the competition on a high note as the runner-up on the popular television talent show. The soprano finished second to country singer Kevin Skinner.
"Give it up for our runner-up Barbara Padilla," said the show's host Nick Cannon at the conclusion of the broadcast. "You are truly remarkable and incredible."
For nearly two months, fans and the show's celebrity judges agreed. Since her breakthrough audition in Houston, her golden voice had earned plenty of praise and a flurry of fan votes. During the show's finals, she revisited her audition song, Puccini's "O mi babbino caro." Dressed elegantly in a black evening dress, Padilla confidently delivered a flawless performance that floored judges Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne.
"You command the stage. You command our attention and respect," said David Hasselhoff. "Forget Vegas. You're going to play bigger halls. The world is your stage. It's all waiting for you."
Padilla graduated from UH's Moores School of Music in 2004 with a master's degree in vocal performance. Originally from Mexico, she arrived in UH while undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a disease that threatened her life and her voice. She was able to beat the disease and perform in the Moores Opera Center production of Mozart's "La finta giardiniera." Padilla also lent her talents to the center's commercial recording of Dominick Argento's "Casanova's Homecoming." In 2004, she received a master's degree in vocal performance.
"My illness has been one of the biggest blessings of my life," she said during a recent broadcast. "It carved a path that led me to America, my husband and my daughter."
As a UH student, Padilla took top honors at the National Association of Teachers Singing competition in the advanced adults category in 2001 and sang the national anthem before a sold-out crowd at a U.S.-Mexico soccer game in Reliant Stadium.