JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Behind the smile and that soulful voice, Paris Winningham’s journey to make it on to NBC’s The Voice is one that may surprise you.
The Jacksonville Navy veteran auditioned for the NBC show twice and never got a call back. He almost didn't audition a third time, but his dad talked him into it.
“He was like, pray with me, and so we prayed,” Winningham said. “I flicked on my phone I did one take, and I was getting ready to rerecord it because I was like, I could do it better. But I just heard his voice was like, Nope, that's it, send it,” Winningham recalled.
He landed a spot on the hit show where America watched him battle his way to the top three, but just a year earlier it was a much different battle Winningham was fighting.
“I look at my life, a year ago, I attempted suicide a year before I even started, you know, really honestly digging in and taking this Voice thing serious,” Winningham said. “I had my gun up to my chin, and I was going to pull the trigger. I know for a fact, it was the Holy Spirit that kept me from making that decision.”
He’s not shying away from sharing his struggles because he knows someone hearing his story is where he was and needs to know they are not alone.
“I was one of the people, I used to say, ‘You know what, I'll never get in that dark place. I'll never be that dark. I'll never be that deep in depression.’ Well, never say never because you never know what life is going to bring,” Winningham said.
He's now using his voice to spread hope.
“I was in a dark place, and to come from there and be where I am now, I'm a living testimony that you can be in a dark place,” Winningham said. “But just because you're there, that does not define who you are. You know, you can always break out of that. You can always make your way out of it.”
When you feel like throwing in the towel, he says that is when a breakthrough is likely right around the corner.
“Me pointing up after every time I did a song, me pointing up, every time I moved to the next level, it was not a cliché. I give God His glory each and every time because I recognize I wouldn't be here without Him,” Winningham said. “I wouldn't have this gift without him. I wouldn't have breath in my body without him.”
Grounded by faith and family, the lyrics of his life are words he wants you to remember.
“There's always hope,” Winningham said. “Actually in a weird way it gives me strength now because now I can look back and say I was there, and the beautiful thing is, I don't look like what I've been through.”
For anyone contemplating suicide, he has this message.
“It takes more of a man to open his mouth and say, 'I need help', than to sit there and just drown yourself in your sorrows and in your pain. Man, get up and talk to somebody.”
He's using his new platform to strike a chord at a time that the country faces a mental health crisis.
“I can be a testimony, and I can be a help,” Winningham said. “I can be an encouragement to those people that have been in dark places and been in hard times, you know, and that's why I take this so serious, most definitely.”
If you or your loved ones are struggling, help is available. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free and confidential support.