Matheus Fernandes wows the judges and sheds tears during his audition in Long Beach, Calif.

By Jamie Bufalino
January 30, 2013 11:00 PM
Michael Becker/FOX

It’s the final week of American Idol‘s cross-country talent search. And as the judges head to San Antonio, Texas, a surprising lack of diva-on-diva trash-talking allowed the focus to fall squarely on the contestants who seemed like they could be serious contenders this season (or at least keep things interesting).

Case in point: 19-year-old Mississippi native Papa Peachez who described himself as “a cute little white boy and … so much more than that. I’m really just a big black woman trapped in a little boy’s body.”

After Peachez belted out an original song, Nicki Minaj immediately showed him some love. “I think that you are a superstar,” she said. The other judges weren’t as convinced, but Minaj managed to twist enough arms (not literally) to get the boy through to Hollywood.

Peachez is going to have some steep competition from another 19-year-old – San Antonio’s Adam Sanders, who blew away the judges with his rendition of the Etta James classic “At Last.”

“You shocked us all, Dawg,” Randy Jackson told the singer before giving him a standing ovation, along with Mariah Carey and Keith Urban.

Other notables from the Lone Star State included an Arkansas beauty queen, a vibrant mariachi singer and 16-year-old Sanni M’Mairura, whose rendition of the JMichael Jackson’s “Who’s Lovin You” drew raves and left Minaj sputtering about other things that apparently make her feel good: “Candy canes, strawberries, whip cream, rainbows and sunny skies,” she said.

Next the judges hopped aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., to see what the West Coast had to offer. That’s where Jesaiah Baer, 16, had to contend with an impromptu fire drill but still managed to blaze her way to Hollywood.

Then, after an emotional number from Iraq war veteran Matt Farmer, the episode ended with two powerful stories from young, would-be Idols who’ve overcome bullying.

Briana Oakley, 16, had to change schools after her classmates turned on her when she found success on a televised talent show. But she won the judges over with her performance Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain.”

And 21-year-old Matheus Fernandes, who was quite a bit shorter than everyone else in the room, broke down in tears after getting praise from the judges for his version of “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

“To me,” Randy told him, “You’re 10 feet tall.”

Thursday American Idol heads to Oklahoma – and next week to Hollywood.