July 31, 2020 — Sophia James was the keynote speaker for opening day of the 17th NFXF International Fragile X Conference — Virtual Series. Watch the full keynote here!

May 12, 2020, Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted in April and is about American Idol contestant Sophia Wackerman and her love and devotion to her brother James, who has Fragile X syndrome. At that time, American Idol was still scheduled to air as usual, which changed when COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into effect. We’ve added some updates to her and James’ story — but first you need to know that Sophia has taken on her brother James’ name as her last name, so she’s now known as Sophia James. In her announcement to the American Idol judges, she said,

My brother’s name is James, and it’s honoring my favorite person in the entire world.

Note that we have changed her name in this post where appropriate, and her name change also means her social media accounts have changed (you can also find her music on Spotify):

More Updates

May 10

American Idol contestants have had to perform from home, and Billboard magazine asked the contestants about their proudest moment so far this season. Here’s what Sophia James had to say:

My proudest moment on the show was not music related at all — it was being able to bring my brother James on the show and bring light to Fragile X syndrome. It is quite a rare disability and doesn’t get much attention in the media, so to be able to bring awareness to it on a national platform was a monumental honor. There were so many families affected by Fragile X syndrome that reached out to me after that episode aired, shared their own stories of their loved ones and thanked me for bringing awareness to it. I felt so proud to be able to connect with these families and make them feel represented. Most of all, I was so proud to see my brother shine so bright on the show we grew up watching together.

—Sophia James

May 10–14

While Sophia has a huge fan-base (including everyone here at NFXF!), she did not advance beyond the top 10. A few days later, Sophia posted a video of the song she would have sung if she’d made the top 10.

Thank you Sophia. Regardless of American Idol judges, you’ve made it into the hearts and minds of millions and we’ll all be seeing a lot of you as you rise and share your beautiful voice and message with the world.

4 days | 126 presenters | 650 households from 24 countries

Register now for exclusive access to 137 on-demand videos — including all 41 live sessions + 85 pre-recorded sessions + 11 panels — from all three 17th NFXF International Fragile X Conference Virtual Series events (May 29–30, June 27, July 22). Get all this, plus presenter resources, through to the end of 2020.

register now!

[Original post with updates] On the April 5, 2020, airing of American Idol, contestant Sophia Wackerman introduced her brother James to 8.05 million viewers. James Wackerman has Fragile X syndrome, and Sophia took to social media to help spread awareness and advocate for Fragile X. Check it out.

American Idol

That night on American Idol, as Sophia advanced to the top 20, they aired the feature about her relationship with James, who got the chance to show off his amazing drumming skills! Seems he learned from the best, the Wackermans are a very musical family. Sophia and James’ father is Chad Wackerman, a jazz and rock drummer who has played with Frank Zappa and toured with James Taylor, to name just two.

Speaking of playing the drums, did you know James played the drums at an NFXF International Fragile X Conference several years ago!?

My brother James is my favorite person on this planet.


The next day after the feature aired, Sophia posted her response to all the incoming reactions to her brother’s story. “Thank you to all who are sharing their stories about #FragileXSyndrome.”

We’ll keep an eye out for more from James and Sophia.


Instagram: may 14

Some of you have been requesting that I post the Disney song I would have sung on idol…well, here it is. “Will The Sun Ever Shine Again” from Home on the Range, originally sung by Bonnie Raitt. Though it’s more on the obscure side of the Disney catalogue, I think it’s one of the most beautifully written songs ever. Not to mention how appropriate it is for the current state of the world.

Instagram: May 3

TOP. TEN. I’m still in shock. Follow your dreams. They can come true. Mine did tonight (and it’s all thanks to you guys). SO…the voting continues!! Starting right now, you can help me get to the next round by:
1. Texting “13” to 21523
2. Voting on the American Idol app
3. Voting on the American Idol website

Aaaand remember, you can vote up to ten times on each platform for a total of 30 votes.

Life is magical. Thank you thank you thank you.

Twitter: april 6

Thank you to all who are sharing their stories about #FragileXSyndrome. I was lucky to have the opportunity to tell my brother’s story on American Idol last night. I have tears in my eyes knowing that there’s a loving, supportive community there.🧡 #FragileXAwareness

Instagram: April 5

Meet James Wackerman.

James is my brother, my number one supporter, and the light of my life.

James has Fragile X Syndrome, an intellectual disability that causes behavioral, social, and learning challenges. It’s just a part of who he is and I love him unconditionally.

James faces more challenges than the average person because of his disability, but he never fails to put a smile on everyone’s face. Anyone who’s ever met him knows how he radiates any room he walks into. He is kind, loving, and has an infectious sense of humor. He highlights the little things in life in a way that no one else can.
I’m so lucky to have had James by my side not only during American Idol, but throughout my whole life. He makes the world a beautiful place to be.

Catch us BOTH tonight on @americanidol!🧡

YouTube: April 5

(Partial Transcript)

Sophia Narrating: My brother James is my favorite person on this planet. He has something called Fragile X syndrome, which is a type of intellectual disability. People with Fragile X tend to have sensory overload and it involves large amounts of anxiety.

James and I didn’t have that typical sibling relationship, but what we had was really beautiful because it was just a lot of … there was a lot of kindness and love there. Despite the challenges that he faces, James is actually really musically talented. He can play the drums like a beast. We learned music at the same time. And to see him watch me perform at such a big caliber. I feel like that’s his success as well.

Sophia: James it means the world to me that you’re here. You’re my favorite audience member.

James: I was a great audience.

Sophia: You were a great audience.

James: Yeah, whoo!