Tonight’s episode of The Voice has quite a deep Joplin connection. Behind the infamous Tony Lucca, who even has the love of his Mouseketeer cohort Justin Timberlake, is a supportive wife who’s been inspiring him for the most exciting years of his growing career. He’s gone from Britney Spears’ grade school crush to a Joplin Expats’ lifelong love. Rachel Amayo, whose family owns and runs Casa Montez, is the woman behind Tony.
Rachel was kind enough to make time for an exclusive, quick Q&A with The Joplin Expats, even during these busy few months of her family’s newfound celebrity lifestyle.
Q: Give us a quick timeline of your life since you left Joplin, and what circumstances took you away.
A: I left Joplin in the Spring of 2000, all in the name of change really. I moved to New York with a friend, sharing a Brooklyn flat with a group of fellow Joplinites for a few months before moving to Los Angeles. I lived right in the middle of Hollywood for 12 years. This past July we decided to relocate to Michigan to be closer to (Tony’s) family.
Q: How often have you been back to, or spoken to family and friends in Joplin?
A: I try to make it back home at least 2-3 times a year. Our kids love spending time in Joplin, as do we.
Q: Where were you, what were you doing, and what was your reaction when the tornado hit Joplin?
A: I was at home (in LA) getting dinner started and helping my son with his homework when I noticed I had a missed call from my parents, within 3 minutes my phone was ringing again, I was hearing “Rachel! We’ve been hit! Joplin got hit by a major tornado just a few minutes ago… Everyone in our family is accounted for… But it’s bad. Very very bad… Home Depot is gone. Walmart is gone…” I fell to my knees right there in the middle of the kitchen, flooded by emotion for all of Joplin. The next few hours were pretty quiet, most phone lines were down.
Q: What do you remember from your time in Joplin, and how do you think it influenced you?
A: I think more than anything, Joplin afforded me a strong sense of belonging… Friends, family and co-workers I surrounded myself with all had a wealth of love and support to share, with open arms. I believe the feeling that imparted was the foundation of my strength, my character. Wow, that poured out. Like I said, I’ve been hyper sensitive to my emotional side lately.
Q: How has your life changed today, after this latest opportunity of Tony’s?
A: Life has been wonderfully busy. What a whirlwind! After Tony’s blind audition aired, we were inundated with texts, emails, phone calls… A lot of love and support out there. It has been quite the emotional ride… So truly grateful and proud of all the love we have been receiving from friends and family, and even strangers.
Q: Has Tony, your son, or any of their family been to Joplin? And if so, what have they done/liked/disliked?
A: We came through Joplin on our way to Michigan last July. Tony and Liam actually volunteered with my brother cooking and passing out food. Liam is very much a bleeding heart, especially for his age, so having the opportunity to be hands on in helping after the tornado filled the ache he was feeling for all the disaster he was seeing.
We actually just left Joplin in March, my parents watched the kids for us so I could travel with Tony to a few shows. I think every trip to Joplin starts with Casa for dinner and ends with Casa for dinner. Still can’t get enough of it.