For years, she was a well-established hair and make-up artist, and traveled the world to serve an international clientele. She was also a coffee shop owner in Charlottesville for eight years. She is a devoted mom and wife, a published writer, student and humanitarian. But above all, Lora Kelley is a musician and songwriter. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Kelley was voted Best Artist in this year’s Readers’ Choice competition. “Music has always been an important part of my life,” Kelley said. “But for a while I wasn’t sure if I could own it the way I want it to. Now, I feel I’m ready to do just that.” Like so many others before her, especially coming from the South, she was first exposed to the world of music and singing in church. That early exposure to performing and music sparked a lifelong passion for the performing arts. But with adulthood, came choices. Prior to moving to Charlottesville, she contemplated moving to New York, and she thought about using her make-up skills to do humanitarian work in Cambodia. In the end, she decided to move to Charlottesville to attend Trinity Presbyterian’s Fellows program. She found the love of her life in the process and created one of the top wedding hair and make-up businesses in Charlottesville. But sill, in the back of her mind, music was calling her name. “I decided to take a sabbatical to figure out exactly what I wanted to do,” Kelley said. She released and EP in 2015 and started writing music on a more consistent basis. Charlottesville, apparently, was listening. That year she performed at The Southern, and released new music in 2017 and 2018. That has not gone unnoticed. “My music is best described as Americana,” Kelley said. “It’s a term used for a mix of influences and genres like country, folk and pop. As a songwriter, I feel in my place there.” Kelley believes there are two ways she could make it in the local music business, knowing full well that getting your foot in the door is tricky, at best. “Making it as a musician, takes a lot of hard work and there are no shortcuts. I could be a songwriter, and write songs not just for myself, but for other artists as well. Or, I could be a performing songwriter. I’m trying to figure out what is best for me.” Kelley is shooting for a summer tour next year. In the meantime, she is planning to release a new single, called The Magician, in June, followed by an album next year. Her goal for the next twelve months is to go out and play locally as much as she can. Whatever is in her near future, she is grateful that she was awarded the number one spot in the category Best Artist in Readers’ Choice. “I feel very grateful and I hope I can live up to the belief people have in me. I’m reminded by a quote from Steve Martin, who has some sound advice for people trying to make their dreams come true. He said: ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’. I’m trying my best to make that happen.”