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— by Corey Moss


ennifer Hudson is seconds from taking the stage for her first song on the first night of the American Idols Live Tour.

Butterflies are doing gymnastics in her stomach.

The thousands of screaming fans don't bother her — no, it's the "American Idol" theme song pumping over the sound system that's getting to her. "Woh woh oh woh oh."

"That music makes you more nervous than anything, 'cause it makes you feel like you're back on the show," she whispers.

It's 20 minutes into opening night in Salt Lake City and this is the first sign of nerves. Not bad, considering last summer most of the 10 co-headliners were working at the mall.

ix hours earlier, Jennifer stood on the same Delta Center stage, learning some last-minute choreography changes for Jon Peter Lewis' rendition of "Hey Ya!" As the bubbly 22-year-old and fellow powerhouse singers La Toya London and Fantasia Barrino looked on, choreographer Gary Lloyd showed them how to properly shake a Polaroid picture, or at least how he envisions them flipping their pictures in the air as they shake a half-circle.

Rather than sweat the adjustment, the girls goof around, making fun of Fantasia's "mom clothes." Diana DeGarmo, in a T-shirt and jeans, stands on the side of the stage, telling whoever's on the receiving end of her cell phone how amazing the show is.

The collective confidence comes from a few intense weeks of rehearsals and an overall enthusiasm for the music, which includes a Prince medley and recent hits from Beyoncé and the Black Eyed Peas.

"We don't have to do Barry Manilow and all that dramatic stuff," says Jasmine Trias, resting nearby.

"Honestly, the Motown stuff is played out," adds La Toya. "We did that on the show, you know?"

Later, as the tour's hairstylist spikes her black 'do, Amy Adams ponders her own lack of nerves.

"I don't know why, I'm just not nervous," says the singer, who would get slightly more nervous two nights later in Portland when the "love of her life" was in the crowd. "It usually is my style, but I think it's because it's not a competition. We're not going against each other."

Granted it's opening night, but so far there really is no sign of competition on the American Idols Live Tour. As the season's winner, Fantasia has a few more perks than the rest, but she's so kind and respected that there's no jealousy. Either they can act as well as they sing, or all 10 finalists are genuinely supportive of each other.

"We're pretty good friends," says Amy, now in the makeup chair. "We're close like a family, although we can be brats to each other."

On show days, the Idols, especially the ladies, spend a good portion of their afternoons in the hair and makeup room. In Salt Lake City it's just a big gray conference room, but two days later in Portland it resembles a Broadway dressing room, with big light bulbs framing the mirrors. Whichever the case, music is always playing and there's at least a couple of Idols hanging out.

On opening night, Jasmine takes the least time of the ladies to primp but spends the most time in the room. When John Stevens sits down for makeup, she pulls up a chair and watches. John's voice is soft, but he's more talkative than fans might expect. As the two teens discuss the tour, Jasmine proudly reminds anyone listening that the trek wraps up with three nights in Hawaii.

"We should end in Buffalo," John responds, hyping his own hometown.

"We can't end in Buffalo, we'll freeze our butts off there. We have to end in Hawaii," says Jasmine, who talks about Hawaii so much that state officials might as well put her on the payroll.

"It's not that cold, not in July," John says.

Jasmine attacks him with blush and chases him out of the room.

When La Toya walks in carrying an itinerary and a pen, a curious Jasmine takes a seat again. At 25, La Toya is the oldest singer on the tour and easily the most self-functioning. This, she says, feeds her reputation as a diva.

"I want things done a certain way, so I do it myself," she explains, noting that she just did her own makeup. "You wanna call that a diva, then fine, but I'm never rude to anyone. I don't have demands. I'm sweet."

As mature as she is, La Toya still has fun with the others and is just as quick as Jasmine to admit the number-one topic among the girls is boys.

"If we see a hot guy, we always talk about him," Jasmine says. "We kinda have our significant others, although I don't technically have a boyfriend."




Jasmine flirts with John, Jon geeks out, and the ladies write a song ... about eyeliner
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