Haley Scarnato couldn’t win with Simon Cowell.
The 24-year-old from San Antonio only got positive feedback from the judge after her saucy British Invasion-week performance, in which she wore short shorts and a backless top. “You naughty little thing,” Cowell purred. But when she pulled out the hot pants on Tuesday, he would have none of it, accusing Haley of using her body for votes (see ” ‘Idol’ Recap: Sanjaya Is Stunning — Seriously; ‘Skeletor’ Stacey Is On His Way Out” ).
The alleged strategy didn’t work this time: Haley was eliminated Wednesday (see “Haley Loses ‘The Beat’: ‘Idol’ Eliminates Scarnato As Sanjaya Holds On” ) after her Latin-week performance of Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around” (as interpreted by Gloria Estefan). On Thursday (April 12), Haley talked about Simon’s criticism, J. Lo’s coaching — and how she wasn’t the first “Idol” to sport a certain set of hair extensions.
Q: Did it hurt you when Simon would focus on your fashion instead of your voice?
A: You gotta respect him — he’s Simon Cowell. It does hurt a little bit, but you just gotta brush it off and try to get through it.
Q: When Simon first started commenting on the way you look, did you ever think about changing your style?
A: I never really changed my look. Since Hollywood week, I kind of showed my midriff a little bit. I want to stay true to who I am, and it’s fun dressing up and playing the part of the week’s theme and the song that you’re singing. Like with Latin week — it’s more of a sexier kind of vibe. I don’t think I wore less clothes than before.
Q: First you had Simon complimenting you on your legs, and then you had him accusing you of using the sexy gimmick to stay on the show. Was that confusing for you?
A: You can’t please everybody. I didn’t go shorter, I didn’t wear less clothes, I just did the same thing. I got a good vibe from the judges, and I didn’t want to lose it because I didn’t really get any great vibes from them before. My stylist liked it, and it just seemed to kind of work. But [Simon's backlash] was bound to happen.
Q: How do you adjust your performances when the judges give you conflicting advice?
A: Well, if I was still gonna be here next week, I was gonna wear a choir robe. I was gonna be fully clothed. You just take the criticism for what it’s worth and just try to brush it off and know that you still have to perform.
Q: How did his accusation that you were using your body to get ahead make you feel?
A: It hurt, of course. I didn’t think it was going to be that distracting — they’re just shorts. I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s frustrating because I’m just trying to go out there and perform and entertain and sing — it is a singing competition, and they weren’t listening to me anymore.
Q: There were some reports earlier in the season that the “Idol” hairstylist recycled Katharine McPhee’s hair extensions on you. How did you feel about that?
A: I think it’s cool. I mean, they can wash them. It’s kind of cool to wear Katharine McPhee hair extensions.
Q: Does it bother you that you were voted off before Sanjaya?
A: No. Sanjaya is a great personality. He’s got a great energy backstage and onstage, and I think he did a great job last week.
Q: When you sang your song again after being eliminated, you still put on a really spirited show, weaving in and out of the crowd. How did you manage that?
A: As a performer, when it’s time to sing, it’s time to sing. [The stage is] my home; it’s like my second home. It’s very easy to clock in and get the job done. It was good to sing again and have fun with that song. It was easy. I was still kind of tearing up, but I was just enjoying my moment.
Q: There has been some criticism that the Latin theme wasn’t a good fit for a lot of the performers. Did the contestants see this week as especially challenging?
A: We were all really excited about the Latin theme. The band sounded awesome. I thought everybody did a great job picking the right song for each voice and just performing it well. I guess it just wasn’t working for the judges.
Q: What was it like to work with Jennifer Lopez as a mentor?
A: She was great. She was very warm and comforting. She had a lot to tell us. You could tell she really did want to help us.
Q: What challenges did you not expect in this competition?
A: You can’t prepare yourself for something like this. Picking the right song is a huge deal and just making sure it gets cleared. I didn’t know it was going to be that tough.
Q: Last week, you chose to follow Tony Bennett’s advice and nix an ad lib you had planned for your song and to take the song more seriously, but a lot of your fellow contestants ignored his ideas. Do you think your approach would have worked too?
A: I think I still kept the playful vibe, I just didn’t [change the lyrics]. The version I was leaning toward was the Broadway version — it has more character, more of a cutesy kind of vibe. But he’s Tony Bennett, so you want to respect him. I took his advice but still gave it my flavor.
Q: How did being in the bottom three twice before being eliminated affect your thinking week to week?
A: It’s definitely tough to be in the bottom three. It’s emotionally draining, but you just have to get through it and know that you do have fans and that they’re very loyal, and I’m very thankful for that. You just kinda keep going.
Q: Obviously you had a pretty big fanbase or you wouldn’t have gotten this far in the competition, so did thinking of your fans help you get past the judges’ negative comments?
A: The bad comments are hard, but it helps to know that there are people out there that do like me, and I just thank them so much for voting and supporting me. I wouldn’t be here without them.
Q: What do you have planned next?
A: I’m open for anything that comes my way. This is such a great experience and great exposure, so I’m up for anything. I would love to get a record deal. That’s what we all kind of want, so that would be a dream come true. But I’ll try anything, so we’ll see.Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.