Someone has to be the first to go, and on Thursday's results show, Garrett Haley, Amy Davis, Joanne Borgella and Colton Berry were the unfortunate four. We caught up with season seven's inaugural castoffs to talk Simon's harsh comments, whether they were surprised by their ousters and what's next.
With his '70s-heartthrob hair, dearth of screen time and lackluster song choice, it came as no surprise when Ryan Seacrest called the Elida, Ohio, 17-year-old to the stage Thursday. But what might come as a surprise is the fact that Haley had never heard Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" before this week and that the tune wasn't even in his top three choices of '60s songs. The teen explained how he fell victim to the inner-workings of "Idol" — and how he keeps his trademark 'do so shiny.
Q: How did you choose "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" as the song that would introduce you to America?
A: I didn't really get to choose it. We're allowed to choose three songs from a list. Every contestant is for sure to get one of the songs, and I didn't get to get any of my songs because they gave the songs out to all the contestants before that. So I just ended up with having to choose from the list again. And I didn't really get to choose, they just threw the song at me and said, "Here, sing this one." [He laughs.] And I was like, "OK." It was a total surprise to me, but I took what I got, and I did what I could do with it.
Q: Tell us about the hair. When was the first time you heard the Leif Garrett comparison?
A: When I auditioned the first time. Nobody's ever compared me to Peter Frampton or Leif Garrett before this, so that was new. I went back to the house I was staying at and I Googled them, and I had no idea who they were. I was hoping they were decent-looking guys, so I was pretty happy when they popped up. I use Garnier Fructis, and I've been using that for a long time.
Q: Do you think Simon went over the line when he was talking about your appearance?
A: Oh, the pale thing? When he first said that, I actually found some humor in it, because I know that I have fair skin, and I'm really happy with the way I look. I wouldn't change the way I look just because Simon says I'm too white. It didn't really bother me. It possibly could've [affected how people voted for me], but I don't know what's going on inside the voters' heads.
"Idol" has seen a lot of country-music cuties during its seven seasons (Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and this season's Kristy Lee Cook), but no one knew Davis longed to join their ranks. The 25-year-old from Lowell, Indiana, tackled a twangy version of Connie Francis' "Where the Boys Are" with iffy results. And no one is more aware of the performance's issues than Davis herself, who explained the whole pitchy debacle.
Q: Were you surprised you were voted off?
A: I was not surprised. I was actually waiting for Ryan to call my name. ... It's really just a technical issue on my part, why it was a bad performance. There's nothing I can do about that. I did the best I could, and it was just the fact of me not being able to hear myself. It's not an "American Idol" issue or a sound issue on their part; it's the way my brain works. I've been using in-ear monitors for the last two years consistently. ... My brain is trained to use the in-ear monitors, which blare my vocal in my ear so I can stay on pitch. Obviously, when I came to "American Idol," I knew I was not going to be allowed to use my in-ears, so I tried to retrain my ears to use the floor monitors ... and I just could not retrain my ears quick enough.
Q: What was the most surprising part about being an "Idol" contestant?
A: Honestly, the most surprising part to me was to see celebrities. I'm from Indiana. ... You just don't see a lot of celebrities in Indiana. ... I remember I saw Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, and I was just completely star-struck.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you got during your time on "Idol"?
A: The best piece of advice I received was near the end from Paula when she said, "You really need to know who you are as an artist." And it didn't just hit home for me; I really want anybody out there who is wanting to try out for "American Idol" to really take that to heart, because you can't go out there and just be like, "I don't know who I am, but I'm trying to be something." You really need to know who you are as an artist and stay true to yourself.
The plus-size model was victorious on another reality show, "Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance," but she didn't come out on top with "Idol." The judges accused the 25-year-old from Hoboken, New Jersey, of having a limited vocal range, which Borgella chalks up to her voice not matching her appearance. But the multitasker isn't letting this bump in the road stop her.
Q: You made a comment on Thursday that the way you look didn't necessarily match your singing voice. Can you explain that?
A: Usually with a plus-size woman, you tend to think that they're going to sing neo-soul ... and for me, I love that music, but that's not the kind of performer that I am. I don't sing that kind of music. I listen to pop, R&B, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston. I love doing power ballads, but I also wanna do the song you would dance to in a club. You don't usually put that with a plus-size woman. ... I don't think because of the way I look you should expect me to sound a certain way.
Q: Were you surprised to be sent home?
A: I wasn't surprised. There's 24 of us, so I know every week, one of us are going to be going home, and one's going to stay. For me, I always had a mindset: "It may not be next week, maybe it might be the last day, I could be the winner." So when he called my name, I had a moment, I prayed, and when he said it, I got up there and I performed.
Q: With your modeling career and now your steps toward a singing career, do you have a favorite?
A: For me, singing by far is always gonna be my favorite. If the world could be a musical, I'd be the lead singer. ... Singing is my passion. I'm gonna continue doing what I wanna do, which is make an album, create great music and continue modeling. I'm a multitasker, so I'm gonna be dabbling in everything.
Berry, like Haley, suffered from a lack of screen time in the early rounds, but the bubbly theater geek tried to make up for it with his self-proclaimed Ellen DeGeneres resemblance and a high-energy performance of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds." Unfortunately, the 18-year-old from Staunton, Virginia, was sent packing the first week. We caught up with Berry to talk about Simon's hurtful comments and his future on Broadway.
Q: Simon encouraged you to quit the music industry after you were voted off the show. How did you feel about that?
A: Simon's job is to be Simon Cowell. There's no one else in the world like Simon Cowell, and that's who he's supposed to be. I expected him to say something like that. I also kept in mind, and I think America kept in mind, when he said that comment, he did pick the top 24. Out of hundreds of thousands of people, he picked us to be the top 24 singers in America, so obviously we're all gonna continue on with music careers. That's who we are. And obviously he had a hand in putting us there. I think he was being kind of a little hypocritical, but he's Simon. But everyone loves him and I love him for who he is.
Q: With your theater background, have you ever thought of shooting for a career on Broadway?
A: My dreams since I was young, number one was to be on "American Idol," because I grew up with this show, and number two was to be on Broadway. I can check off my first one, and hopefully that first check will lead me into the second one. That's what I'm actually getting ready to pursue. I'm going to set up as many auditions as I can and really go for that. ... One of my favorites, I saw it on Broadway, is "Wicked." I would love to play Fiyero. Oh my God, that's my dream role.
Q: When did you notice your resemblance to Ellen DeGeneres? Did someone else point it out?
A: People have been saying it for years. I'm one of her biggest fans. I've always been her fan. One day I kind of looked in the mirror and said, "Maybe everyone's right. [He laughs.] Maybe I do look like Ellen!" So I figured I might as well embrace it.
Q: Has she asked you to be on her show?
A: I have not yet talked to her. I know she called Ryan Seacrest and was laughing with Ryan about the comments that I said. If Ellen's reading this, Ellen, give me a call!
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