LOS ANGELES — Allison Iraheta is setting the "American Idol" stage on fire all by herself. The 16-year-old dynamo has consistently wowed the judges with her powerful pipes and preternaturally mature attitude. But just in case, her family gathers every week to cheer her on and wear out their fingers voting for the singer who grew up wanting to be the next Kelly Clarkson.
"Family and friends come every Tuesday to watch the show," said Allison's sister, Sarah Iraheta, a science teacher at Animo Ralph Bunche Charter High School in Los Angeles, where the younger Iraheta is a student. "And after we watch the show, we get our voting fingers ready and vote for two hours to try and get as many votes in for Allison."
For Tuesday's disco-themed show, more than two dozen family members and a few teachers from Iraheta's school gathered in the Los Angeles home of her aunt, Angelica Hovespian. Surrounded by children running around and screaming, dogs barking and guests munching on pizza, Hovespian pointed to a stack of pictures and said she has to buy more frames for the photos of her favorite niece, whose image is already visible all over the house.
Sarah, a married mother of two, said that after working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., she rushes from her teaching job every Tuesday to get to the "Idol" studio in time for the live taping of the show. Then, as soon as the performances end, she goes back to her house or Hovespian's to watch and vote until nearly midnight.
Though she kept asking the rowdy gathering to quiet down when Allison was on the screen, they couldn't contain their excitement at seeing her sing on TV again, and cheers broke out constantly during her performance. As soon as final contestant Anoop Desai finished his tune, everyone in the room whipped out their cell phones and prepared to start dialing as Sarah went outside to take a call from Allison. A short while later, the sisters' father, Carlos Iraheta, left the gathering to fetch Allison and bring her back to Hovespian's house to celebrate yet another judge-approved performance.
Once the contestants enter the "Idol" bubble, their many commitments make them difficult to communicate with, but Sarah said the family is doing the best they can to stay in touch with Allison and support her. Because Allison is a minor, her mother has to be with her all the time on the show and live with her in the "Idol" mansion. The other family members have to content themselves with watching their budding star on TV.
"It's unbelievable, the energy, the audience, the screaming, just everything it's unreal," Sarah said. "It's an unbelievable opportunity to be able to be there live, and it's even more of a blessing to see my little sister on that stage. ... She's been dreaming of being on 'Idol' since she was 9 years old. She would admire Kelly Clarkson, dream of one day becoming like her. So to see her actually performing on that stage, that's been her dream. My little sister is living her dream, which is great."
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