While the rest of us may have been shocked that Pia Toscano was sent home on "American Idol" on Thursday night, the New York makeup artist and five-time "Idol" auditioner said Friday that she had a sense the end was near.
"The night before, I had a weird feeling in my stomach," said Toscano, even though she felt good about her attempt at Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High." The raven-haired singer said she admitted to her parents Wednesday night that she had a feeling she would wind up in the bottom three, but they told her not to sweat it and that she should just be confident. "I kind of, like, expected it."
But, like so many "Idol" finalists, Toscano said she wouldn't have changed anything she did on the show, even taking on the dreaded "big three" of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, a challenge the judges have consistently warned contestants about. "I like to challenge myself and take risks," she said, explaining that she grew up listening to and loving those divas and thought her attempts at their songs went over well.
After weeks of hearing from the judges that she needed to show them another look, Toscano went uptempo during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame episode on Wednesday night and, wouldn't you know it, that's the week she got booted. When asked if the judges overemphasize the need for contestants to change things up and show other sides of their personality, Toscano said she didn't think they did and that she doesn't blame anyone for her downfall.
"The judges were absolutely right; I needed to change it up. ... I was really excited about this performance," she said, adding that when she performed back in New York, she was actually doing more uptempo material than the sweeping ballads she became known for on "Idol."
If anything, what it might have come down to is the fact that, despite years of stage work, Pia is still admittedly a bit uncomfortable onstage and prone to bouts of stage fright. She was so shaken, in fact, after the cameras stopped rolling on Thursday's emotional elimination show that she had to be helped off the stage by two staff paramedics after she had trouble catching her breath.
Though leaving is bittersweet, Toscano was amazed and heartened by the support she's gotten from a number of celebrities — from Tom Hanks to Snooki — and said "it just blew my mind" to see judge Jennifer Lopez shedding tears at her departure. She also revealed that in the commercial break before the news, fellow bottom-three dweller Stefano Langone kept trying to convince her that he was the one going home.
For now, she plans to return home to New York and spend time with her family and then maybe move out to Los Angeles to pursue singing, acting and musical theater. If she had to guess what her major-label debut might sound like, Toscano said it would definitely "be in the pop genre with an R&B influence." She predicted a mix of big power ballads and dance hits, hopefully produced by such "Idol" mentors as Rodney Jerkins, Ron Fair and Ryan Tedder.
Facing yet another season where there are only two women left in the top eight, with several men tipped to possibly win, Toscano was asked if a woman can ever win "Idol" again. "Definitely," she said. "It's anybody's game right now." Though voting has clearly been driven by young teen girls lately, Toscano said every remaining contestant has their own unique, strong voice and a good shot at taking the crown.
Sure, it's disappointing, but everything happens for a reason, right? "I'm happy that everything happened the way that it did," Toscano said.
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