Less than 24 hours after "American Idol" announced that, for the first time, it was allowing its semifinalists to maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, early favorites have emerged.
For years, the show has put a virtual headlock on all non-"Idol"-sanctioned social media, declaring a blackout on any information or correspondence from contestants during their championship run on the show. But after the final 24 were revealed on Wednesday night, Fox announced that each of the 24 finalists would maintain multiple online presences.
Though at press time none of them had actually tweeted (and it was unclear how free they would be to discuss what goes on behind the scenes at the show), by midday on Thursday (February 18), two of the early front-runners had already piled up a significant lead in terms of Twitter followers. Leading the pack was Andrew Garcia, who had already amassed more than 3,500 fans, putting him way ahead of the leader on the women's side, Ashley Rodriguez, who had a more manageable 327 followers.
The Park Rangers appear to have turned out for low-key John Park (507 followers), who snagged the #2 position among the men, way ahead of the low man on the totem pole, Jermaine Sellers at 83. Sellers just edged out virtual unknown Joe Muñoz (85), a singer hardly seen during auditions. Barely breaking 100 was burly personal trainer Michael Lynche (103), while Alex Lambert landed 157 fans, teenage cutie Aaron Kelly clocked in at 129 and shirt-doffing cowboy Casey James had a surprisingly low 161 count.
On the girls side, Janell Wheeler had already racked up 272 followers, edging out Didi Benami (231), while wannabe country star Haeley Vaughn was waiting for her fans to show up, coming in at a modest 91. High-schooler Katie Stevens racked up a respectable 313, just behind Lacey Brown, who notched 325.
Katelyn Epperly just broke the 100 barrier with 104, easing ahead of another little-known semifinalist, Michelle Delamor (75), who was doubled up by one of the season's leading contenders, dreadlocked Crystal Bowersox, who had a respectable 181.
Once the contestants actually start tweeting about their experiences on the show and performing live, you can bet their follower counts will skyrocket.
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