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Lessons from an Idol

It’s a little known fact that I love American Idol. I started watching during the Jennifer Hudson year primarily to make fun of my co-workers for watching it. They compared Fantasia to LaToya. They were so mad when Jennifer Hudson got kicked off. They had bets going and I couldn’t believe anyone would watch such a cheesy show. Then I became one of them. And here we are at Season 11 and I’m still watching. I bet half those people don’t even watch anymore.

So this is my American Idol coming out – not only do I watch the show, I also read AI blogs after the show. When I tell people this they laugh at me. I always used to say, “Who has time to read blogs?” Not me, or so I thought. But when it comes to American Idol, I read blogs, articles, commentary – I even read all the comments (I HATE her! I LOVE her! I can’t believe this happened! I’m never watching this stupid show again!). Which made me think maybe I could be more productive by writing about it instead of just reading it.

To be real, I could never be an AI blogger. It’s not just a matter of not wanting to, it’s also that I would be a terrible one. These bloggers type about the show as they watch, post articles before the show even is over, and write throughout the week, things like – “What will they sing? What do you think they should sing?” and then “What did you think about what they sang?” “What do you think they will sing next week?” I can’t even type that fast. I will admit I started this as a “Top 10” beauty and fashion post, but then I couldn’t watch them sing and evaluate their look at the same time. I then realized I cared more about how they sounded and who they were than how they looked…but as I continued writing and thinking about it, it went to Top 9 …Top 8…and so on. Now we’re at Top 5. If I wait much longer there will be no one left to write about. So here it is.

I believe there is something to be learned from everyone. No matter how unlikely, if you look hard enough there’s a lesson in there somewhere. And when I watch these contestants putting it out there like I never could, being told they’re awful and getting their dreams shredded in front of millions of people – well, they deserve some respect and consideration. And there’s a lot to be learned from them too. So here are some thoughts about the Top 5 and what they have taught me.

Hollie Cavanaugh

To me, Hollie is like a little sister you want to protect. The judges give her a hard time so she too often looks anxious and crushed – which in turn makes me feel anxious and crushed for her. She is tiny, probably 100 lbs. or less, with a small, pretty face and delicate features. But she has this huge voice and sings with everything she’s got every time, even if she got ripped on the week before (which she probably did). She keeps ending up in the bottom, in part because she’s not a judges’ favorite and I think they pick on her. But she seems to just take it in and move forward. 

What I’ve Learned from Hollie Cavanaugh 

Even if you’re a little person, have a big voice. And keep going strong with that big voice no matter what anyone says.

Skylar Lane 

I love this girl. She is so sassy country. I shouldn’t like her because I don’t like country. Plus she shoots deer and I love animals. She seems fearless and tough – like she’ll grow up to be Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. But her toughness is tempered by her southern manners. She always says, “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir.” I have never lived anywhere or been with anyone that speaks like this at all, which I guess is why it’s so novel and endearing to me. Anyway, she’s the kind of tough that even when she thought someone said she was fat on national TV, she laughed it off.

What I’ve Learned from Skylar 

Be so comfortable in your own skin that you can laugh at whatever comes your way. And be as sassy and tough as you are (with good manners, of course).

Jessica Sanchez

I am not a Jessica Sanchez fan. Everyone’s been so excited about her, but I find myself going to the kitchen for a drink or looking at my phone when she starts singing. Yes, she is a crazy talented – and so good everyone thought she was untouchable. That is until she ended up the singer with the least votes. Which indicates to me that I’m not the only one getting a drink or looking at my phone. I don’t think she’ll win because at the end of the day, no matter how good you are, people vote with their hearts, not their minds.

What I’ve Learned from Jessica

Jessica is only 16 but she goes out there like a superstar. Someone else at her age might think, “I’m too young, everyone has more experience than me, etc.” – and this would keep her from going out there like a superstar. She could miss her moment. Which I think many people, including myself, can too often and too easily do. So I say be Jessica, don’t miss a moment and be the superstar that you are.

Joshua Ledet

Here’s what I love about this guy: He pretty much looks expressionless except when he’s singing, where he looks exactly the opposite. No matter what happens – Bottom 3, blank; best of the night, blank; in it to win it, blank. Even with “you’re one of the best singers of the last 50 years”, blank. He might give a very slight grin or looks concerned here and there, but he’s mostly blank. He just saves it all for singing – because when Joshua sings, he sings with such emotion that he makes you feel him and want to believe.

What I’ve learned from Joshua

Someone once said that if you let people’s applause define you, you also let their boos define you. So you while you take it all in, it’s important to take in with perspective. Joshua’s lack of a reaction reminds me of this. It could be that he’s just nervous or uncomfortable. But whatever the reason, it still reminds me of taking it all in perspective.

Phillip Phillips

Phil Phillips is my favorite. He is also Jeff’s favorite, which means he won’t win. Jeff consistently picks the runner-up (or lower). Adam Lambert…Chris Daughtry…etc. He picks them at the first audition, waits for them to win and they never do. Phil is so charming and cute with his unassuming personality and southern boy thing. He usually looks un-phased or even a little uncomfortable by it all. But when performing, he sings so hard that there’s a vein in his forehead that looks as if it’s going to bust. It’s like singing unleashes an unselfconscious, passionate alter ego. He has said he only cares about the music and seems to know exactly who he is and how he wants to be.

What I’ve Learned from Phillip

Lesson 1: Be who you are and don’t let anyone define you. He’s been told that his clothes are wrong, he shouldn’t sing with a guitar, he should sing with a guitar, he should do this or that. But be doesn’t. He does what he thinks is right and, as a result, it works out for him. He’s the only contestant who hasn’t been in the bottom 3. (So maybe he will win after all and Jeff can also have his first win).

Lesson 2: Have so much passion doing something you love so much that you do it for its own sake, in your own way.

 Yesterday I was strolling home with Lucy and I saw one of my favorites who almost made it, Travis Orlando. He was just standing on the sidewalk, looking like he was waiting for someone. This was the guy who Idol pulled a fast one on (twice). Last year they did a whole profile on how he was so poor that he lived in a shelter with his family. But, he said, no matter how hard it got, music kept him going. And then they cut him. He came back this year sounding even better but his story had gotten worse. Not only did he still live in a shelter, but his mother had abandoned the family. He said he’d left school to devote himself to music and just wanted to “make it” to show his mom he was worth something. And then they cut him again. I realize not everyone can make it – and shouldn’t make it based only on their story, but why tell this heart-wrenching story about a guy with a great voice, only to give the guy the boot? Twice? Awful. I felt sad just walking by him. So while it’s but a small tribute, this AI post is dedicated to Travis Orlando and everyone else who put it out there. Even if they didn’t make it, their passion and courage should be admired just as much as those who did.

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