'Idol' chatting

I can't say it enough. One of the coolest things about my daily work is that I get to meet and interact with some of the coolest, accomplished, talented and interesting people in this world.

And on Tuesday, I got to sit at a Starbucks table across from American Idol finalist Vanessa Herrick ....

Vanessa Herrick has all the makings of a superstar.

The exuberant 24-year-old with the good looks, bouncy hair and go-get-‘em attitude has been singing since she was just a couple years old. She has wit and a whole lot of charm. And she’s not afraid to stand out in a crowd — even if it means flashing her underwear.

That’s what Herrick did last September to earn a spot on the popular “American Idol” television show, a talent competition that searches the country for the next big pop star. Herrick auditioned for the show in Minneapolis, one of seven audition locations throughout the country, and was one about 170 people invited to the first round of Idol’s Hollywood auditions, which began airing on FOX last night and will continue tonight.

During last night’s show, Herrick, was eliminated from the competition. She got little face time during her run, but she says she has no regrets and might try out again next year.

“I’m really glad I did it,” she said. “I have no regrets. This is what God wanted. If I would’ve made it farther, that would’ve been what he wanted.”

Still, she says the “American Idol” judges haven’t seen the last of her. Her Minneapolis tryout, after all, was the fifth time Herrick had auditioned for the show. Contestants must pass at least two preliminary rounds before they can audition in front of “Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Last year’s audition marked the first time Herrick made it that far.

“You can’t just stop because of one thing,” said Herrick, who also performs in the local ‘50s and ‘60s tribute band, The Greasers. “This is my fifth time and I made it, so who knows what could happen? My dream is to really be on Broadway or something, just to be somewhere.”

Herrick started watching “American Idol” about halfway through its first season and fell in love with the “Star Search” premise almost immediately.

“I said I could do that!” I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.”

So she auditioned to appear on the second season — “Clay Aiken, I love him!” she says — but didn’t make it past the preliminary round. She auditioned for the show three more times in Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago, and was rejected every time before making the trip to Minneapolis.

“It’s my dream,” Herrick said. “Everyone wants to get on TV, you know. I always dreamed of doing it.”

So in September, Herrick hatched a plan she figured would enhance her chances of getting on the small screen. She decided to dress as her idol, Mary Katherine Gallagher, a bumbling Catholic school girl character whose signature cry is “Superstar!” The character was made famous by “Saturday Night Live” star Molly Shannon.

“She believes in herself and she thinks to go for it, go for what you really want and go for your dreams,” Herrick said. “And she’s so funny. She’s kind of clumsy and I’m kind of clumsy ... She’s obsessed with being a star and I’m kind of like her.”

Accompanied by her father and best friend, Herrick arrived at a Minneapolis arena at 6:30 on a Friday morning and then spent most of the day waiting among some 10,000 Idol hopefuls for her number to be called. Herrick was called about 2:30 that afternoon.She stepped up to the judges table and belted out “I love Simon” — an homage to Cowell — to the tune of Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy.” In just 30 seconds, her audition was over, but the two preliminary judges — and even the security guards — loved it, she said.

But she didn’t have her ticket to Hollywood quite yet. Two days later, Herrick had to return to the audition site and sing for one of the show’s producers.

She dressed once more as Mary Katherine Gallagher and sang “Take Me Or Leave Me” from the musical “Rent.” And this time, Herrick capped her audition by lifting her skirt to reveal the words “I love Simon” inscribed with sequins on the front of her underwear. It was a moment that avid “Idol” watchers might have caught in an episode last week, which showed a montage of some of the best and worst auditions.

The producer thought the bit was funny, Herrick said, but he also questioned her intentions. “He thought I had a pretty good voice, but he didn’t think I needed to be dressed like that,” she said. So Herrick returned to her hotel, washed her hair and auditioned again, singing Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love.” The judge was persuaded and finally gave Herrick a chance to audition in front of Jackson, Cowell and Abdul.

Now four days after arriving in Minneapolis, Herrick had to be at the convention center by 7:30 a.m. More waiting ensued and her turn to meet the judges came at about 5:30 that night.

“I was so nervous because you don’t know anything,” Herrick said. “You don’t know when you’re going to go ... I honestly didn’t think they were going to take me. I mean, I had some confidence in myself, but this kid next to me, I thought he was going to make it. He was good-looking and he told me he was a good singer, so I figured, ‘well you’re probably going to make it and I’m going to be sent home.’ ”

For the next audition, Herrick sang “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” a song she told Cowell inspired her to sing. “Definitely not the best singer we’ve had so far, Vanessa, but your’re ballsy,” Cowell told Herrick when she finished the song. “I like you ... She has spunk.”

Cowell’s comments were strong enough to persuade the rest of the panel and Herrick was heading to Hollywood. “I was so excited and nervous at the same time, I don’t know how I did it,” Herrick said. “It’s like when I’m put under pressure like that, I just do it. It almost felt like they were robots.”

After a couple more interviews and signing a stack of legal forms, Herrick was cleared to participate in the show’s Hollywood auditions, which took place last November. There, Herrick got to shake hands with the next American Idol during a meet-and-greet session with the other contestants. And she bonded with a roommate, who Herrick declined to identify, but said “She was really good.”

“I was pretty much just looking at everybody, ‘cause you never know who could win, I wanted to make sure I got a glimpse of everybody,” she said. “I was so excited just to think, ‘Oh my God, I could win,’ or ‘I’m going to meet the person whose going to win.’ It’s amazing — there were so many good-looking and talented people. And everyone was so nice.”

At her Hollywood audition, Herrick and the other female contestants had to select from a listing of songs. While other contestants were choosing to sing slower songs and ballads, Herrick chose to sing Madonna’s upbeat “Borderline,” in a try to set herself apart. Poking fun at other girls who forgot the opening lines to their songs, Herrick pretended to forget her name.

It marked the end for Herrick’s “Idol” run however.

“I think I did good singing, but I think I joked around too much,” she said. “I tried to be funny and they probably didn’t think I was serious. I’m a jokester, that’s just
how I am. I thought that’s what got me there and that’s how I am ... If it wasn’t going to happen, win or lose, I was happy with getting that far and I was just going to be proud no matter what.”

Check out her audition in front of Simon, Paula, Jewel and Randy here ...

... And while we're talking about "Idol" let it be known that Chris Sligh and hometown girl Gina Glocksen are my favorites -- hands-down. (I call Glocksen "hometown girl" because she's from Naperville, a place that will always hold connections and special memories for Kates and I ...)

And this group audition featuring Sligh in last night's show is by far my favorite moment of "Idol" so far ...

No comments: