The tables had been turned. The “American Idol” Season 11 finalists were sitting in a panel and we were vying for their attention.
So far, two fan girls were winning.
“Um, hi!” they squeaked into the microphone, giggly and high-pitched.
Realizing that they were at a press conference and they needed to ask a question, the girls added, “We love you so much, do you love us too?”
It was Tuesday afternoon and we were at the Manila Hotel. The Idols had just flown in for their Manila concert and, fresh from their US tour and fighting jetlag, they faced members of the media.
“We’re sad that the tour is almost over but we’re also very honored that you have us here in the Philippines for our very last show together. Thank you guys for that,” said Erika Van Pelt, who was now sporting rocking bright red hair.
Elise Testone said, “We heard that you really respect and appreciate talent that comes from ’American Idol’ and we’re so grateful for that.”
“I’m definitely excited to meet all the fans,” said Jessica Sanchez, the half-Filipina 17-year-old who endeared herself to Filipinos with her powerful performances on the show.
Heejun Han, the clown in the group, quickly stole the show. “My fiancee Jessica told me there are a lot of pretty girls in the Philippines but so far I couldn’t see anyone,” he deadpanned. Then, breaking into a smile, he said, “Just kidding. Beautiful girls here. I’ll give you my numbers later on.”
And when the fan girls asked Heejun how he learned to tweet in Tagalog, he responded, “Oh, Google. Google Translate.” A couple of weeks before arriving in Manila, he had tweeted, “Ako at si Jessica über handa na sa Sept. 21! Todo party na mga ’tol to the max!!”
The 10 singers were excited to be in the Philippines for different reasons—Hollie Cavanagh and Jessica wanted to shop; Skylar Laine couldn’t wait to try the food; DeAndre Brackensick was eager to eat real balut; and Joshua Ledet was having fun with the Filipino word he just learned, “Mabuhay,” using it over and over throughout the course of the afternoon.
Later that day, we sat down for a more intimate round table interview with Skylar, Colton, Joshua, Heejun and Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips.
They were asked about their favorite Idol judge.
Joshua: “I think Jennifer Lopez. I like her. And she liked me. I just love her advice because she’s a performer.”
Colton: “I’d love her advice too if she gave me a standing ovation every time I walked onstage.”
Joshua: “It’s not my fault I got standing ovations. It’s my God-given talent.”
“What’s the best thing you’ve given up?” someone asked.
Heejun: Our virginity? Just kidding.
Colton: I gave up sports. I miss sports.
Heejun: I don’t think we gave up a lot, we gained a lot.
Joshua: I gave up college. I only went for one day though and then I dropped out.
“Are you worried about the Idol curse?,” someone else wanted to know.
Phillip: “Ooh, what is that?”
Joshua: “What’s the winner’s curse?”
Heejun: “They get killed after!”
Everyone laughed but Phillip turned serious. “It’s cool to me that they believe all these things. It’s funny but it’s what makes the world go round. Some people like me, some people don’t, some people like Jessica, some people don’t. That’s the beauty of it. I just play music because I love it. I wasn’t trying to do anything but play music. I just went up onstage and had fun every night. That’s what I did. I’m not worried about any curse. I just have fun. I don’t worry about all that.”
On the other side of the room were the rest of the girls—Elise, Hollie, Erika and Jessica. DeAndre had gone to his room to rest—he wasn’t feeling well. The girls talked about clothes and makeup (According to Erika, last night’s show was the only one where they had to do their own hair and makeup.), their first public performances, what they’re passionate about (kids, ’80s movies, “Star Wars,” John Cusack, fashion and shoes), the songs they’d want played at their weddings (Michael Jackson’s “PYT” and Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”) and which celebrities they’d want to meet (Bonnie Raitt, Eminem, Pink and Mariah Carey).
When asked to share memorable stories from the tour, the girls started laughing.
Hollie: “Jessica almost went topless one time.”
Jessica: “I usually have to tape my dress up.”
Elise: “I fell mid-song and nobody knew. When I fell, I almost did a split and stayed down there. One time, I ended up dropping the microphone.”
Erika: “That was so good.”
Hollie stood up for a reenactment.
Erika then turned to Hollie and said, “Can I tell them about the wardrobe case? I know you hate that story but it’s so funny. Me and Hollie and Skylar were in the wardrobe room. I was signing autographs and Skylar was eating. All of a sudden, we see one of the wardrobe cases start to fall. Holly is behind one of the wardrobe cases, going, “Help! Help!”
Hollie: Imagine that wardrobe case—with everybody’s shoes, everybody’s clothes, and I’m screaming, “Help!” and Erika’s on the couch, going, “Oh noooooo.” And Skyler’s still eating her chicken wing, saying,
Elise: You know I would have saved you.
The finalists were playful, laughing a lot and making fun of one another. They dished about each other’s weird habits, they ribbed Holly about her accent. When Joshua and Holly started singing the Barney song, which they claimed was their favorite song growing up, Heejun called out, “Security, please!”
Colton said, “Heejun is the king of making things awkward.”
But despite the jokes and the teasing, it was obvious that they had sincere affection for one another. “We’re one happy family. I’m gonna miss everybody,” said Skylar.
Somehow, the “Idol” finalists, once rivals in a huge talent competition, had become a family. Family—it was a word they kept repeating that day. Colton said, “We were staring out the plane window on our way here trying to see the different sights. It’s so cool to see a different culture and be a part of it. It’s a chance for us to spend time with each other this last week as a family.”
They were protective of one another. When asked if the Manila show was tweaked to give more spotlight on Jessica, Phillip said, “Everybody gets their time, I believe. And I don’t think any of us want to make one of the others feel uncomfortable or make the other one feel more special. We’re all really close and we want the best for one another.”
Joshua said, “I think everybody’s gonna branch out and be pretty good because everyone’s so talented. I don’t think anyone’s gonna overshadow everybody. Everybody’s just amazing.”
American Idol Live! Tour 2012 is produced by Ovation Productions in association with ETC, 2nd Avenue and Jack TV.