Friday morning, I had the chance to have a one-on-one chat with Fantasia Barrino, the winner of the most recent American Idol competition. Fantasia (who has dropped her last name for her professional endeavors) was a pleasure to talk to, and I only wish we could have talked longer. Here is what she had to say:
First of all, Fantasia, congratulations. I really enjoyed watching you this season, and I was so excited to see you win. I'm sure a lot of your fans were crying right along with you on finale night.
Oh, God…I'm such a cry-baby (*laughter*)
I know we do not have much time, so I'll get right to it. First of all, what made you try out for the show in the first place?
Well, I've been wanting to sing for a long time. I've been singing all my life, and I've tried different record companies, but it seemed like…it was such a struggle and so hard to get out there. So, I said, "I'm gonna go on American Idol and see how far it takes me."
Well, it took you all the way.
Thank God. (*laughter*)
Had you watched the show before?
I caught last season with Ruben and Clay. But, I said to myself…I was scared of SImon…I thought, "Man, I don't know if I'm gonna go on that show." Then I thought, "You know what? I'm gonna try it out."
Speaking of Simon, you two joked around a lot while you were on the show. Were you ever worried that the way you acted with Simon would come back to bite you in the butt? I mean, I figured you were joking around, but maybe some people didn't.
Um, that's the whole point. People were taking me for something that I wasn't. They were painting a picture that really wasn't there. When I sang "Summertime", I went out onstage, took my shoes off, and I thought, "I'm going to humble myself, and I'm going to show people that there's another side to me." I mean, there's a playful side, but there's also a humble side. I wanted to show them that I wasn't the Fantasia they were trying to make me out to be. I wasn't arrogant, I wasn't attitude-y…so I just wanted to go out and show people that I don't have to say anything back, but I just choose…you know, I was playing like that. You know, I just came into the competition being real, just being me. So, I'm sayin' that I didn't feel like I had to fake or put on a front for anybody. I mean, this is about your talent…how you sing. So, I thought if I was going to go into the competition, I was going to go in the same way I was going to go out. I was just going to be me.
There's been a lot of controversy about some of the voting and results this season—everything from Jennifer going out of the competition early, to some people thinking that John Stevens stayed around longer than he should have to you and LaToya being in the bottom group. What do you think about how the voting went this season? Did any of the results surprise you?
It did, but you never know how America is going to vote. When I saw Jennifer go, I was like, "Uh oh…you never know." I mean, one week somebody might like someone's performance, and then the next week they might like someone else and vote for them. A lot of people would come up to us and say, "I know you've got it. I'm gonna vote for someone else because I know you've got it." But, if you want your favorite person to go through, you have to continuously vote for them.
So, are you looking forward to the tour?
Oh, yeah. We start July 14th. We're all out here. We're all excited. We're all very playful.
Let me ask you about Zion. She's adorable. Is she going to get to go with you on the tour? Are you going to see her while you're on tour?
I'll get to see her. She'll fly out to see me some of the time. She won't get to go with me this time, but hopefully when I do my own tour, she's gonna go with me.
Did she get to spend any time with you in the house?
Yeah. Well, she could go to the house. She didn't stay there. I could go get her and spend some time with her.
Well, let me tell you that she certainly made an impression at our house. I think her phrase "Watch out there now!" has become ingrained in our vocabulary.
Oh, no! (*laughter*)
Since you've won, you've been referred to as a role model for young mothers. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel good. It really does. That was my whole purpose of even going into the competition. A lot of people had told me that I couldn't do it because I was a young mother. People were like, "You can't do it. You shouldn't even try out." When people tell you stuff like that all the time, you start to make yourself believe that. I started to get to that point, and then I said, "You know what? Yes, I can do it. I can do it." And I wanted all young mothers to know that, regardless of what your dream is, you can do it. Don't let nobody tell you that you can't.
You've been compared to everyone from Macy Gray to a young Aretha. How would you describe your style?
Oh, man. I'm very soulful. I grew up singing in church. When I sing a song, I like to feel what I’m singing. I would say I'm an R&B soulful type. I'm kinda raspy, but not as raspy as Macy Gray (*laughter*).
So, is that the kind of music we can expect to hear on your first album?
You can expect to hear all kinds of music on my album. There are gonna be songs of all different types. I want songs for everybody, and I want it to be encouraging music.
If you had to sit at the judges' table and critique your own performances, which would you say was your strongest, and which was your weakest?
Hmm…you know, I liked all of my performances. I'd say my strongest would have to be "Summertime".
Do you think you had a weak performance?
You know, I really enjoyed them all. Every performance, I try to go out there and give it my all, do my best. When I'm out on the stage, it gives me this rush and anything that's on my mind and everything I'm going through is forgotten about.
Were there any performances by any of the other finalists that blew you away?
Yeah. LaToya's "Don't Rain On My Parade" from Big Band Night. Jennifer's…you know, everybody's songs just blew me away. Everybody just liked to be out there on the stage, you know? So, I liked everybody's songs. Amy's country song ("Sin Wagon"), though…that has to be my favorite.
What was it like to have an all-female Final Four? Did the mood in the house change?
It was cool. I mean, we were all so tight. We were like, "The women are holdin' it down!" (*laughter*)
What did the judges say to you on Finale Night when the show was over?
You know what? I was crying so much that pretty much everything they said went in one ear and out the other. (*laughter*) I was on Cloud Nine. They did give me encouraging words, though. You know, try to stay humble and all that.
So, how do you do that? With all the fame you already have and will get in the future, how do you stay humble? How do you stay true to yourself?
Well, you know what? I always say you've only got one life to live, and you're not promised a tomorrow. So, you might as well just have a good time with it. Take advantage of every minute of every day and have a good time.
Have you been back to High Point since you won?
Um, I went back for a minute, and it wasn't long enough. I had to go to New York, so it wasn't that long.
When do you think you'll get to go back?
Um, after the tour. After the tour, I want to go back and do some things at home.
What's the word on your album? Is there a release date yet, or do you know?
Well, I'll be working on it while I'm on tour, so I'd say by the end of November.
Just in time for Christmas…
Yeah…Merry Christmas! (*laughter*)
I read a rumor that you and Kelly Clarkson might be performing a duet together. Is there any truth to that?
Yeah, it's true. I asked her, and she said yes. She sent me a message while I was on Ryan Seacrest's show, and she said, "Fantasia, we're gonna work together." So, hopefully we will.
Now, if you could work with anybody in the world, who would you like to work with?
Anybody in the world? Oh wow…I would like to do something with Aretha Franklin.
Let me throw a couple of names out to you, and you just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Let's start with Randy Jackson.
Cool. He's a cool man.
A sweet lady. A very humble, beautiful lady.
(*laughter*) Sweet, but kinda cruel, though.
So, let me ask you about that. When he does get a little harsh, do you think he's doing it for effect, or do you think he's really trying to help the person?
In a way, it can help, and in a way, it can hurt. It depends on how strong the person is. It depends on how they take it. It's up to the contestant to let it hurt them or not. But, he's basically getting them ready for what's out there in the world. You've got to be strong and know how to take criticism. You either run with it, or you can let it tear you down.
What about Ryan Seacrest?
I like Ryan. He's really sweet. He's a hard worker; that's what I like about him.
Who was your favorite guest judge?
Oh, gosh…um…I'd have to say I have two: Clive Davis and Quentin Tarantino. Quentin Tarantino because he's in the movies, and it was fun for me to sing a song from "Porgy and Bess", an old, old movie. I've never seen it before. I need him to put me on one of his movie soundtracks. (*laughter*)
Now, acting…is that something you want to get into?
I want to do it all. (*laughter*)
I know we're almost out of time, so let me ask you…is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?
You know what? Just thank you so much for supporting me and keeping me up. Just have fun, guys, and remember you've only got one life to live. The world could be a better place if more people saw it like that.
Fantasia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. Again, congratulations. Have a wonderful tour, and give Zion a hug for me, OK?
I will. (*laughter*) Bye-bye.
My thanks to the people at FOX and 19 Entertainment for setting up the interview and to Fantasia for taking the time to talk to me.