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American Idol, The FORT Interview with Julia DeMato
This afternoon, I had the pleasure of talking with Julia DeMato, the most recent finalist voted off of American Idol. She spoke to me by phone from her home in Connecticut. Here's what she had to say:
What made you decide to try out for the show?
Well, I've had a voice all my life, and I've never really done anything with it. I've never trained, and I've never been on stage before American Idol. I saw the first American Idol, and I thought it would be my perfect opportunity to try.
So, you did watch the show last season?
I watched the Top 4.
Who were you pulling for? Did you have a favorite?
Well, I didn't really know what it was all about. I just tuned in one night. So, I really didn't have enough time to really root for anyone. But, I thought Tamyra would win. Of course, she got voted off the night I started watching, so...(*laughter*)
If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would you choose?
Well, Fleetwood Mac is one of my favorites, so probably them. That would be pretty cool.
A lot has been made of the whole "talent vs. image" debate this season. How important do you think each should be?
Hmm...Well, I personally think it should be about the talent. But, looks also play a big role in it. I think the viewers are looking for the overall package. Of course, there's a difference between what I think is right and what the viewers think. I guess they're both pretty important. I don't think it matters this season if you're big, if you're small, if you're gorgeous...I mean, you can play up any body type and make it stylish. I mean, look at Ruben. They're both important, but talent should definitely win out.
If you could choose a theme for the show one week, what would you like to see done?
I would have wanted to be on the disco show, because disco's my favorite.
If you were on the disco show, do you know what you might have sung?
"On The Radio" by Donna Summer.
Of the people left on the show, who would get your vote?
Oh, wow...I can't answer that.
Do you think it helps or hurts to talk back to the judges? It seems like we've seen a lot more of it this season.
Hurts. It definitely hurts.
Is there any situation in which you think it could help?
Well, I know I talked back to Simon because I misinterpreted what he said, and I think it hurt me. But, I mean, if you disagree with them, you should say something. But, when it comes to the viewers, I think they sometimes take it the wrong way and take what you say as disrespectful.
Last week, the theme seemed to have been abruptly changed from disco to country rock. How much time did you all have to practice with the new theme? Do you think the abrupt change was a hindrance to everyone?
Well, it was changed very quickly, and you know...we're so busy that we just kind of have to do it. It caused a little bit of a headache, but we pulled it off. I think we had like 3 days or so to practice with the new theme.
Did the pressure of being in the bottom three the previous two weeks cause you to "pick up your game" any?
Um, yeah. I mean, that was obviously on my mind, and I tried. It was hard for me, because I was the only person who was really "raw"...like never had performed in front of anyone before. It's great for them that they had that experience, but...this is just a stepping stone for me. For someone like me who's never done anything like this--never even gone on an audition before--I think that had a lot to do with it. I mean, I'm raw talent. I've never had a singing lesson in my life. And what an opportunity...
Were you surprised at all by the first two eliminations?
I'm surprised by every elimination. I just think everyone is so good.
Do you think the situation between you and Kim Caldwell at the Hollywood auditions was portrayed accurately on TV?
No. Some of it wasn't, and I'm going to be truthful. Some of it was...manipulated to make you think certain things, like where we were gonna meet and things like that. I mean, we did get into a little argument; that happened. But, I mean, now we're really good friends.
What did you think of your sister talking to Kim and the others? Do you think it helped or hurt?
Oh, I was...I told her not to. But, it helped at the time. I mean, it helped the situation by the time we got to the rehearsal. Kim was like, "OK, let's just do this." But, I didn't want all that on TV, and I told my sister that. But she didn't listen. That's just an overprotective person...she was looking out for me. I had worked so hard to get to that point, and she didn't want to see anybody ruin it for me. Obviously, she went in and played the big sister role, but she didn't mean any harm by it. Everything was OK by that night.
When you all came to Hollywood for the finals, were y'all given some sort of clothing allowance? Did you bring your own stuff? Did you work with a stylist?
We all had our own clothes, but we had people helping us. We were so busy that it was kind of like, "OK, that's fine to wear." I mean, there were so many things to do that, like, half the time I was throwing things together.
What was it like living in the house?
Oh, it was great. It was so much fun. I didn't want to leave.
Since you were all living together but also competing against each other, did that make things tougher?
No. Not at all.
Were you able to form good friendships?
And do you think you'll keep in touch with these people?
You advanced to the finals from the first group of 8. What was it like waiting until the whole list was complete?
It was nice, because I had time to soak it all in.
Is there anyone that did not make it to the finals that you thought maybe should have?
Oh, wow...nobody that really sticks out.
How do you feel about the people who were invited back for the Wildcard Show but did not originally make the Top 32?
It was a little shocking.
Do you think it was fair?
Um...I really don't have an opinion about it. I mean, I guess the producers thought they missed some people. If I were them, I would have wanted the second chance, so I can't say that I disagree with it.
What would you say is your favorite part about the whole American Idol experience?
My favorite part...I really liked doing the group songs. That was fun. Whenever we had a chance to sing together--all of us--it felt really, really good. That was my favorite part.
What did you learn about yourself as a result of having been on the show?
That I have the drive to do this and go for it. I've never worked so hard in my life, so I feel really good about myself. It's changed me...not changed me personally, but changed my outlook on what I want to do.
So, you intend to make music your career?
I'm sure you've met a lot of celebrities while you were on the show or since. Which ones stand out to you?
Let's see...it was such a blur. I liked Steven Cojocaru (the People magazine fashion stylist who worked with the group at Old Navy). He said I was very "sassy". He liked my style.
You've kind of already answered this, but what kind of experience did you have performing in front of a live audience before American Idol?
Nothing. Well, I did do a semi-pro baseball National Anthem in Connecticut, but that was it.
Which do you feel is tougher--performing with just you, the judges, and the camera (with no audience to interact with), or performing in front of a live audience?
Hmmm...they're equal to me. I don't know...I mean, they're both the same. The adrenaline is still going, but it's a different kind of rush.
You mentioned at one point during your run on the show that you had a friend fighting over in Iraq. Is that right?
So, I imagine when you all sang "God Bless The U.S.A." that it had an extra bit of meaning for you?
Have you heard anything from your friend or anything about him?
No. I have no idea. But, he's over there. He's on the front line. So...I'm sure he's OK.
Is there anything you would go back and change about your experience if you had the chance?
You know, I wouldn't, because look at how far I got. I guess I would say no. You know, maybe I wouldn't have said anything to Simon that night if I had understood what he was saying...little things like that. And when Kim and I fought, I might not have said some of the little things I said, but people say things when they're upset. But, other than that, I mean...I'm very satisfied. I accomplished more than I ever would have dreamed for being such an amateur.
Is there any song that you enjoy singing that you would have liked to have had the chance to sing on the show?
Yes--"Unbreak My Heart". I would have loved to have sung that on the show. I did sing it at my audition, but it would have been a lot different if I had sung it actually on the show. And that's another thing...we don't get to decide what category...I mean, there are certain songs we can sing and certain ones we can't. So, it's hard.
Well, tell me about that. How does it all work? They tell you, "OK, Julia, the theme this week is going to be XXX", and then they give you a list of songs?
Exactly. We listen to all the different songs that have been cleared. Susan, the person who works on clearing all the songs, is absolutely wonderful. She tries so hard to clear everything. But, the category part...we don't get to pick that. I would have loved to have done disco, but we got country instead. If there's something that fits in the theme that we really want to sing, they'll try to clear it for us. It's very fair, but it's just the category part. Like, I would have loved to have sung "Unbreak My Heart", but it just didn't fit in a category.
Do you think the judges were fair, or do you think they were sometimes overly harsh?
I guess it's just what they're feeling at the moment. I mean, it's not scripted or anything, so I guess it's fair. I mean, it's their opinions, right?(*laughter*) I would have liked to have gotten some better comments (*laughter*).
Do you take what they said as constructive criticism, or do you think they were unecessarily harsh?
You know, it's the public that votes. I mean, I know that obviously they listen to what the judges say, but I just kinda take it as, "OK, that's your opinion." I'll learn from it, but I'm not going to let it ruin me or anything.
Julia, that's all I've got. Again, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. We'd love to have you visit our website and post a message or two if you get the chance, so feel free to come by and say hi!
OK, I'll try. Thanks. Bye.
Thanks to Julia for taking the time to talk to me and to FOX for granting me the permisssion to interview all the AI2 finalists this season.
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Last edited by lobeck; 04-01-2003 at 06:36 PM.
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