AI6: Interview with Paul Kim: A Foot Fetish
Friday, I participated in a Media interview with Paul Kim. He had lots to talk about although the questions were focused a bit on his feet. I guess that is what happens when you say you will never wear shoes on the shoe. He was a very nice guy and seemed like this is not going to be the end of the road for his singing career.
The judges really blasted the song choices of those who were eliminated. So do you kind of think thatís what hurt you?
P. Kim: I definitely think it was song choice. I had a list of songs that I wanted to perform, and my top five didnít clear. So I had to go with option number six, which I wasnít very comfortable with. So thatís what I had to sing, and obviously it showed in my performance that I wasnít
really doing the song. Itís probably why I got sent home.
Why do you think your top five didnít clear?
P. Kim: On the show you need to clear the song, because it is owned by the artist or whoever wrote the song. That song needs to be cleared to be performed on the show. I guess it didnít clear in time, because it did eventually clear about a day after I had performed Ė the song had
cleared. So it was too late, yes.
In your audition you discussed the desire to sort of prove that Asian American men can be different from William Hung in this competition. Could you talk a little bit more about that, and what you sort of think you proved?
P. Kim: It kind of bothers me how, when you watch television or in the movies, you see Asian men portrayed in such a stereotypical way. I mean theyíre always portrayed as really short in stature, really un-athletic, just really bookworm, nerd types you know? That stereotype really offends me, because thatís what America sees and thatís what America thinks itís like.
So I was kind of on this quest to prove that wrong. I didnít feel like I actually did enough. I wanted to get a lot further into the competition, but people did get to see me. I was in the spotlight for a little bit, and they got to see that Iím 6í1Ē, athletic. So I could sing and Iím not the bookworm type. I had a horrible SAT score.
Do you think that you made it easier for the next Asian American male contestants in the future in the show?
P. Kim: I would hope so. Iím not a trailblazer. Iím not anybody special. I would just hope that maybe I have opened the door for anyone else. I mean, I didnít do my job, and hopefully someone else will. Iím really hoping that they do.
On the show you said this was your last chance at music. Whatís next for you?
P. Kim: Whatís next for me? Iím going to go back into the studio. Iím going to go back to writing songs. Iím going to go back to producing. Iím going to go back to recording. I canít wait to get some new stuff out there. Itís not Ė my run on the show might be over, but itís just the beginning for me. I mean I know itís opened up a whole bunch of doors, and Iím already getting offers. So Iím just waiting for the right deal to come along. Maybe Iíll get an offer or a role on a movie or a TV show. So itís just the beginning, and Iím really excited right now.
Being from the South Bay, do you have anything to say representing San Jose and Saratoga?
P. Kim: You know, thatís part of the reason why I was on the show. I was the only representative of the Bay Area, and especially in the South Bay. I wanted to make everyone proud, and I hope I did. I know I let some people down, but I did it for San Jose. I hope that when I get home I get a warm welcome.
My question for you is, your whole trademark was the whole shoes-off thing. So was this something that you did before American Idol, like in the past, maybe in past experience performing, or is it something that you came up with on the show?
P. Kim: Iíve actually been performing barefoot for years. Iím a soul singer. So I like to be free up there on the stage. Looking back, it could seem as if it was portrayed as a gimmick to try and get more votes, but it was just me trying to me. It was me trying to Ė they might have asked me to change my hair, change my clothes, but I wanted one thing that was me. I could always be me up on that stage. I did it because I feel as if I sing my best, perform my best when Iím comfortable, and thatís me being barefoot....
P. Kim: I think some people took it as a gimmick and thought it was some type of joke or something I just came up with to get extra votes, but it wasnít that way at all. I would hope that it wouldnít be portrayed that way.
Right, and my other question for you is Ė so I know that in wardrobe itís kind of a big deal to get ready, and they pick out your clothes, and your shoes and everything. So now that you didnít have to go pick out your shoes, were you like the first one ready to go on stage, because you didnít have that extra step that everyone else did? Or did it take longer, because you had to like make your feet look nice?
P. Kim: Right, well I guess, but also with that you have to coordinate your outfit so that it doesnít look stupid with no shoes you know?
Yes, exactly, so it did take a little time for you as well.
P. Kim: Right, I had to look a little earthy and like natural with what I was wearing to match the bare feet.
Not to rub it in, but are you going to be bummed really missing Gwen Stefani, J.Lo, Bon Jovi?
P. Kim: Of course, there was some huge names in the industry. I was really looking forward to working with those people, but thatís just the way it goes sometimes.
Now if you could have picked any star, singer out there right now as a mentor on the show, who would you want to see?
P. Kim: Well, I was really jealous watching last season, because the first week of the top 12, they all got Ė ... Stevie Wonder, and I was so jealous. I was like, ďOh, Iíve have to try it out,Ē last year. So it definitely would be Stevie Wonder.
I was wondering, what do you think you could have done differently?
P. Kim: Wow! Of course it was a song choice. I wish I had had my first top choice of songs that I wanted to do, because I was really prepared to just blow that one out the water. I actually had practiced it for this next week, had I gotten through, but I didnít. I got really sick during the week, thatís why I had to wear shoes last night. I came down with bronchitis, and a sinus
infection. So I actually had to change the key of my song down half a step, because I couldnít hit those notes because my throat was so gone. I guess that could have been why my song was a little boring to Simon, because it was kind of safe. It didnít test my range at all.
Yes, what song would you have picked instead in retrospect?
P. Kim: The song at the top of my list was a song called, ďI Love You More Than Youíll Ever Know.Ē It was Johnnyís Hathawayís rendition of it, and I really wanted to do it. I mean I was looking forward to doing it, because his daughter is actually one of the back-up singers for the show. It would have been a real honor.
Since you were always barefoot on the show, did the makeup people give you a pedicure before you preformed?
P. Kim: Some people asked me whether or not I wanted one, but I actually said, ďI was okay.Ē I think my feet are not too bad looking. So I said, ďThat's okay.Ē
Oh, alright. Is there anything you would have done differently?
P. Kim: Yes, I probably could have not gotten sick in the first place, but thatís not really an excuse, because even if I was sick, I should have sang better and I didnít. So I probably could have done it a little better. I could have picked a better song. I could have been more exciting, but things happened, and here we are now.
Could you just reflect for me a little bit just on the whole Idol experience? When we hear itís very crazy, and you guys have no downtime and all that kind of thing. So just how different was the experience then what you thought it would be, and what was it like?
P. Kim: The Idol experience was actually very exciting, and I had a lot of fun. I mean there are some rumors floating around there that they treat the people on the show like slaves, but they actually treated us very, very well. I mean, everyone that worked on the show was just like family. All the other people on the show were just like family, and it was just this huge close-knit group.
I actually loved that, because I didnít expect that. I thought it was going to be rough, but they treated us so well. Some of the hard parts were those cut days, when you knew people were going to be going home. It was just even more nerve racking in real life than it is on TV, you know? So there were moments when I thought I was going to lose my lunch.
I was wondering if Fantasia gave you any advice, gave anyone any advice, if you had time to chat with her off-screen?
P. Kim: I actually didnít even get a chance to meet her, but I did watch her perform from upstairs. I would have loved to have met her. Iím a huge fan of hers, and I think sheís a great person.
All this week, the judges kept saying like, ďThe girls are better. The girls were better.Ē Did that get to you? Was that a little frustrating?
P. Kim: Not at all, because I mean while we were sitting in the audience for the girlís round, all the judges were taking shots at us, saying that we had done horribly, and the girls were a lot better. But I mean if the girls had gone first and the guys had been allowed to see what was going on, what judges were looking for, I think, we as a whole and as a guyís group, would have
done a lot better than we did. But since we had to go first, everyone was nervous, it was a little scary. So, but I do think the girls were amazing. I mean it was like, I got to sit in the front row at one of the best concerts Iíd ever been to and it was free.
Who you rooting for now?
Moderator: Oh, he canít answer that question. Iím sorry.
My question is: some of the people, before the top 24 comes around, get a lot more air time than some of the other people. Do you think that played any sort of role in you getting eliminated over some other people who maybe should have gone before you?
P. Kim: I guess certain things like that could build you up a better stand base earlier on. I mean when it comes to it, if you donít bring your best, if you donít blow them away with your song, with your performance, I mean youíre not going to get the votes. I have to admit, I didnít blow them away, and that was my fault. It shouldnít really matter who got more air time, who got a
little bit more love, who got Ė I just think it comes down to, when you get on that stage, if you donít bring it, youíre going home, and thatís what happened to me.
So this year they were saying that the judges were being really harsh on the contestants. Did you find their criticism helpful or did you think that they were being a little bit too rough?
P. Kim: I definitely found it helpful. Everyone was pretty honest with me. Nobody actually insulted me. I mean even Simon. He had some harsh words for me, but he never really insulted me and made me feel bad about myself. He just told me he thought it was kind of boring or he thought it was generic. I will take that and Iím going to go home and work on my craft. Hopefully I can impress him maybe in some other way, if my album comes out, and if he sees me on TV heíll be impressed.
If I want to re-approach the question, not so much about who youíre rooting for from here, but give me a couple of guys and a couple of girls who you think we havenít seen nothing yet from? Sort of the people who are much better than we have any idea about yet?
P. Kim: We have pretty much seen everybody. I mean thereís not someone whoís been hiding in the back. I mean every single one of those guys and girls has just been Ė theyíve blown me away honestly. I mean I get to hear them practicing all the time, and theyíre all just Ė nobody is there that shouldnít be there, you know? I donít think thereís one person on ... thatís just not
incredible. Thereís no way to tell whoís going to win, because America votes and Iím lucky I donít have to decide.
How much would you love to see Simon get up there on stage and sing in front of millions of people?
P. Kim: I guess at times I do feel like that, but he does know music. Heís where he is for a reason. He knows his stuff, and I respect him very much. Even though his comments to me have hurt my feelings a little bit, Iím a huge fan of his, and I think that heís a good guy. Like maybe heís a little meaner on camera than he is in real life, but I really respect him. I guess it would be kind of funny to see him out there trying to sing though.
Yes, where do you see yourself in five years?
P. Kim: Wow, where do I see myself in five years. I would hope to have a top-selling album thatís done my way, in terms of kind of just what I want to do with soul music. I would love to be in film in somewhere, and I would love to act. Within five years I would hope to be a star, and Iím really rooting for that.
Did you have to chance ... good friends with any of the others in the final 24?
P. Kim: Of course. I have a room mate. Heís a roommate of mine, Jared Cotter, and weíre like best friends. Weíre like brothers. Weíre the same age. We love the same type of music. So I really enjoyed my time with him. It goes for every single person on the show. I donít think there was one person that caused any static. We really were a family, because when you spend
24 hours a day with a group of people, it becomes Ė you really root for each other. You donít want anyone to go home. You donít want anyone to be hurt, and I think that was proven last night when the show was over. I was sitting in that waiting room and everyone came up to me and was hugging me and we were all crying. I mean itís like a real family, and it was something
real special for me.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this call.