'American Idol': The Top 12 have it all. But what they really want is a snack
"You're one of those little, sarcastic L.A. Times girls too, aren’t you," inquired Constantine Maroulis, after I complimented his recent theatrical achievements. We were at the "American Idol" Top 12 party, and Constantine had convinced himself, for reasons unbeknownst to me, that I had it in for him. "Those that can't, ya know, write," Constantine informed me. I told him that was a peculiar thing to tell a reporter. "It is what it is" he replied. Then, as we parted ways, he added, "You're very pretty. You're very nice."
After Constantine left, this "little," "sarcastic," "pretty," "nice," "L.A. Times girl" waited for the Top 12 to arrive. "American Idol" makeup artist Mezhgan Hussainy strolled down the red carpet first. According to Mezhgan, most of the contestants love having their makeup done. Rock and roll nurse Amanda Overmyer, however, was more resistant. "I want to start toning her down and giving her different looks," fantasized Mezhgan, who even copped to "taking away all [Amanda's] black liners."
Last season's favorite beat-boxer, Blake Lewis, cruised by too, and he was bold enough to list his favorite Season 7 contestants. Sure, he named almost all 12, but at least he didn't just say, "I love them all!" Blake is backing David Archuleta, Michael Johns, Chikezie Eze, Brooke White, Syesha Mercado, Carly Smithson and David Cook.
The Idols finally arrived, and Kristy Lee Cook looked as country and cute as ever, sporting a casual t-shirt and jeans. Despite her country girl appearance, however, Kristy was mugging for pictures like a pro. Just weeks ago, at the Top 24 Party, Kristy had appeared almost bashful. "It's really crazy," mused Kristy tonight. "It's kind of like you adjust really fast because you have to. You don’t have time not to."
Jason Castro was dolled up for the occasion, with braided dreads and flowers in his locks. We discussed eliminations, and despite his laid-back persona, Jason confessed that they were pretty grueling. "You're even scared for the guy next to you," he moaned. "Even when you get a yes, it's not like 'yeah, I'm so happy,' its like, 'aw man, I'm sorry guys.' " Despite his sympathetic tendencies, however, Jason is not very social. "It takes me a long time to get a best friend," Jason confessed, explaining that in his spare time, he either reads or plays music.
Chikezie Eze, on the other hand, was more than happy to talk about his closest pal on the show. "I have a best friend and this is somebody that I auditioned with at the first audition in San Diego," began Chikezie, delighting in his slow buildup to his big reveal. "The first time we were in line together, I told him that he would be here. And he didn't believe me. And that is David Hernandez," announced Chikezie with his trademark infectious smile.
On "Idol," Brooke White told us about her love of hair and makeup. Well, tonight she reiterated that sentiment, with a sincerity that was downright moving. "Oh gosh," exclaimed Brooke, when I asked if she enjoyed being pampered on the show. "Every girl loves to have their hair and makeup done, right? It is the most luxurious part of this process to have someone take care of you in that way. When you're sitting in the makeup and hair chair, that is your moment to breathe," emoted Brooke. From what I could tell, Brooke is one of the most passionate, sensitive people on the planet, and she could be moved by anything from a sunset to a blush brush.
So, in case anybody was wondering, I'd like to set the record straight. Yes, David Archuleta really is that sweet. He began our interview by spitting a lozenge back into its wrapper and looking away. "Sorry 'bout that," he whispered. Turns out that David has had strep throat since Friday. When I asked what it was like to be "the one to beat," he downplayed the title. "I guess Simon said that once," admitted David, without ever meeting my eyes, adding, "it was like, ya know … everyone's so good!" He might be a prodigy when he sings, but when he speaks, he's a typical, bashful teen; all "likes," "ya knows" and nervous laughs.
Syesha Mercado, on the other hand, does not appear to have a nervous bone in her body. When asked what she was looking forward to most, Syesha replied (drawing every syllable out as looong as pooossible), "I am looking forward to just singing every song the best I can sing it in the world!" Syesha's smile stretched from ear to ear, and she added, "the more and more I'm doing more interviews, I just feel better and better and better and better!"
Carly Smithson, however, wasn't quite as cheerful. When I asked if she was homesick, Carly nodded. "Yeah, terrible," she replied. It did cheer Carly up a bit, however, to gush about her husband, who she married on Halloween night in 2004. "I make time for my husband every day," she smiled. "Before I get into bed every night I talk to him."
When I finally left the event, the Top 12 were still working their way down the press line, and showed no signs of slowing. They hadn't even been inside their own party. "Is there food in there?" a famished Brooke White inquired. There was. But ironically, the newly eliminated contestants were the only ones eating it. For the Top 12, there simply wasn't time right now. There would be time enough for food when the axes fell.
-- Stephanie Lysaght
(Photo courtesy Fox)