'American Idol' Castoff Erika Van Pelt Slams Jennifer Lopez's Criticism, Blames Elimination on Lack of 'Momentum'
The Rhode Island native reveals career goals and her own musical idol, whom she hopes to cover during the “Idol” Summer tour.
Although American Idol stylist Tommy Hilfiger is an easy scapegoat to blame for the disappointing elimination of Rhode Island DJ Erika Van Pelt on Thursday night’s American Idol, Van Pelt is very clear that she has no regrets.
In fact, Van Pelt admitted that she is quite daring when it comes to her hair and was considering a change long before her meeting with Hilfiger, mainly because she felt like she was “drowning in a sea of blondes.” However, the producers weren’t on board with the idea.
“Every time I asked to change my hair, I wasn’t allowed to because of consistency with the show,” she told reporters during a Friday conference call, adding that producers were afraid it would scare people before they had “really gotten a chance to know me.”
Van Pelt said that when she finally made the transformation this week -- Hilfiger said to go short, and she took it one step further to go dark -- her family wasn’t surprised in the least. The singer described her hair as “chameleon,” admitting that her mane has already undergone perms, extensions and various other styles over the years.
“I’m pretty fearless with that stuff,” she said, joking that color schemes do not frighten her in the least-and she may totally go hot pink, purple, blue, back to blonde, or “anything I feel.”
Regarding her elimination, Van Pelt said that she was tripped up by a general lack of “momentum out of the gate.”
“Even though I was progressing every week and coming more out of my shell, I feel regardless of my solid performances, I feel like every time I hit that stage it was one of those things where I didn’t gain enough momentum at the beginning and I sort of ended up lagging behind a little bit in the minds of the voters,” she said.
It was that and conflicting critiques from the judges, not her hair, that contributed to Van Pelt continually showing up in the bottom three, according to the singer.
“First, I wasn’t doing enough, then I was doing too much. Then, not enough, then I was over-singing. I felt I could just never just sing and be myself,” she lamented.
In particular, that Van Pelt disagreed with judge Jennifer Lopez’s critique that she should have moved around more on “New York State of Mind.”
“For me, I certainly didn’t agree with the critique, mostly because I was singing ‘New York State of Mind.’ Anyone who’s seen Billy Joel sing this song has seen Billy Joel sit behind a piano the entire time and still sell it, and I thought I sang it to the best of my ability,” she told Idol Worship. “I was really, really connected to the lyrics. New York holds a special place in my mind. My cousin is a New York firefighter, and with the ties to 9/11... I was disappointed when she said that. I felt like she wanted almost a fake performance, so people thought I was singing harder than I actually was, which really didn’t seem correct to me.”
Lopez’s criticism became a sore point for Van Pelt -- which she described as a “hard pill to swallow.”
“She made several comments starting back at sing for your life that I wasn’t pushing enough,” the singer said. “I felt there were a lot of comments that contradicted week to week.”
Van Pelt also believes that she and roommate Elise Testone were at a disadvantage because they were the oldest finalists in the competitions, and the boys have an edge because teenage girls vote for the cute guys.
Additionally, Van Pelt believes the judges are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, because they used season 10’s save on Casey Abrams and as a result, had to lose Pia Toscano.
“I feel like they need to save it for an even crazier elimination,” she said.
Other revelations: Van Pelt has a vocal nodule, which changed her voice from a mezzo soprano to an alto; she still talks to disqualified contestant Jermaine Jones “on the regular” and he’s “doing really well”; Jimmy Iovine was her favorite mentor on the show; She was planning on performing a Pink song for next week’s theme of “performing your favorite Idol,” but promises she may do it on the summer tour; She wants to explore musical theatre on Broadway and a freshman album when the tour wraps up.
“I have big plans for myself,” she said.
Look for Van Pelt next week with appearances on The Today Show and Anderson Cooper.