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Just when you think you’ve seen it all on American Idol, the 12-year-old series writes a new chapter. The newest page in the show’s history: the first all-female top five, which last week was narrowed down to four.
But that’s not a first. It happened once before, nine years ago. When George Huff was voted off in fifth place on Idol in season three, four females were left standing: Fantasia, Diana DeGarmo, Jasmine Trias and La Toya London.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with those final four, two of whom were at the heart of 2004’s battle of the divas, to get their thoughts on the season 12 finalists and why girl power is in full effect this year.
The Hollywood Reporter: We now know a female is going to win season 12 of American Idol, the first woman to win since Jordin Sparks in season 6. What do you think about that?
Fantasia: I think that this is good! (Laughing). Just to see women being strong and doing their thing, I love that. So I think it’s great. I do. Sorry, guys!
Diana DeGarmo: I’m super excited to know for sure that a woman will be taking home the Idol crown this year — it’s about time!
Jasmine Trias: It will certainly be refreshing to see a female winner after so many male winners in recent years! Not that the male winners haven’t proven to have great success too, but if you look back at some of the female stars born out of Idol, it will be exciting to see what this year’s winner can go on to achieve. Maybe this is the start of a new trend, and the ratio of female to male winners will begin to balance out.
La Toya London: It’s about darn time (laughs). I think it’s great.
THR: Idol history was made last week — we have an all-female top five for the first time in the history of the show. You were in an all-female top four. At the time, did that seem important? Did you think about it?
Fantasia: I don’t think it has anything to do with male or female. I think it’s actually the person who catches America’s eye and touches them through their music.
Diana DeGarmo: In my season there wasn’t an equal amount of guys and girls in the top 12. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the women were very strong right out of the gate and this year seems to be very much the same. I love all of the guys from my season and the guys from this year are very similar, but the stars were aligned for the ladies!
Jasmine Trias: Honestly, at the time, the fact it was an all female top four didn’t really occur to me. I was so grateful to have made it that far in the competition that I was really just focused on trying to deliver the best live performances I possibly could.
La Toya London: We definitely acknowledged that fact, but it wasn’t that important to me. It wasn’t a huge deal to me because regardless, it’s still the same competition whether a boy is present or not.
THR: What was it like on the night George Huff went home and there were four female contestants remaining?
Fantasia: Every night when someone left it was hard on all of us, whether it was female or male. We became so close, so tight, we were a family. We spent so much time together, we wrote together, we ate together, we were always together, and the thing about our season is that everybody could sing. John Stevens, Jasmine, Camile Velasco, Leah LaBelle and oh my God, Diana DeGarmo. Everybody was so talented, and so different, and I don’t think I even thought about the fact that it was a male going home, I just felt like, ‘he’s leaving.’ I cried that whole night. I did. I’m still waiting to hear a George Huff album. We need an album from him because with a vocal like that, with a story like his, he needs an album. He needs to be heard by the world, so at that moment when he was leaving all I kept saying was, ‘I hope that he does not stop here. I hope that he goes far.’ And guess what? He’s singing with Jennifer Hudson right now, so when I saw that I got so excited. So he’s doing his thing and again, I don’t think it has anything to do with male or female, it’s that person touching America who they like.
Diana DeGarmo: The night George Huff went home was very emotional, just like all of the other elimination nights. You become so close to your fellow contestants, so it’s always hard to see someone leave. Our top four didn’t really even notice we were all female until the media did! And even after that we didn’t have time to focus on it because the next week was quickly approaching.
Jasmine Trias: Even though we were aware that George was the last of the guys to go home, I don’t remember it being a big deal at the time. The contestants on season three all got along and we were like one big family, so it was sad to see anyone go, especially toward the end. It is important, however, to remember that every week someone else went home was another week you got to stay on in the competition, so it was always a combination of sadness to see your friends leave, but relief that you made it through to the next round.
La Toya London: I was really sad to see George eliminated. He absolutely did not deserve to go home. He was the best male vocalist on our season. He was very shocked, and he wasn’t ready to go. We loved him so much that we felt for him.
THR: How did the dynamic of living together in the mansion change when suddenly there were no boys in the house?
Diana DeGarmo: As the competitors dwindled down, we definitely had more space and bathroom time at the house! HAHA! But when you have a top whatever ALL females, the bathroom time and square footage is still precious!
Jasmine Trias: If I remember correctly, as soon as it was down to the top four, we were all moved out of the mansion into a hotel. I don’t know whether that was a conscious decision by the producers to give contestants more space and separation from each other as the competition got more intense, or whether it was just that the mansion was too big for so few of us to be living there. There’s no question that the pressure of the competition intensified as the weeks went on, but that probably would’ve been the same no matter who was in the top four. With the crazy schedule each week for the contestants, there really isn’t a lot of time to consider the dynamics of the competition. Everyone is focused, so every week after elimination, it is just business as usual. I think the majority of speculation over the competition itself comes more from the outside world rather than the contestants themselves. Contestants are kept so busy and in such a bubble that there really isn’t time to think like that.
THR: Much has been made of the “WGWG” situation – five “white guys with guitars” winning in a row. What do you think of that? Does it matter? Is it because of who votes?
Diana DeGarmo: I think there have been five “white guys with guitars” American Idol winners because that’s who people voted for – plain and simple. It’s been proven that women vote much more often than men, so the end results were a no-brainer. We vote for who we like, duh! But I am very, very happy to see the ladies proudly voting for LADIES this year. Girl power!
Jasmine Trias: I hear all the time that the majority of American Idol votes come from female viewers, and that this is why we keep seeing male winners. This may be true, but voting this season proves that it still comes down to talent. Female viewers may well be more drawn to vote for male contestants, but they still have to be as good as the female competition. An attractive, likable guy will only go so far without the talent to back it up. It’s about the whole package. It will definitely be interesting to see how the voting goes in the coming weeks with only female contestants left.
THR: Would it have been bad for American Idol to have a sixth “WGWG” in a row? Is it better for the show to have a female win?
Diana DeGarmo: I don’t know if it would have been “good” or “bad” if another “WGWG” had won American Idol this year, but I think it has definitely refreshed this season and the show as a whole with their ladies-only top five.
Jasmine Trias: I don’t think it would have been bad for American Idol to have a sixth “WGWG” in a row, if the right contestant had come along to justify the title. The previous five winners have all been really talented and worthy winners. But in terms of variety for the show, it will be a welcome change to see a female winner break the pattern.
La Toya London: I think having a female win keeps the competition balanced. It’s time for a change.
THR: What do you think of the five women left standing in this year’s competition?
Diana DeGarmo: I think all of the top five ladies are fantastic! I can see each of them having wonderful, lucrative artistic careers, no matter who wins. I thoroughly enjoy listening to all of them.
Jasmine Trias: I think it was clear from the top 10 show that the female contestants were vocally stronger in the competition this year. The best singers this season, in my opinion, are Candice Glover, Angie Miller and Kree Harrison. They are my picks for the top three. They showcase a variety of musical styles and genres. You have country/soul with Kree, pop/rock with Angie and R&B/soul with Candice. Voting will probably be extremely close as I suspect America will be pretty evenly split.
THR: What did you think of the five boys who went home?
Diana DeGarmo: I enjoyed all of the gentlemen of season 12. Unfortunately, the girls did outshine them just a bit …
Jasmine Trias: Overall the boys were vocally a little weaker than the girls this season, but Devin Velez was a stand-out vocalist. I was pleased to see Lazaro Arbos make it so far. His story was inspirational, and he showed great courage being on the show. Everyone knows the magic of American Idol is not just in the contestants’ talent, but also in their personality and story. I love that America roots for the underdog and recognizes bravery in someone overcoming great obstacles to achieve their dreams.
THR: In your opinion, who …
Fantasia: I already know what you’re about to ask!
THR: … is going to win Season 12?
Fantasia: I’m not going to tell (laughs).
Diana DeGarmo: A GIRL (laughs)! Being a former contestant and having read people’s interviews where they said who they “thought” or “wanted” to win, I never want to pick someone. I’m like Switzerland. I really like each of the ladies on their own terms, and I think that each of them will represent American Idol well at the finale.
Jasmine Trias: I would say that if America votes on the best vocals alone, Candice should be the season 12 winner. Her voice is outstanding. But I’m also a fan of Kree and feel her story of personal tragedy could make for a fairytale ending if she were to be crowned the season 12 American Idol. As always, it will be exciting to see how America votes!
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