Fox’s “American Idol”: What Really Happened Behind The Cameras (and a possible “American Idol” Revival?)

“You’re going to Hollywood!”, was the signature phrase that “American Idol” hopefuls waited to hear from celebrity judges on FOX’s now-canceled hit TV Show. For 15 years, the show was considered the biggest stage on television for aspiring singers to compete and win the renowned title, “American Idol”, as well as a major record deal. Some of the biggest names in music today sprouted from the series including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson (who didn’t even win Idol). This was truly any singers big dream.

But what was the show really like behind cameras? What were the auditions like? What were the judges like? I auditioned for the show back in 2012 where original judge Randy Jackson was aligned with new superstar judges Mariah Carey, Nikki Minaj, and Keith Urban. Let me tell you from the get-go: this was a rollercoaster of an experience.

“American Idol” Season 12 Judges from left to right: Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, (Host) Ryan Seacrest, Nikki Minaj – from 

Before I actually got a ticket to go to hollywood, I auditioned for the show 4 times before. Or was it 4 times? Honestly, I lost count by now). The initial audition process was grueling; by the thousands, auditioners waited in line for hours at a time, all in the heat (or rain or snow, depending on where you were auditioning). Anyone whose ever auditioned knew to get there as early as possible in hopes of shortening your wait time to audition. Once we got in to the stadium, we then had to wait even longer for our chance to audition. Section after section, line after line, I waited until it was my turn to make it to the stadium floor.

Once I made it to the floor, we were placed in rows of five before a panel of producer and staff judges. These were not the celebrity judges you saw on TV, these judges would weed out true contenders from the rest (or non-singers who were put on the show for laughs). This part of the process was more like a lucky punch: getting the right judge to like your audition, your voice, your look, your style, etc. I’ve seen some crazy talented singers not even make it passed this part of the auditions, but I was thinking judges knew what they were looking for. Nerves were going crazy and some people got the go-ahead while most people got turned down.

“American Idol” auditioners waiting in line for their audition – from

I auditioned with Adele’s “One and Only” and was fortunate to go to the next round. I was told to come back for another round of auditions. This now meant I would make another trip from my hometown of Orlando, Florida back to North Carolinawhere I auditioned for the next round. But all this was okay if really wanted to make it on “American Idol”. So I made that travel back to Charlotte and auditioned for the executive producer round. This time I sang Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time”.  I got a big “YES” to go forward and audition for the celebrity judges.

If you’ve never watched the show before, the first time Idol viewers see your audition (if they air it) where you’re in front of the celebrity judges. Any audition is nervewracking, but to be in front of superstar celebrities and knowing the whole world is watching, it was extremely trembling to be auditioning for American Idol. It was even nervewracking watching other celebrities audition just like rap icon, Kanye West.

Vanessa Quillao about to get her Golden Ticket to Hollywood on “American Idol” – from

Before I knew it, the time came for me to step upon the Idol audition platform and introduce myself. I was extremely nervous, thinking hard to myself,”don’t mess this up!”. I sang “One Moment in Time” once again and Mariah’s eyes lined with tears. Around this time, Whitney Houston had tragically passed awayNikki told me, “I feel like you did Whitney Houston justice”. Before I knew it, I heard a “YES! You’re going to Hollywood” from the judges and handed me a Golden Ticket.

Here’s my interview with “American Idol” after I got my golden ticket to Hollywood from AI’s YouTube channel:

A few months later, I flew to Hollywood, California (on American Idol’s expense) with other girls who got a Golden Ticket (we were all talking about our experiences on the plane). We went from the airport by shuttle to our hotel rooms. It was boys vs. girls on this season of Idol, so only girls were along with me to the next rounds of auditions. It couldn’t have been the worst time ever for me to catch Bronchitis right before I go to audition for the biggest singing competition on Earth! But I tried to suck it up and do my best the whole time. The good thing was free stay in a nice hotel and free food all day!

First we had solo rounds, lined up in rows of 10 to perform another song for the judges. For this round I chose to sing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. I passed! Not many other girls were so lucky. Hours of waiting later, all the girls chosen from the solo rounds would be put into groups for the infamously grueling group rounds, where were given a song and had to practice parts and choreography literally ALL NIGHT. I think I got 1 hour of sleep that night as we were trying to perfect our performanc for the next day. Idol staff seemed to be used to this process and didn’t seem to care about the lack of energy and enthusiasm of the auditioners. I guess to them it was a no-excuses, either you want to win this thing or not attitude. It was a sad epihony, but very true. Next thing we knew, it was audition time and everyone was exhausted. My group performed Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” and it did not go well. It was rather embarassing, actually. Nikki Minaj told us she thought she just watched a “5th grade talent show”. 

It was the most disheartening thing I’ve ever had to experience. I felt mad at myself for getting sick, mad at myself for not being better, and mad at myself for letting my one chance slip away.

…But everything happens for a reason.

A couple of months later, I would find out about the biggest blessing of my life: I was pregnant! I would later give birth to my wonderful, perfect son. That is another story on its own but it just goes to show that sometimes fate will make its way to you when you least expect it. Everything happens for a reason. The process was grueling and exhausting. At times I felt like my one little cow in a cattlecall, not like a singer, nor even like a human being at times. But nonetheless, I could not be more thankful for the opportunity I did have making it to Hollywood on “American Idol” #RIPAmericanIdol .

The show was cancelled a few years later, maybe due to the skyrocketing success of NBC’s “The Voice” I hope the show will make a big comeback and return bigger and better, and there is already talks of an “American Idol” revival happening. We shall see how this turns out in the future, and what will happen to the future of “The Voice”. Possible alliance? How does, “The Voice of an American Idol” sound? I can’t wait to hear more on a possible comeback, but for now I’m going to start watching some Idol re-runs until it returns.

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