Saturday, June 22, 2024

‘Idol’ thoughts

In the final season of an iconic series, a Las Vegas singer punches her ticket to Hollywood.


Tiffanne LeMay and the American Idol judges.

A senior at Cimarron High School, 17-yearold Tiffanne LeMay was listening intently when Ryan Seacrest closed “American Idol” 2015 with a plea for auditioners to step up for the show’s final season.

The gifted performer accepted the challenge and made quite an impression. We caught up with her for a conversation about wowing the superstar judges, earning a golden ticket to Hollywood, and planning a future in the spotlight.

Tell us how your “American Idol” audition came to be.

I had never auditioned for “American Idol” before, and when we found out that 2016 would be the show’s final season, my mother looked at me and said, “Why don’t we just try because it is the last season?” I said, “Okay, sure!” So we drove 12 hours to Denver … for a pre-audition situation to see if you fit for the show. There were over 6,000 people from all over the country who showed up to audition. I received a “yes” at the pre-audition, and then we had to come back to Denver to audition for the “American Idol” judges. On our way there, we had a flat tire — so we got to our hotel very late, and I had to report to the audition site at 5 a.m. to perform for the judges.

How was the audition in front of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.?

Tiffanne Lemay’s American Idol Golden Ticket to Hollywood.

It was kind of funny because it seemed like Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. argued over me for a second because J-Lo said at first, “Yes, of course you can sing — there is no doubt about that. Your performance was amazing. I just don’t know if you can perform it well enough on stage.” I did sing a slow song by Alicia Keys called, “Brand New Me.” Harry jumped in the conversation and said, “I don’t know about that J-Lo. She sang a slow song and I think she performed it well enough.” J-Lo agreed and all three judges said, “Yes,” and I had to walk up to J-Lo to get my Golden Ticket for Hollywood.

Throughout the whole process I was very calm, and when I received my Golden Ticket I didn’t initially jump up and scream in front of the judges. But when I left the audition room and showed my mother the ticket she screamed and jumped up and then I joined her with excitement. I looked at it and said, “Oh, my God — I have a Golden Ticket!” Out of 6,000 people who initially showed up, there were only 48 people who received a ticket for Hollywood.

When do you actually go to Hollywood?

We already taped Hollywood week. Everything up until the live shows is pre-recorded. So I already know where I am in the competition.

What was the biggest unexpected challenge you encountered through the process?

The biggest challenge was handling things like the interviews with the producers. They asked me to tell them about my entire life. Also, staying up all night to learn lyrics to songs and working with several vocal coaches and the band. I wouldn’t say it was hard, but I would describe it as … new.

What is the biggest misconception about the “American Idol” judges?

I think everyone thinks that Jennifer Lopez is a huge diva and rude. Honestly, she is not that at all. She was there to help me, and she really expressed that she wanted to see me and the others succeed in life. She was always there and you could talk to her like a friend. All of the judges are very normal because I think they know our struggles — because they had similar ones in their careers. I think people think Harry Connick Jr. is super mean because he is very serious. He really knows music, and it is his job to be a good judge. But he is also such a good father figure. We would talk often, and it’s amazing that I say he is like a father figure — but he was there for me and others for encouragement and musical advice. He has daughters and I think he is sensitive to younger girls, competition and giving support. Keith Urban’s father passed away during the taping in Hollywood and he was going through a lot. He still came to work and was very professional. I don’t know if he knew it or not, but watching him was one of the biggest inspirations to everyone that was on the cast of “American Idol.” He was going through some stuff, but he was still there every day for us. He was so down to earth and cool. All of the judges are amazing people.

How is Ryan Seacrest?

Ryan Seacrest is amazing. He is so professional and everything he did on camera he would do in one take. He is great at what he does and he is super funny. He is the life of the party.

Did a lot of African-Americans make it to Hollywood?

Yes. It was like a melting pot of African- Americans, Hispanics and Asians. We all treated each other like family. There was no competitive strife between us. All of the contestants help each other and we encourage one another. I felt we are all here trying to do this together. All the contestants have each other’s back. During the Hollywood week we were all together 24-7.

Were there many surprises?

Everything will be seen on TV and will be pretty amazing. From the first episode we had surprises out of the gate. Kanye West came to the auditions — and I really admire him for his music and how he does business.

How do you see yourself as you mature in your artistry?

Well, I guess when I get older and starting my career I would like to be more like Kanye West from a business aspect. I like how he produces, writes, and promotes all of his music. I would like to be a part of all parts of my career and have that control. He also has his own record company and he completed college. He is someone I kind of envision myself to be — and he is my favorite rapper.

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