This season of American Idol, which promotes the beloved lioness Jennifer Lopez, her mate Steven Tyler, and their bastard, unloved son Randy Jackson, also features a few ladies that I know. And by “know” I mean am vaguely familiar with because they went to high school with me and were Vocal/Drama majors, which meant they were LOUD AND PROUD. The Top 24 (12 boys, 12 girls) was Karen Rodriguez (’07), Pia Toscano (DIGGY ’06), and Rachel Zevita (’05). If I was really mean, I would find my yearbook and dig out photos of them, but since it was only a few years ago and they all look basically the same, it wouldn’t really be the before-and-after we all enjoy ripping into.
This week, we’ve reached the Final 13, and Rachel has been ousted, largely for being inconsistent and too Broadway. That leaves Pia and Karen, who actually knew each other in school; they were in New Music singers together, one of the rare opportunities for LaGuardia students to perform more modern pieces. Pia and Karen were even paired together on the show, with the duet The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” on American Idol together. These girls, while not good friends of mine (ok, even friends of mine), all look familiar to me, helped by the fact that they were all integral parts of the school musicals over the years. Their presence on American Idol, so highly touted for bringing fame to “ordinary” talented people, is actually a reminder that the show exists for the viewers. Most specifically, so the viewers can feel famous themselves. Through American Idol, we can touch fame through our friends and family, much like in other reality television shows, but with less stigma and more accomplishment.
Is this rush that I know someone on American Idol anything based anywhere in fact? No. When Emma was younger, anytime anyone we remotely knew was acquaintances with someone who might know someone else who was famous, she would scream, “I’m FAMOUS!” In fact, the unfiltered joy she got out of it was pretty cute, though we all shook our heads at her naivete. It was pretty hilarious at the time, and now it’s a family joke, but to some extent, her expression of “I’m famous!” is how we all feel. I may recognize these girls, but that’s about it, yet I cannot shake the weird feelings that I know/recognize/can name without feeling too weird someone on American Idol. What is true is that with each degree of separation, the legitimacy of potential fame fades. Our passionate love for recognition and validity to our small, small lives, does not.