Jackson native takes shot at 'Idol' stardom

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fans of Fox's show "American Idol" in the Southeast Missouri area may soon be seeing a familiar face, as 24-year-old Jackson native Chrissie Icaza has made it as one of 120 semi-finalists chosen to audition in Hollywood.

Icaza was one of 13,000 people who camped out at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis last August to audition, and was later picked to move on to the next round of competition.

"I started off just kind of having some fun with some friends and went and auditioned," said Icaza. "I was used to doing a lot of things other than pop music, so when a friend of mine was auditioning I just kind of decided to go with her."

Having some fun quickly turned into success, as Icaza, who has been singing since age 8 and is trained in opera, went through three successive rounds of judges.

"I really didn't think I would make it that far," Icaza recalled. "It was almost a surreal moment more than anything, and my nerves didn't really kick in until I auditioned in front of the two top producers of 'Pop Idol.'"

"Pop Idol" is the British version of "American Idol." After Icaza made it through those judges, it was time to face the big three: Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, the notoriously nasty Brit.

"Before I walked in the door to audition with Simon, Paula and Randy, I was very, very nervous," she said. "As soon as I opened the door and walked in, all of my nerves went away. It was almost as if I was watching TV."

Icaza said the judges chit-chatted with her, with Abdul saying she looked familiar and Cowell saying "Probably because you look a little like her."

Her first song was "Last Dance," and she also sang one of her favorites, "Fever."

Cowell, who has reduced many contestants to tears, delivered glowing praise.

"I honestly expected to walk in and for Simon to tell me I was terrible and I wasn't any good," she said. "I was pleasantly surprised when I got done singing and he said 'Well, I'm going to be honest with you. You're really good.' And I was just like, 'Oh, my God, this is great.'"

The judgment was unanimous, as all three passed her on to the semifinal round.

She can't say whether she's one of the 24 finalists, but she knows who is, and says that fans of the show are in for a real treat with all the talent that will be displayed in the finals.

Her appearance on "American Idol" has also helped Icaza get a record deal, as she has one scheduled for release in September. Due to contractual obligations, she couldn't comment on who was producing the CD, but she said production is scheduled to begin in March. The title has not yet been determined, but photos have been taken for the front cover.

On it, she hopes to add some special ethnic flair. "I'm half-Hispanic, so I'm hoping I can do some songs in Spanish," she said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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