Tampa Bay Idol winner and runner-up move up
Samantha Leigh's shot at American Idol fame came down to about 15 seconds; the amount of time she got to blast through Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady during her audition today before American Idol producers in Orlando.
Leigh was the singer I helped choose for a special audition slot handed out through WTVT-Ch. 13's Tampa Bay Idol contest, working with four other judges to sort through 80 applicants and watching 10 finalists sing at a Brandon mall.
Turns out, she and second-place finisher Brad Iturriaga did well, moving to the next stage in Idol's audition process.
Leigh's win guaranteed an audition before the show's producers ahead of the 10,000 people who crowded around Amway Arena today, joining about 50 people who had won similar contests around the region or done well at Disney World's Idol Experience.
According to Leigh, singers were split into groups and asked to sing when pointed at, standing before four casting producers. Generally, singers got through about 15 seconds of a tune before they were stopped -- nothing like the longer auditions with feedback they show during the Idol broadcasts.
"They tell you ahead of time not to introduce yourself, not to ask for feedback, they just point to you and you sing," said Leigh, 22, who works as a hairstylist and performs at Busch Gardens in Tampa. "It was crazy, nerve-racking . . . almost surreal."
Leigh and Iturriaga will perform for the show's executive producers later this month -- Fox doesn't publicize those auditions the way they hype the big stadium cattle calls -- and won't face on-camera judges such as Simon Cowell, if they're lucky, until next month.
Leigh didn't even get to meet Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who was there to film some of the opening sequences for the audition shows. "I did get to stand 20 feet away from him," she said, laughing. "Maybe I'll meet him next time."