Jessica Sanchez with columnist Janet Nepales
LOS ANGELES—Fil-Ams celebrated on May 11 after Jessica Sanchez made it to the top 3 of reality singing competition American Idol’s (AI) eleventh season. The last Fil-Am who made it to AI’s top 3 was Jasmine Trias in season 3.
Other Fil-Ams who made it to AI's live shows were Camile Velasco (season 3), Ramiele Malubay (season 7), and Thia Megia (season 10).
Wednesday nights, to most Fil-Ams, are "Jessica Sanchez voting nights," while Thursday nights are when they pray that Jessica makes it to the show's next round.
We interviewed three Fil-Am community leaders here in Los Angeles--event producer-talent manager Ted Benito, writer Prosy dela Cruz, and fashion model-film producer Bessie Badilla--and here are some of their thoughts on the "Jessica Sanchez phenomenon."
ON HOW THEY ARE VOTING AND HELPING JESSICA
Ted Benito (TB): I never voted on American Idol until Jessica came into the competition. I vote three to five times via phone. I have never been to or held a voting party, but I try to post my thoughts on Facebook and encourage others to do the same.
Prosy dela Cruz (PDLC): I hosted a voting party two weeks ago before leaving for out-of-town trips, and we thoroughly enjoyed “competing” with each other to see who would be overcome with hope, optimism, and endurance to vote for Jessica. We voted using smart phones and online through Facebook.
Bessie Badilla (BB): Every Wednesday night, my daughter and I are glued to the TV, watching another stellar performance of Jessica--who I now call “A Musical Child Genius”! And every time we see her perform, we are left in awe. She never ceases to amaze us; she always delivers. Win or lose, Jessica is destined for greatness! As early as the first few weeks of American Idol, big producers are already giving hints of their interest in producing her first album! Big names like Mary J. Blige hands down admit their favorite is Jessica!
Janet with Bessie Badilla
ON WHY THEY ARE SUPPORTING JESSICA AND WHO THEY THINK IS HER CLOSEST RIVAL
TB: It’s precisely because Jessica is Filipino that I am supporting her efforts. I call it the ‘FF’ or ‘Filipino Factor, [which happens when]there is a Filipino involved in a reality show competition. We’ve seen it on both amateur (American Idol, The Voice, Celebrity Chef, etc.) and celebrity (Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Apprentice, etc.) levels.
We need to accept the artists for who they are and not necessarily define them by their rivals. Each singer is very distinct and very different and within different criteria--technique, interpretation, delivery, tone, inflection, etc.
However, in terms of vocal prowess, I think Jessica’s competition is Joshua Ledet.
PDLC: Jessica is quite endearing, humble, and open to judges’ and mentors’ feedback. She puts to shame other well-seasoned singers [because] her performances bring a new standard of excellence. Imagine what she will be when she becomes American Idol while retaining her grounded, down home, innocent spirit.
BB: I vote for her after the show. I dial the number and re-dial some 20 to 50 times more depending on my activity after the show! I am not only voting for her because she is a Filipina; I am voting for her because she is the best.
I also like Joshua Ledet, whose gospel-style performances are often times the judges' favorite performance for the evening. Joshua is the only one who can grab the title from Jessica. He has more experience than our Jessica, but this does not worry me too much. America will vote for the best voice, and that is Jessica!
ON HOW THEY WOULD DESCRIBE THE "JESSICA SANCHEZ PHENOMENON"
TB: Jessica on this season’s AI has galvanized the Fil-Am community. When was the last time anyone ever staged a rally for an amateur competitor at a studio lot? She embodies the passion and dream that every Filipino, rather everyone, has for becoming successful in the US. I think that is the real factor that Jessica carries.
The same experience is true for every Filipino [who has been on] reality competition shows: Jasmine, Camille, Thia, Ramielle, Sway, and Clint (American Idol); Tia, Mark, Natalie, Roshon, and Nicole (from Dancing with the Stars); Tia (Celebrity Apprentice); Lou (Celebrity Chef, Get Me Out Of Here!); Napoleon and D-Trix (So You Think You Can Dance); and Cheesa (The Voice).
For me, a comparative experience to Jessica was when Angela Baraquio Perez won the Miss America 2001 title. She told me this past Sunday that when she met former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, GMA said, “Angie, you know that 80 million people were watching and rooting for you to win!” Ah, the power of television!
PDLC: The phenomenon of Filipinos getting together is a metaphor for our community’s ennobling strength, how we will sacrifice to help another person reach their goals, and how we will sacrifice to preserve someone else’s dream. When Randy Jackson remarked [that] people have to vote for the best and she (Jessica) is the best since 11 seasons of American Idol, it awakened all the apathy among Filipinos and converted that to active caring for one another. Imagine, a University of California-Los Angeles Fil-Am alum said openly at a fundraising gathering, “I do not watch American Idol nor do I vote, but when I heard what happened to Jessica Sanchez, I am now voting with my family.”
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