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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 5, 2004

Three from Hawai'i make 'Idol's final 32

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

You couldn't tell from watching "American Idol" last night that three Hawai'i singers — plus five out-of-towners who auditioned here — survived the intimidation and angst to advance to the elite roster of 32 finalists.

Camile Velasco

Jonah Moananu

Jasmine Trias
There were no closeups, on-camera singing or an interview with Jasmine Trias, the 17-year-old Maryknoll High School senior, who won the judges' favor early on in auditions at Aloha Stadium and the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel last fall. Yet, she's very much in — lurking in the shadows. She joins Camile Velasco, an 18-year-old waitress from Haiku, Maui, and 21-year-old Jonah Moananu, a Ruben Studdard-sized happy Ha-waiian with a silky blues voice, in advancing.

"I think they're saving (Trias) for later," said contestant Sonny Kapu, 22, as he watched a satellite-feed airing of the Fox reality show last evening with about two dozen others at Eastside Grill on University Avenue. He knew Trias was in because he got to the Top 50 and appeared on last night's show before getting the boot.

Kapu, who watched with envy, curiosity and puzzlement as the meltdown began, said of Trias: "They've got to be keeping the best for last — she's great."

Kapu, a Kapahulu resident who is the son of entertainer-deejay Sam Kapu Jr., was one of 117 finalists from an original field of 80,000 in Hollywood when the show was taped last fall. Auditions for the show were held in Honolulu, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

He wasn't the only one perplexed about the peculiar "final 32" show last night.

"I was a little confused, since they didn't name the finalists," said Rennie West, Velasco's mother. "My daughter hates the camera; she's shy, and she's always in the background. So I told her she has to get up front to get ahead in entertainment."

Velasco works at her parents' restaurant, the IHOP (International House of Pancakes) at the Maui Mall, but asked to skip her duty yesterday, because customers started recognizing her from an earlier "Idol" show, said her mom. Her dad, James West, was happy Velasco made the grade but miffed that she was not spotlighted.

"American Idol" fans gathered last night at the Eastside Grill to watch Jonah Moananu and others perform. Moananu, a part-time teacher, was among three Hawai'i residents who advanced to the next round.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

He's not alone.

On www.idolonfox.com, the chat room was abuzz with queries last night about the "Hawaiian girl." Turns out that the curiosity is about Velasco, not Trias.

Moananu, a part-time teacher at public and private schools, had ample air time and fared well in his opening spot with Kapu and Clifford Iokia, 22, in a performance of "Up on the Roof." So far Moananu has proved to be a favorite for Fox cameras.

In a drawing for a sequence of solo performances, Moananu drew No. 1, so was the first to go — but he wasn't up to par. "That was your worst performance so far," scowled Simon Cowell, one of the judges.

Idol contestants are under contract not to talk to the media until the week they perform in the final 32. However, Moananu seemed surprised to hear he advanced. Following Cowell's review, Moananu was shown saying "I think I'm going back to the Islands."

He later danced with other finalists after hearing they had all made the cut.

Mix in the five Mainlanders who flew here for auditions and qualified, and Honolulu auditioners make up 25 percent of the finalists.

At times, "Idol" resembled "Survivor," as some vanquished contestants wept, others cursed and some gave alibis. Cowell has not lost his touch, or his acid tongue, in season three. He told one contestant about her appearance: "You look like you dress in the dark."

One Island contestant, Mealana Brown, 19, of Wai'anae, forgot her lyrics, abandoned her teammates and simply lacked the aloha spirit.

In its third week, "Idol" maintained its high viewership with 30.1 million viewers Tuesday night, according to preliminary Nielsen research; in the key 18-to-49 demographics, the show scored a 13.1 rating/33 share. Last night's naming-of-the-32 probably equaled or bettered those numbers.

The first batch of eight contestants, who will compete starting Tuesday, will not include the local contestants.

The 32 finalists — names, bios and photos — will be posted on idolonfox.com.

Reach Wayne Harada at 525-8067 or at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.