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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 16, 2004

Velasco's audition on a lark leads to 'Idol' luck

 •  'Idol Chitchat' discussion board

First of three profiles. Meet our other two local hopefuls over the next two Mondays as they prepare to perform for Simon and the rest of the world.

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

The minute Camile Velasco was named an "American Idol" semifinalist, her quiet job as a waitress at her parents' IHOP restaurant on Maui basically was put on hold.

Camile Velasco, 18, composes music in her bedroom. She hopes a Hawai'i contestant makes it to the top of "American Idol" so "one of us can put Hawai'i on the map and help pave the way for others."

Christie Wilson • The Honolulu Advertiser

Starstruck? Hardly.

It was more a case of too many people recognizing and congratulating Velasco. While the sudden attention boosted her confidence, it didn't help that she fell ill at just about the same time the final 32 were announced. As a result, the 18-year-old singer has remained somewhat shyly in the shadows. Anyone not lucky enough to have stepped into her parents' restaurant to order pancakes from her before the final 32 were named isn't going to get waited on by her anytime soon.

But everyone nationwide will finally get to know her tomorrow when she performs on "American Idol" at 7 p.m. on Fox.

Not bad, considering Velasco said she entered the competition on a lark.

"I wanted to see where it gets me," she said.

Ciara-Camile Roque Velasco
  • Age: 18
  • Birth date: Sept. 1, 1985
  • Birthplace: Philippines
  • Ethnicity: One-fourth Irish, one-fourth Spanish, half Filipino
  • School: Finished junior year at St. Anthony on Maui; earned GED two years ago
  • Occupation: Waitress at her family's business, IHOP at the Maui Mall
  • Morale boosters: Mom, Rennie West, and sister Divina, 7, will be in the audience.
  • Ritual before going on stage: "Usually, I say a little prayer. And take deep breaths."
  • Tips for future "Idol" wannabes: "Be yourself, accept criticism gracefully, use it to channel negative energy into positive."

Web chatrooms

You can talk story with other viewers, discussing our candidates or others, at www.idolonfox.com or on The Advertiser's discussion board.

Though she still had a fever and sore throat late last week, Velasco said she won't let either get in the way of her quest for stardom. She's been trying to sleep off the sickness the past few days. Armed with antibiotics, she will be the first of three Hawai'i contestants to sing in the semifinals.

Two O'ahu residents also are in the "Idol" mix: Jonah Moananu, 22, a part-time drama teacher at Farrington High School, will perform Feb. 24, and Jasmine Trias, a Maryknoll High School senior, appears March 2. Each performs with seven other "Idol" hopefuls from across the United States.

This week, it's all about Velasco.

She arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday, having skipped a few days of work to take care of her health. Meanwhile, her profile was soaring among customers.

"She's being recognized and has been getting a lot of support," said her stepfather, James West. "Her life has changed a lot; customers have started asking for autographs. Many people watch the show, and it's been good for her in building her confidence."

"Till now, it's been so amazing, so intense, but a lot of fun," Velasco said. "I didn't want to miss the fun part of it, because I'm meeting a lot of great new people.

"The support of family and friends — and the process itself — has helped me overcome shyness."

Camile Velasco, center, pauses at her Maui home with her family — from left, J.J. West, 14; stepfather, James West; mother, Rennie West; and Divina West, 7, who holds pet tortoise Miranda.

Christie Wilson • The Honolulu Advertiser

Velasco is glad she and her fellow Islanders aren't competing — yet — for Island votes.

But as she scrutinized last week's first round, Velasco said she expects a tough road ahead.

"There are some great performers in the bunch," she said. "And, I'm sure, more in my group."

Her mother, Rennie West, who was with Velasco in Hollywood last fall when the trim to the final 32 was made, said: "She knows some of the talent in her own group and it's not going to be easy — they're tough. Some really top talent will be in the next round."

The months when Velasco could not divulge her finalist status, because of confidentiality agreements with the "Idol" show, have also been tough. She knew last October that she was in, but had to keep mum until two weeks ago when the 32 finalists were named.

She didn't mind the write-your-own song part of her Hollywood audition because she's a songwriter at heart and in practice. She chose the song title "Pride" but was not shown or heard on TV singing it.

Velasco has had some doubts about going the "American Idol" route to get into the recording business. Realizing that she'd have to face the judges' potential brutality, "I wasn't sure it was the best way to a career," she said. One quick putdown, and the whole venture could be over.

'American Idol'
  • 7 to 8 p.m. tomorrow, 7:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday
  • Fox (KHON-2)

Hawai'i competitors

  • Tomorrow: Camile Velasco, 18, a waitress from Ha'iku, Maui
  • Feb. 24: Jonah Moananu, 21, a Farrington High School drama teacher
  • March 2: Jasmine Trias, 18, a Maryknoll High School senior

How to vote

  • Time: From 7:55 to 10 p.m. tomorrow (a little more than two hours after showtime)
  • By phone: Follow on-screen cues; call number indicated for your favorite semifinalist. Number includes candidate's four-digit code (last four numbers).
  • By AT&T text-messaging: Select Menu, then Message, then Text-Message, then Create. Type in "VOTE," then enter vote using four-digit number assigned to contestant. (There is no limit on how many times you may vote.)
  • Details: www.idolonfox.com
This season, a leaner Randy Jackson has become meaner in his critiques, and Simon Cowell has been uncharacteristically generous in praise and subdued with insults, in kind of a switch of roles. Paula Abdul remains the leveling factor, the kindly and comforting judge, the ally of the nervous contestants.

Rennie West has said her daughter prefers the shadows instead of the limelight — something she needs to overcome.

"I only started performing three years ago, so I'm still working at it," said Velasco.

Velasco plays piano, composes music and wants to produce her own CD.

She feels she brings diversity to "Idol." Born in the Philippines, Velasco is a quarter Irish, a quarter Spanish and half Filipino.

"I want to make the people of Maui, the people of Hawai'i, proud," she said.

She's not planning to flash a designer outfit for her appearance.

"It will be blue jeans with a top," she said. (She wore jeans and a sweater in her Hawai'i tryout, when she got the you're-going-to-Hollywood nod.)

She couldn't say what she would sing, because of show rules.

Velasco said singing, in recent years, has become a healer.

She has lived on O'ahu, relocated to Maui, attended Maui High School, and dropped out of school (St. Anthony's) in her junior year, much to the chagrin of her mom.

"We didn't get along when I made that decision, and she was really upset," said Velasco. "I eventually got my GED, but I must say my mom has always been supportive of my music."

Velasco said she's ready to go with whatever happens on "Idol." "I just hope one of us makes it," she said of the Hawai'i contestants in the semifinals, "so one of us can put Hawai'i on the map and help pave the way for others. There's a lot of undiscovered talent here, and it's so difficult to launch (a career) from home."

In prepping for her big moment, Velasco said, she's learned a valuable virtue: patience.

"Peace is the best way to go about things," she said. "To prepare myself, I've become very patient. There are camera crews everywhere. And reporters. And patience is the best way to deal with it all."

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.

• • •

Viewing parties

Dave & Buster's at Ward Entertainment Complex hosts a viewing from 7 p.m. tomorrow (doors open at 5 p.m.); Eastside Grill hosts two satellite-live viewings tomorrow, at 4 p.m. (Midwest feed) and 5 p.m. (West Coast).

Text is tops

The message is clear: "American Idol" fans favor text-message voting to support their favorite singers.

AT&T Wireless said that for the first voting sequence Tuesday, its text-messaging customers cast many more votes than they did for the first voting show from last season. On air, host Ryan Seacrest said more than 11 million voted, and AT&T Wireless handled more than 1,000 text votes per second during the peak of voting activity, said an AT&T official.

"From a text messaging perspective, there's no question that this year's participation will be even more successful than the record-breaking results we achieved last year," said Glenice Maclellan, vice president of messaging services at AT&T Wireless.

Last season, 7.5 million messages were recorded throughout the "Idol" season, the largest text-messaging event by a single carrier in history. That figure is expected to be toppled with this, the third season, of "Idol" competition.