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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Maui's Velasco gets thumbs-up by Simon

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

 •  'American Idol'

7:30-8 p.m. today

KHON-2 (Fox TV)

Tune in to see if Maui's Camile Velasco advances to the final 12. The top two vote-getters from eight performers, in the round of 32, will advance.

Randy Jackson was hoping Camile Velasco would give a hip-hop performance when she took center stage on "American Idol" last night.

It didn't happen.

But with the other seven contestants getting trashed from start to finish by Jackson and fellow judges Simon Cowell — and even (gasp) typically sweet and supportive Paula Abdul — Velasco's rendition of Bryan McKnight's "One Last Cry" probably earned her another shot at giving Jackson exactly what he wants in the next round following tonight's paring-down of contestants with the release of viewer voting.

"A young Lauryn Hill," Jackson said of the 18-year-old Velasco.

"Incredible potential," Abdul added.

Even Cowell, who spent most of the night scorching performers with putdowns ("absolutely excruciating," "3 out of 10 [on a voting scale] and "lucky we didn't charge admission to come in tonight — they'd ask for a refund") gave Velasco a thumbs-up.

Velasco is proud of her performance, said her mother, Renne West, who is with her at the auditions. But, she added, she's also cautiously optimistic about how the viewers' vote will turn out.

"Her attitude is whatever happens, happens," West said. "She has no regrets. She's gained experience from this contest that money can never buy. And she has a new understanding of what the music business is."

While Velasco can take comfort in knowing the judges support her, the other seven contestants don't have that luxury. Most singers fumbled and simply failed to impress the frustrated judges.

Velasco, for the most part, was simply lauded.

She is the first of three Islanders among the 32 finalists to appear on the Fox reality series. The other two are Jonah Moananu, 21, who sings Tuesday, and Jasmine Trias, 17, who appears March 2.

Velasco wore a netted white tunic-length blouse, with a sleeveless left shoulder, and light-colored white-washed jeans, her trademark. After her performance, Cowell's review included: "You are the best of the group tonight."

She flashed the shaka sign as she made her way back from the spotlight and into the chambers of the contestants, where she exclaimed: "I feel relieved."

"She's going to the next round," said Kevin Karpin, a guy in sales who was watching a satellite-live feed at Eastside Grill on University Avenue. "She and Jasmine Trias will be there."

"I think she did pretty good," said Marilyn Gabriel, a University of Hawai'i senior, watching with a group of friends.

"I give her an 11," said Emanuel Uso, also a UH senior, who liked what he saw and heard.

Folks watching the Midwest feed cheered after she finished her song.

"It's kind of hard to say, on one hand, ... how she'll do, because (the judges) gave everybody bad votes," West said. "And they questioned why she didn't do hip-hop, calling her 'our young Lauryn Hill.' It's really hard to tell, though. I loved what Paula said — that she had the best potential."

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