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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2004

Charming Camile thanks 'Idol' fans

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Maui's Camile Velasco met with fans at a Dave & Busters party last night.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

It's not easy going from being a Maui waitress to an American idol in just a few months, but Camile Velasco appears up to the task.

Velasco, the local girl who rose to fame as a top-12 finalist on the "American Idol" TV show, greeted hundreds of fans yesterday with the warmth, humor and down-to-earth style that fans and family say are her trademarks.

Making her first appearance in Honolulu since being cut from the national competition last month, Velasco charmed the young and old, posing for pictures, answering questions and signing autographs for every person, even those who tried to crash the invitation-only event.

"She's so humble. She was our favorite from the start," said Kawehi Apo, who brought her 5-year-old daughter, Anela, to the event at Dave & Buster's and ended up having their picture taken with Velasco.

The party, sponsored by local radio station KIKI, was a way for Velasco to thank fans who voted over and over again to keep her on the show, said Velasco's mother, Rennie West. (Velasco was the fourth one cut from the final field of 12.)

It was also something of a coming-out party for the 18-year-old Velasco, who has given up waitressing at the family's Maui International House of Pancakes in Maui Mall to finish her first CD and prepare for a summer tour with other "Idol" finalists.

About 200 people attended the party as guests, while another 50 to 100 people waited outside to catch a glimpse, said Dave & Buster's general manager Gregory Low.

Still looking surprised by her newfound celebrity status, Velasco managed to maintain a down-home humility as she appeared — but didn't sing — before fans.

First things first, though.

Velasco interrupted the party before it even got going to step outside and visit for a half-hour with many fans who showed up thinking the event was open to the public.

"That's just the way she is," West said. "She's adamant that she's going to greet everyone. This isn't Los Angeles, where the 'American Idol' bodyguards would just push everyone away. She'd be upset if anyone left unhappy."

Camile Velasco, center, was at Dave & Buster's last night for an invitation-only party in her honor. About 200 people attended the party, but up to 100 others waited outside in hopes of getting an autograph or a photo. Velasco didn't disappoint, posing for a photo with, from left, Lacey Ogimoto Kwock, Kai Ellis Lui-Kwan, Anela Apo, Jaci-Ann Chong and Kawehi Apo. Jaci-Ann is Lacey and Kai's aunt, Kawehi is Anela's mom.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Michelle Maeda, 30, thought she was going to be one of those leaving unhappy, but ended up having her picture taken with Velasco and getting her autograph on pictures that she and her friend, Patty Boonsub, had downloaded from an "American Idol" Web site.

"I just had to come down because I love the way she sings," Maeda said. "This might be our one chance to see her before she gets really big."

Back inside the party, Velasco answered all the tough questions as best she could.

Q. Will the "Idol" tour come to Hawai'i?

A. "Right now, it's not, but we're going to try to change that."

Q. Who was your best friend on "Idol"?

A. "Fantasia, because our personalities were so much alike. We hit it off from the get."

Q. What are the judges like when they're not critiquing the show?

A. "I don't know. We hardly saw them the rest of the time."

Q. Why do you cry so much?

A. "I don't know, dude."

Q. Will you keep working at the IHOP?

A. "I'm done."

Q. Did your roommates snore?

"Yeah, we were all so tired, we just crashed out when we got back to the room."

Q. Who do you think will win the "Idol" competition?

"They've all got an equal chance." (Actually, the show doesn't allow her to answer that question, West said.)

When the questions stopped, the line formed and Velasco started autographing posters, pictures, T-shirts, bracelets, trading cards, even body parts.

"This was totally a big deal," said Claire Pimentel, who brought her 8-year-old son, Mikey, to the event and went home with an autograph.

"It's a dream come true. She was just thrilled to meet her," said John Yeh, whose 8-year-old daughter Brittany got to give Velasco a lei and waited in line for an autograph.

And what did Brittany plan to tell Velasco when she got her chance?

"You're my idol," she said.

Reach Mike Leideman at 525-5460 or mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.