Local “Idol” contestant in top 40
Port Allen’s Brandy Hotard was named to American Idol’s top 20 girls, and top 40 contestants, during the FOX television series’ Hollywood Week last week.
Hotard said that though the show aired just last week, it was in December that she was in California for the taping of the “craziest week of my life thus far.”
Of the nearly 350 contestants that were told “You’re going to Hollywood” in the show’s first round of judging by American Idol season 12 judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nikki Minaj, only 40 were chosen, in an intricate process, to move forward to the Las Vegas round, which airs this week. Hotard is one of the select few.
On December 14, 2012, Hotard, along with 216 other girls arrived in Hollywood to find that more than 100 of the 130 male contestants had already been cut from the competition, and would be narrowed down to only 20.
Hotard said, though, that she had to remain focused on her task.
According to Hotard, after photo shoots, course rehearsals, dealing with FOX press and more, she had to prepare for the first round of Hollywood Week – a minute-long accapella solo performance.
“We were all put into groups of 10 and brought on stage one group at a time to perform. Each person in the line of 10 was given about one minute to perform, if that,” Hotard said, remembering the experience. “After the last person was done singing in your group of 10, the judges would deliberate on the spot and make cuts.”
Hotard said she sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” by Bonnie Raitt.
“I was the 84th person to audition, so I paid close attention to the previous auditions and took mental notes of who made it through and, possibly, why,” she said adding that judges did not make individual comments, it was just a simple “yes” or “it’s the end of the line.”
Hotard said that when she heard the words “congratulations,” she was ecstatic, and ran to hug her father and sister, who Brandy was allowed to bring to the audition with her.
“I was in utter shock!” said Brandy, who added that more than half of the girls were cut from the competition in that first round.
She said she immediately called her mother, who was staying at a nearby hotel, to tell her the good news.
In the next round, a “group round,” Hotard found that she had been placed in a group with three other girls, Morgan Boberg, Lauren Mink and Jenny Beth Willis.
“We were given our groups, which mine luckily consisted of three other country girls,” Hotard said. “So when it came time for song selection, we all agreed on ‘Sin Wagon’ by the Dixie Chicks.”
She said that each girl thought that their song choice could show their individual styles, personalities and sass.
Hotard said that, along with learning the vocal harmonies and arrangements for the song, the girls also had to choreograph their performance – a problem she had a solution for.
“Without thinking twice about it, I called my little sister, Brooke, for help. She has been taking dance for most of her life and is an extremely talented dancer and choreographer,” Brandy said. “She got out of bed and had my mom record her dance moves to the song. She then sent them to me via text and then I taught the moves to the other girls.”
The group was given from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning to learn their song and choreography.
“We were a nervous wreck because we had to learn the lyrics, harmonies and choreography all by 6 a.m. the following morning,” she said. “We managed to get about one and a half hours of sleep that night.”
Hotard’s group, Raisin’ Kane (which they named themselves after the Baton Rouge-based chicken restaurant, according to Hotard), was the first group to perform.
She said the girls in the group received individual critiques from the judges after the performance.
“(Judge Nikki Minaj) told me that I had an undeniable spark and completely stood out in the group. She also stated that out of our group, I had the best vocal,” Hotard said, adding that each member of the group was eventually let through to the next Hollywood Week round, which was a second solo performance.
For Brandy’s solo performance in the next round, she chose to sing the Carrie Underwood song “I Told You So.”
After her performance, judge Keith Urban said that Brandy “Sang Carrie very well and sang with conviction.”
Hotard said that of the first eight girls to perform in that round, she was among the four people chosen to possibly make it to the next round, which would be the top 20 girls.
But once each of the girls finished performing, there were 24 girls remaining, which had to be narrowed to 20.
“So there was going to be a sing-off,” Hotard remembered. “I immediately got a gut feeling that I was going to be involved in the sing-off.”
Hotard was the second person asked to sing again, and was told that she could either sing the song her group sang in the earlier round, or the last song she performed solo.
“So I opted to sing ‘I Told You So’ once more,” she said. “After the last girl in the sing-off finished performing, the judges began calling names to step forward.
“All I remember was seeing the backs of four girls standing in front of me. I quickly did the math in my head and began to get teary eyed, assuming the rest of us were the top 20.”
She said she heard Randy Jackson tell the four girls that had stepped forward that it was “the end of the line” for them.
“I began hysterically crying and then I heard Mariah say, ‘for the rest of you girls I know its been a long and hard journey, but congratulations, you are American Idol's top 20 girls,’” Hotard recalled. “I could not wait to get off that stage and celebrate. It was such an amazing experience, but I was definitely glad that grueling week was over.”
Hotard said in an e-mail correspondence Monday night that her next performance would air Wednesday, which was last night.
The Wednesday and Thursday shows this week and next week will be recorded in Las Vegas, and will narrow the top 40 contestants to 20.
The live shows, where viewers call in to vote for a winner, will begin the following week.
The American Idol producers chose Travis Tritt’s “Anymore” for Hotard to sing.
“I am very excited and nervous about it because its never been done by a female, but I think that definitely a good way to stand out amongst the rest,” Brandy said.
She said that the support she has received locally and nationwide has been overwhelming.
“It's nice to read all of the encouraging words and well wishes,” she said. “Regardless of what happens in Vegas, this experience has definitely been one of a lifetime for me and will never be forgotten.”