There is no doubt that Brooke and Leah Barrettsmith from Spring Grove experienced a lifelong adventure competing in Fox’s megahit TV show American Idol. Before we explore their experiences, here’s a brief description of how the show works in case you’ve never seen it.
Before obtaining a plane ticket to Hollywood, a contestant must first endure three days of strenuous audition in one of the major U.S. cities selected to host the preliminary auditions. The producers of American Idol are well aware that the success of the show is based on people without talent, as well as those who have information technology. Many tune in just to see the judges make fun of the contestant to tears or watch the contestant get angry at the reaction to sending the package. For example, in this year’s show, the two male twins are very significant because they are very open to the judges and verbally protect each other. Another contestant named “Cowboy” jumped on the judges table to sing part of his song.
The camera is focused on the expressions of the judges of American Idol, Simon Cowell, Paul Abdul and Randy Jackson as much as on the contestants. Cowell’s feverish comments are now ritualistic for crowds as well. Abdul and Jackson regularly criticize Cowell. Sometimes competitive talent is so obviously second degree that all three judges can barely contain their laughter.
Contestants must be citizens of the United States and between 16 and 28 years of age. This year, 16-year-old contestant Kevin Covais revealed that talent transcends age. On the opposite pole is prematurely gray 28-year-old Kevin Hicks whose unique voice could take him to the finals.
The top 24 semifinalists are removed from public contact, like a lone jury. They have to take drug tests. Some contestants were disqualified during the show because they did not do these tests. All contestants must sign a contract that prevents them from using cell phones, except for family calls and emergencies and the Internet where they could discuss the show in the chat room. They cannot watch TV shows or listen to radio shows or read newspapers. TV fans are currently downloading the voting over the phone. Judges are consulted and performances are commented on, but they no longer vote at this level.
The “finalists” are the last 12 contestants. The drama intensifies after a few weeks of further eliminations until no winner is chosen as the winner
The adventure of Brooke and Leah Barrettsmith began on a cold day in September 2005. They arrived in Soldier Field in downtown Chicago at 5:00 a.m., accompanied by their father, Rev. Fr. Scott Barrettsmith. “We had to be there early enough to be able to get a good place,” Brooke said. There were auditions of nearly 20,000 contestants in Chicago that day. Some of them were from New Orleans, because that city was chosen as the audition center, but it was washed away by Hurricane Katrina.
The contestants were taken to Military Field in groups of 300. Brooke and Leah wanted to audition together, so they held hands. “Don’t separate us!” they told American Idol employees.
Only 300 hopes survived the first day. Brooke and Leah were relieved to be one of them. “There were thousands of totally depressed people there,” Scott said. The Barrettsmiths spent nights at a nearby hotel. “We literally got the last room available,” Scott said.
Two and three days were as hectic as the first. American Idol executive producers told Barrettsmith they “needed a personality” to move on. “I had no problem showing personality,” Brooke said. Brooke befriended Mandis, a semifinalist from Tennessee. “I can tell you that you are a Christian,” Mandisa said. “Girl, let’s pray!” When they were told that Lea was planning to sing a Christian song called “Blessed,” the producers said they preferred secular songs. “They didn’t want to show favoritism,” Leah said. During the audition, Leah sang “Blessed” anyway. “I had trouble with my first choice and I just stopped and switched,” Leah said.
“We asked to audition together,” Brooke said. The manufacturers made it possible on an unusual move. In a television interview, Lea said, “I believe in my sister, and she believes in me as much as I love her, and we will do it together.”
Brooke and Leah clashed for the first time with now-famous American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paul Abdul and Randy Jackson.
Brooke led and sang a short portion of her song Shoop Shoop. Then Leah sang. Randy said to Leah, “I like your voice. I think you’re good. I’d say it’s Leah.” Paula Abdul said, “I think you are also talented and different in your own way, so I will either say‘ yes ’to both, or‘ no. ’” Simon said, “Well, I would say‘ no ’to both of you. There was a brief silence. Then Randy said, “We’re in trouble, Judge. “Simon said, ‘I’m going to apply Randy’s’ yes’ to both of you, so it’s all up to Paula now.” Paula said, “I love my sister. I like the fact that you are here together supporting each other. I think you both need to work, but you can do it and go back to Hollywood. “Brooke and Leah responded with happy shouts and a big hug. Meanwhile, Randy said,” Welcome to Hollywood, sisters, sisters! “
Brooke and Leah spoke to the producers about Richardson’s maze of corn. Feeling a good story, the producers sent a team of cameramen to Spring Grove to film the sisters playing in and around the corn maze. “The filming lasted about 10 hours, including dinner with the crew,” Brooke said. “All for a two-minute segment.”
The next phase of auditions began Dec. 4 in Hollywood. “About 200 people out of tens of thousands arrived in Hollywood,” Brooke said. Brooke and Leah made the trip without their parents or relatives. They spent the first day touring Hollywood with half of the contestants, while the other half went through auditions. They wore recognizable American idol badges to promote the show in Los Angeles. They settled into a hotel, two to the room. “The show didn’t skip the accommodation,” Leah said.
Both were successful at their first audition. At another audition, Randy told Leah, “You didn’t bring him today. It’s the end of the road.”
Lea was surprised by the action. “What you see on television isn’t always the way it actually happened,” Leah said. They edit a lot to make the show more dramatic. For example, when I sang, the audience seemed bored and quiet on TV. In fact, the audience cheered and applauded as I sang. They shouted “let her through! ‘“ At another point, you see Leah looking at TV in surprise as if reacting to a negative decision. “That footage was totally filmed at a different time and edited into space,” Leah said.
The show places contestants in small groups for one segment. “I don’t know why they make us sing with a band,” Leah said. “It really has nothing to do with why we’re there. I think they’re trying to put a lot of stress on the contestants because of the TV cameras. They’re very strict. You better not be late for the meeting. You like dogs.”
Brooke supported Leah’s worries. “They like crying and drama. They like to scare them,” Brooke said. “Sometimes the judges act completely. They seemed to be lying.”
“I think they’re pushing the guy to win this year,” Brooke said. “They’re focused on a mysterious talent.”
The rules of American Idol say that a contestant cannot sign professionally. The show forces contestants to sign a contract that limits their professional activity to one year. “We’re locked up until August,” Brooke said.
Leah soon moved to Nashville to pursue her singing career. “I’m going to deal with more mainstream music,” Leah said.
Brooke is committed to staying on the Christian music scene. “Christian music is much more relevant now,” Brooke said. “My career has turned for the better. God used American Idol to change me. I’m even more in the music ministry now.”