The Barrettsmith Sisters: A Closer Look Behind the Curtain of American Idol
There’s no question that Spring Grove’s Brooke and Leah Barrettsmith had the adventure of a lifetime competing on Fox’s blockbuster American Idol television show. Before exploring your experiences, here is a brief overview of how the show works in case you’ve never seen the show.
Before getting a plane ticket to Hollywood, a contestant must first endure three days of grueling auditions in one of the major American cities chosen to host the preliminary auditions. The producers of American Idol know very well that the success of the show is based as much on people without talent as on those who have it. Many people tune in only to see the judges ridicule a contestant to the point of tears or to see the contestant’s angry reaction to being sent packing. For example, this year’s show features two male twins because they are so outspoken with the judges and they verbally protect each other. Another contestant named “Cowboy” jumped onto the judges’ desk to sing part of his song.
The camera is focused as much on the expressions of the American Idol judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson as it is on the contestants. Cowell’s scathing comments are now ritual and crowd-pleasing. Abdul and Jackson regularly criticize Cowell. Sometimes the contestant’s talent is so obviously second-rate that the three judges can barely contain their laughter.
Contestants must be US citizens and between the ages of 16 and 28. This year, 16-year-old contestant Kevin Covais revealed that talent transcends age. At the opposite pole is Kevin Hicks, prematurely gray, 28, whose unique voice could lead him to the final.
The top 24 semi-finalists are removed from public contact as an isolated jury. They must take drug tests. Some contestants have been disqualified during the show for failing these tests. All contestants must sign a contract that prevents them from using cell phones, except for family and emergency calls and the Internet, where they can discuss the show in a chat room. They may not watch television news programs, listen to radio programs, or read newspapers. TV fans take over the voting by phone right now. The judges are consulted and comment on the performances, but they no longer vote at this level.
The “finalists” are the last 12 contestants. The drama escalates after weeks of further eliminations until only one contestant is chosen as the winner.
Brooke and Leah Barrettsmith’s adventure began on a crisp September day in 2005. They arrived at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago at 5:00 am escorted by their father, the Rev. Scott Barrettsmith. “We needed to get there early enough to get a good spot in line,” said Brooke. Nearly 20,000 contestants auditioned in Chicago that day. Some of them were from New Orleans because that city was chosen as the audition center, but it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The contestants were brought to Soldier 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 applicants 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 the night at a nearby hotel. “We literally have the last room available,” Scott said.
Days two and three were as busy as the first. The executive producers of American Idol told the Barrettsmiths the “necessary personality” to keep going. “I had no problem showing personality,” said Brooke. Brooke befriended Mandisa, a semi-finalist from Tennessee. “I can say that you are a Christian,” Mandisa said. “Girl, let’s pray!” When told that Leah planned 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, however, Leah sang “Blessed” anyway. “I was having trouble with my first pick and I just stopped and switched,” Leah said.
“We asked to go to the audition together,” said Brooke. In an unusual move, the producers allowed it. In a televised interview, Leah said, “I believe in my sister and she believes in me as much as I love her and we are going to do this together as much as we can.”
For the first time, Brooke and Leah faced off against the now famous American Idol judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
Brooke opened and sang a small section of her song Shoop Shoop. Then Leah bleeds. Randy said to Leah: “I like your voice, I think you are good. I would say yes to Leah.” Paula Abdul said: “I think they are both talented and different in their own way, so I am going to say ‘yes’ to both or ‘no’. Simon said,” Well I would say ‘no’ to both of them. ” Silence. Then Randy said, “We have a dilemma, judges.” Simon said, “I’m going to apply Randy’s ‘yes’ to both of you, so now it’s up to Paula. Paula said, “I love my sister.” I love the fact that you are here together supporting each other. I think they both need to work, but they can and go back to Hollywood. “Brooke and Leah reacted with happy exclamations and a big hug. Meanwhile, Randy said,” Welcome to Hollywood, sisters, sisters! “
Brooke and Leah told the growers about Richardson’s corn maze. Feeling a good story, the producers sent a camera crew 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,” said Brooke. “All that for a two minute segment.”
The next stage of auditions began on December 4 in Hollywood. “About 200 people out of tens of thousands came to Hollywood,” Brooke said. Brooke and Leah made the trip without parents or relatives. They spent the first day touring Hollywood with half the contestants, while the other half went through auditions. They wore distinctive American Idol labels to promote the show in Los Angeles. They stayed in a hotel, two per room. “The program did not skimp on accommodation,” Leah said.
They both succeeded in their first audition. At the second audition, Randy told Leah, “You didn’t bring it today. It’s the end of the road.”
Leah was surprised by the action. “What you see on television is not always how it really happened,” Leah said. “They do a lot of editing to make the show more dramatic. When I was singing, for example, it seemed like the audience was bored and quiet on TV. Actually, the audience was cheering and clapping while I sang. She through! ‘ “At another point, you see Leah looking shocked on TV like she’s reacting to the negative decision. “That shot was totally taken at another time and edited in space,” Leah said.
The show puts contestants in small groups for a segment. “I don’t know why they make us sing with a group,” Leah said. “It really has nothing to do with why we are there. I think they are trying to stress the contestants a lot for the TV cameras. They are very strict. You better not be a minute late for a meeting. they like dogs. “
Brooke backed up Leah’s concerns. “They love crying and drama. They love scaring you,” Brooke said. “Sometimes the judges are totally acting. They seemed to be pretending.”
“I think they are pushing for a man to win this year,” Brooke said. “They are focused on the talent of men.”
American Idol rules say that a contestant cannot be professionally signed. The show causes contestants to sign a contract that restricts their professional activity for a full year. “We are locked up until August,” Brooke said.
Leah will soon be moving to Nashville to continue her singing career. “I’ll do more mainstream music,” Leah said.
Brooke agrees to stay in the Christian music scene. “Christian music is much more relevant now,” said Brooke. “My career has improved. God used American Idol to change me. Now I am even more in the ministry of music.”