Transcript of Friday’s conference call interview session with AI eliminated contestant Karen Rodriguez:
Q: Hi, Karen, how are you?
K. Rodriguez: Hi, I”m good. How are you?
Q: I”m good, thanks. So, I wanted to tell you how much I really liked your rendition of Mariah Carey”s “Hero.”
KR: Thank you so much.
Q: And I was wondering what it meant to you to be able to perform it in English and Spanish for so many people?
KR: Awesome. It meant, you know, the world to me. This is what I”ve been wanting to do for my whole life. I”ve always had a vision of myself being a Latin American artist. And just to be able to sing a song of that magnitude in both languages on a number one show in America, in a show called American Idol.
But I”ve always said that America is so-it”s a big melting pot. And there are so many cultures, so much diversity, that it could be called American Idol, but it”s really not. We have-everybody in the show brings their own style, and that was just my way of expressing myself and showing America who I really was.
Q: And also I read that you became very close to Jacob during your time on the show. And I was wondering if when you”re eliminated, is it tougher knowing that you”re out of the competition, or that you”re going to be leaving all your friends behind?
KR: Oh, it”s both. I mean, of course I wanted to stay, I wanted to continue. But I live by the words that everything happens for a reason. So maybe I was meant to-my time on the show was meant to just be up until yesterday.
I”m going to miss everybody, and of course Jacob. We would go to each other for advice, and he would ask me what songs he should do and how to sing it. We were just very, very close to each other, and I”m going to miss him so much. But I”ll see them soon, you know?
Q: Yes. Karen, I”m struck by how you”ve mentioned that you had kind of not that much money growing up, but you also had great opportunities in New York. You got a scholarship-a music scholarship when you were in kindergarten, already. And then you went to this high school which is a great high school. So if you could reflect on both of those things. First of all, how tough was your circumstances financially, what were your folks doing for a living and how tough was that? And then reflect on some of the opportunities that New York gave you.
KR: Definitely. I mean, both my parents are Hispanic, and they came from different countries to find opportunities in America. And you know, it started off pretty rough. It”s still rough. Both of my parents, they can”t really work, so they both receive a help from the government. My mom, anything that she would have from her checks, she would give it to me to make me look beautiful on stage when I was performing when I was five, six, and seven. So she always sacrificed everything for me and for my two other siblings.
But the thing is that my voice, my talent, has been able to take me so many places. And eventually, I know I”m going to give my mom everything back that she”s put out for us. You know, I also got a scholarship to take classes in Italy, so I lived in Italy for a month when I was 16. Then I came to L.A., and then I went to Berkeley College of Music, all because of music and talent and my voice and everything. And American Idol was just one of the next big steps in my life.
Q: And the reason I ask is so many places live in a place now where they cut back on their music opportunities in school, and so forth. And you got to go to this great high school, as did Pia, and so forth. So, just reflect for that, and what were the blessings of growing up where you did?
KR: It was amazing. I mean, I was born in Miami, but I felt like if I would have stayed in Miami, I wouldn”t have been the same person I am today. I think living in a city as tough as New York really kind of like strengthened me.
And just, there are so many opportunities in New York for kids, and I was just so blessed to get into that school. That school is so amazing, and it”s free. That”s the number one thing, because not a lot of people can afford a music school with that sort of name. You know, it”s the “Fame” school, and there are so many kids that want to try out.
And I want to be that person to encourage other children to try out and know that it”s okay to reach out for their dreams, starting at such a young age, because I”ve been doing this so long. And some people, some parents think it”s too young, but the younger, the better, because then they don”t have to waste their whole life trying to figure out what to do. I”ve known my whole life that I wanted to sing, and that”s sort of like eliminated a lot of doubt. So it was definitely a blessing going to that school.
Q: Well, right after the elimination, we kind of saw just a tiny bit of this on TV. You were having a conversation with the judges. So is there anything that they managed to tell you that you”re going to be using moving forward?
KR: Say that one more time? You said I was talking to the judges and then-
Q: Yes, you were talking to the judges. Is there any advice that they gave you?
KR: Yes, of course. Jennifer”s been a fan of mine from the very beginning; she said so herself. And she said that I was perfect. She said, “You know, somebody had to go home, and you know, this is your time.” But she was rooting for me. If it would have been all on her, I know she would have saved me. She told me.
But I know that everything happens for a reason, and if it was my time to go, then it”s because I have so many amazing things going on coming soon. And Steven Tyler and Randy, they both came at me at the end and they gave me hugs and kisses and they said, “You”re amazing. You”re going to go so far. This is only the beginning.” And that just made me kind of like soak up all, you know, it was so many emotions, but it was all for good.
Q: Yes. So, what is next for you right now? What are you planning to do?
KR: Oh, well, I just can”t wait to go back home and sort of like reflect on everything that happened. It”s been very, very crazy these past couple months. But I just can”t wait to start writing, to start bettering myself as a musician, as an artist, as a singer.
I”m going to work really hard to just become that artist that”s ready so that as soon as the show ends, and if something comes up, I can just totally be that package. I still have to work on so many things, but I know this time off is going to really help me just better myself.
Q: Good to talk to you. So, you had an interview yesterday, last night with Entertainment Weekly that I thought was really interesting. You said that you”d be interested in doing commercials and movies. Can you maybe elaborate on that?
KR: Of course. I would love to do movies and commercials. I”ve been, you know, I”ve done a voiceover for a movie already when I was in high school. And coming into LaGuardia High School my freshman year, I got the lead role of Marie in West Side Story. And I got to play the lead in sophomore year, and it was my first really big play with 3,000 seats sold out every single night and that kind of like made me believe in myself more as an actress.
I”d love to do theatre. I”ve auditioned for In The Heights, as well. I”ve auditioned for West Side Story on Broadway. I got to meet the cast of both, and it”s just amazing. And now with this opportunity, now that people know who I am, maybe there”s just more opportunities for me to go further, for me to do ads and anything that I can get my hands on. I want to take this, and sort of like milk it as much as I could. That would be one of my dreams. I admire Jennifer Lopez so much for that, because she”s been able to handle that so well; having music, and movies, and doing everything she”s been doing. So I definitely want to be like her, for sure.
Q: That”s great. And you just sound so positive. What is your advice to people about remaining positive in life?
KR: Can you say that one more time?
Q: Is there any advice you can give to people on how you stay so positive?
KR: Yes. You know what, I feel like I said, I always live by the words that everything happens for a reason. And there”s been so many instances in my life where I”ve had to lose some things, but-and you don”t really know why this is happening. Sometimes I wonder, why didn”t I stay another week? Why?
But, in a few days, or in a few months, I will see why. Maybe at this time if I would have stayed longer in the competition, there would have been an opportunity that I might have missed out on. And I feel that this is my time now to go home, because as soon as the competition ends, I”m just going to be out there. Maybe it was my time to be on the show for a little bit, so I can get my name out there.
And now I”m just looking so forward to my career, because this is what I eventually want. I don”t want to only be known for top 12 finalists of American Idol. I want to be known as Karen Rodriguez, the next Latin sensation crossover English/American/Hispanic artist. That”s who I want to be known, and I feel like I”ve made myself that name. I made that name for myself, and I”m very excited for what”s about to come.
Q: You know, you had the opportunity to work with some incredible producers while you were here. Can you talk about what you learned from them that you think will help you going forward? Do you think they improved your voice?
KR: They did. Working with the producers was definitely amazing. It”s such a smart strategy that they”ve incorporated into the show. I feel like it just teaches us how our lives are going to change as far as the production side of the recording artist. Because eventually we all want record deals out of this opportunity, or out of this show. That”s what we want, we all want to be artists; recording artists.
And I feel that us having the opportunity to work with all these amazing producers, Jimmy Iovine putting his input on everything. He”s turned some of the most like old ballad type songs and he”s made it fresh. And the producers, it”s like every single one of them have their own flavor. I got to work with Jim Johnson who is, you know, who wrote “Sweet Dreams” for Beyonce. Like I would never in my life ever dream of meeting him and working with him.
And he took my song, my Selena song, and he just totally transformed it. It just feels so good to see online casino other people”s opinion; people that know what they”re doing, Grammy winners. It”s just crazy. I never really thought of myself as that singer, that pop artist, because I”ve always wanted to sing those pop ballads. But, it”s just like they turned something so fresh and they”ve made it so new, and that”s what the show needed.
Q: You guys have Twitter accounts. Have you had a chance to look at yours and see what your fans are saying about you?
KR: Yes, I have. I check my Twitter every single day. I constantly tweet my fans, and I constantly post pix up. The contestants actually call me Miss Twitter Queen, because I”m the one that is most responsive to all my fans.
And I think that”s a great thing that they did this year, as well, because they need to feel that we are human, just like they are. They need to be able to connect with us. I want to know what my fans are thinking; what songs they want me to do. I want to know that they actually support me. I want them to see that I”m real, that I can talk to them, that I”m breathing, living.
And they”ve been saying a lot of things like, “You know, aw, we”re going to miss you so much.” But every single person that”s tweeted has said, “You know, we know this is not the end for you. We know that there”s so many things coming.” So that just gives me hope, because I know that as soon as I release anything, there”s going to be millions of people buying it and watching me. So that just gives me so much confidence.
Q: So, you know, you talk quite a bit about you see yourself as a Latin American artist, and you know you want to do that going forward. And we saw that, obviously, in the performances that we did get to see from you on the show, in which you sort of sang a lot of verses in Spanish.
How do you think, you know, you would have incorporated that going forward throughout the different theme weeks? How would you-is that something that you think that you would have wanted to do every week in some way?
KR: No. I mean, I didn”t want to do it every week. I felt like I needed to do it at least for the first time that America really saw me shine, was top 24, and that”s when I sang “Hero.” And I”ve known that song for so long, and I”ve sang it in both languages. And it”s been-it was one of my dreams to sing it.
I would have loved to sing “I Will Always Love You” in Spanish and English-that would have been one of my dreams, as well. But I know I”ll get a chance to sing it. But the weeks going forward, I wanted to sort of focus on America really knowing what I could do, because I”m also an R&B singer. And I wanted-Motown week, I think, is next week. Or maybe I think we were talking about having Motown as one of the themes.
And you know there”s always country theme, so I could do anything. I wanted to incorporate everything that I could in to just let America know that I wasn”t only a Latin artist. That there was more to me than meets the eye, you know? So, that”s something I would have loved to do.
I would have loved to do more up tempo songs. I would have loved to do some salsa, some merengue, maybe. That would have been great. So, yes, totally, I wanted to do a little bit of everything.
Q: Definitely. And sort of somewhat on the same note, was there a particular stand out moment or experience from your time on the show that you”ll always sort of take with you and remember maybe as sort of the pinnacle of your experience on American Idol?
KR: Yes, just the fact that I got to record “I Could Fall in Love” and it”s selling on iTunes. Just to be able to look up my name and something comes up out of it. You know, “I Could Fall in Love” is sung by my idol, Selena. She”s the reason I began singing. Her songs were just at my age. I was five, six years old and she really inspired me.
And, you know, her personally, her life was taken away so fast, and she never got to see her song progress. And just to be able to perform it on live television and have people buy it off of iTunes and have people tweet me and tell me, “I love your version. You”re making Selena proud.”
That”s what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to keep her memory alive, and I wanted to just let people know that Latinos are back, basically. So I”m just very happy about that.
Q: You mentioned that Jennifer was one of your big supporters. And they said it was a split vote last night. Did you ever find out, was she the one that voted to keep you?
KR: Ah, you know she said that she-she”s always said she”s been a fan of me since the very beginning. And I”ve always felt that she”s always been supportive, you know, even behind the camera she would always hug me and just look me in the eye and said, “Just go out there and kill it,” you know. She”s always been that person for me.
And I identify myself with her so much, and we”re both from New York, we both have been doing this for so long. And she just went out there and she broke so many barriers and she”s such an inspiration. I”ve heard that people say she has seen herself-in her she sees me. And that, to me, is just ridiculous.
And she”s one of my idols, and just to have the opportunity to sing for her every single week, the connections, and then Marc Anthony is her husband. I love Marc Anthony so much. And there”s just so many doors opening right now for Latin music, in general. And just having her as a judge, it was just an incredible, amazing experience.
Q: We”ll go on the assumption she was the one that voted for you.
KR: Yes, I”m sure.
Q: And earlier, in one of the earlier shows, didn”t Steven Tyler say you had that “What it is-ness?”
KR: What it is-ness, yes.
Q: How did you interpret that?
KR: I took it as a great thing. I mean Steven has always said that he loved-and Randy also said that they love when I incorporate Spanish. They said they think I even sound better when I sing in Spanish. But, of course, I wasn”t going to sing in Spanish every week.
But, it”s great to know, because this is something that I-this is who I am, this is what I grew up singing. I learned Spanish first, then English. And I know it”s called American Idol, but there”s so many diverse cultures in America, and I feel like I wanted to stand up for my race, for my heritage. And I”m so glad I did that. I”m so glad I stayed true to myself on such an Americanized show.
Q: So, I”m probably going to butcher the pronunciation, and I apologize. But you were on a Puerto Rican talent show called, Objetivo Famo a couple years ago.
KR: Yes, that was close.
Q: All right, awesome. And, how do you think that being on that show prepared you for being on Idol?
KR: Totally. I mean, I was really, really young when I-I was the youngest contestant, made it to seventh place. It wasn”t as big as American Idol, but what”s so funny, I think, is when I was in that Spanish show, I was the American one. And I was trying to show what I could do with my Americanized style of singing.
So it was just like the roles kind of reversed. And when I was on the show, the judges would tell me, “Stay out of the pop. Don”t sing pop. Spanish people don”t understand what you”re trying to do with your voice.” And you know, I listened to that and I lost myself in the competition. And I regretted that I didn”t stay true to who I was, and I always told myself if I was ever in another competition, I was going to always stay true to myself.
And when I got to American Idol, I used that experience, and I”m like, you know what, this is my chance to really shine and show people who I am. And that”s why I decided to bring on the Spanish, because I needed to make it known that I wanted to be a Latin American artist. And I feel that I accomplished that on the time that I was there.
Q: OK. And speaking to that, you said you didn”t want to have any regrets, and show who you were. Is there anything, though, on Idol that you would have done differently?
KR: No, not at all. I feel like every song I chose was a song that I wanted to sing. And what I would have done differently-just would”ve gone up there with even more passion, even more drama, even more guts and everything.
But I think I honestly, I am very proud of making it this far. I never thought that off an audition from My Space I was going to make the top 12. And especially on the best season ever, this is incredible. And this is my time. Like this is the perfect time for me to be on the show. If it was any season, it had to be this one.
Q: I”ve been so enjoying you. You talked about this a little bit, but could you talk about what it meant to you to have Jennifer in your corner so much? Like she was really looking out for you.
KR: Yes. It felt so great. I felt the love so much. I feel that she really, really understood me, because I know that she”s gone through that before. I know how I probably-we identified with each other so much. You know, people have said that she”s seen herself in me, and that, to me-she struggled all her life, too, to get to where she”s at.
It”s hard work, perseverance, and she is just a big example. And I feel that it was always like love from her, and I always felt safe whenever she was around, because it was always genuine, and she really, really, just really was rooting for me. And it just felt great.
And my idol has always been Selena, and she got to play Selena. And when Selena passed away, she did the movie. I”ve been following Jennifer for so long, and I got to sing to her every single week. That, to me, was incredible.
Q: And I guess she probably gave you one piece of advice. She probably gave you lots, but what”s the one that you really took to heart and will probably use later on?
KR: Oh, yes, she told me, I think it was this week she said, “You know, to not be scared. To just go out there and give it my all and sing from my heart, it will really translate. And definitely, as a musician, as an artist, you have to do what you do best and not be scared of taking chances. That”s, I think that”s the one that I”m going to take the most.
Q: I was wondering if you were ever worried about isolating votes when you made the decision to sing in Spanish?
KR: No, not at all. I mean, for me, I know it had to do a lot with the votes. But my main focus was always showing people who I was and being myself on the show. You know, I wanted to be diverse, I wanted to make it known that I wanted to be a Latin American idol. That”s my thing.
And honestly, I really, I can”t control the votes. All I can do is do my best every week, and make a career out of this exposure. You know, just take it to the next level and use this as a big, major push in my life. And I think I accomplished that.
Q: Definitely. And also, I know that you had gone to school with Pia. Is there-could you talk a little bit about your relationship and who you see going far in the competition?
KR: Yes, sure. Me and Pia, we used to be friends-no, we are friends, but we used to be in school together. We were in a group, and we would write together. There was a time that Pia had trouble writing, finishing a song, and she asked me for help, and I finished it for her. We performed it.
And even though she”s older, I”ve always been like that bigger sister, you know. I kind of support her, and I toughen her up a little bit, because sometimes she doubts herself. And I”ve always been the type of person to just like always be there for her.
And, yes, as far as the competition, I feel like everybody has an equal chance of taking it all. You know, you never know what America wants. It changes every week. You just have to go out there and give it your all and leave it on the stage.
Q: I wanted to know, you worked with Tricky Stewart. Could you talk a little about that, and what was the most helpful about that experience to you?
KR: I got to work with Ron Ferrin and Jim Johnson.
Q: Well, can you talk about that experience?
KR: Sure. I worked with Jim Johnson for my song, “I Could Fall in Love.” He wrote the Beyonce “Sweet Dreams” and it was great. He was just very, very sweet about everything. He”s such a down to earth guy, and he made sure I was comfortable and we totally, totally just like vibed together. And he made that song; he transformed that song into a different-it was so amazing. The style, his style, his vision is great.
And then I worked with Ron Ferrin. He was, he was just great. Like we, from the very beginning, it was just like a collaboration. I will never forget, because there was-he would always ask me if this is what I wanted. If there was anything that I wanted to change, he would always give me the opportunity.
As long as I felt good about the song, he was going to do anything to please me. And he was always so supportive when I sang the song. He said that I killed it and that I”m going to go far, and that”s incredible to hear from people like Ron Ferrin and Jim Johnson.
Q: What does your mom say about everything?
KR: Oh, I called my mom yesterday after the show, and you know, she was kind of sad, but I kind of have to remind her that life goes on and everything happens for a reason. And perhaps this was my time to go for a specific reason. And that I don”t know right now, but I”m so sure that I”m going to find our real soon.
Q: Can you tell us about the thing that you remember that was like the best time of your whole experience on this show?
KR: The best part of the whole experience, just having-oh, I was having so much fun with everything. It”s impossible to just pick one thing. But just having the amount of exposure. I feel that what kept me going week after week was just the possibilities of what my life could become after this show.
And, that”s what I felt I managed to do by showing who I was by singing in Spanish and English. That”s who I wanted to show, and I feel just like the whole experience, the response of people has been amazing. There”s not really a Latin American female artist right now doing the crossover thing, and I wanted to be that person.
And people have-are so excited for me. They can”t wait to hear me sing, you know; really, really be me. That”s what keeps me going.
Q: Well, it sounds wonderful, and you sound so positive about it. Where do you get your strength from?
KR: Just looking forward. American Idol was one of those things that they were in one of the long lists of what I wanted to accomplish in my life. And I”m so glad that I can scratch that off. But there”s so many things above American Idol that I want to do. I want to win a Grammy, I want to win an Oscar, I want to do so many things that are just going to keep topping one after the other.
And that”s what keeps me going, just knowing that this is not the end. I just have so much faith and so much-you know, my destiny, it”s just destined for greatness. I feel that in every part of my being, and I”ve always felt that since I was a little girl. And being on American Idol Top 12, Season 10, the best season ever, that just reinstates that for me.
Q: Nice to talk to you again. Everybody keeps saying I”m so sorry, I”m so sorry, but I think we should be saying congratulations. You know, you really did accomplish a lot by making it this far on the show and I know this has been a really special, special time for you.
KR: Thank you. It”s actually been really great. I”m very happy.
Q: I”m curious, you know, I”m curious what happens after the cameras turn off, and after the audience leaves the theatre. What was that 15 or 20 minutes like for you? Did you go and just kind of sit quietly by yourself, or were all your friends backstage giving you group hugs? What happened, and sort of who came up to you and talked to you, and what did they say?
KR: No. After the show was done, I went and I had my meeting with 19 to talk about what are the possibilities of after the show. Of course, I want to become a recording artist under their label, or any label. And they were just telling me what the possibilities are and I was just ready to work.
I wiped off my makeup and my tears and I went downstairs and I did my interviews. And I went and I saw the rest of the contestants and gave them big hugs, and I”m here right now. I never had, you know, needed time out because I was just so excited. I”m just so excited about my life that there”s no point in crying over American Idol elimination night. That”d just be silly.
Q: Yes. And you mentioned earlier somebody asked who you thought was going to win, and you said it could go in any direction. But, do you have a personal favorite? I know you and Pia were super close, and I mean, is she your favorite? Who is it that you”re first rooting for?
KR: I don”t have favorites. I have just a lot of friends and people that I”m rooting for. I”m just really excited to see how everybody progresses. I know that there”s eventually there”s one person that will leave every week, and that can change every week. So I really don”t know.
Q: I”m wondering how much of your inspiration to sing and the strength that you have in your positive nature actually come from your Latina background? Where did you get that from in terms of that?
KR: A lot. I mean, my mom wanted to be a singer when she was young, and from the very beginning she made it really clear that she wanted all her children to be fluent in Spanish. And I think that”s one of the things that”s lacking right now in the young, Hispanic youth, because a lot of kids right now don”t know how to speak Spanish.
And I”m very blessed that she did that for me, because it”s helping me out so much. Especially to be a Latino on American Idol, you know, to really, really connect. It”s not like I”m on stage and I”m putting up a front and I”m trying to sing these Spanish words that I have no idea what they mean. I actually know the language. I connect to it, I live through it.
You know, Selena was also a big influence on my life. I started singing her songs when I was around six, seven years old. She is the person that I aspire to be, and Jennifer, too. This is real, this is who I am.
Q: And you talked a lot about being yourself on camera and being yourself on stage because of the way that you sang in Spanish. The reason I bring this up is a lot of contestants felt like they weren”t able to be themselves because maybe producers … led them in a different way or in a different song. Did you ever feel like that? And how open were the producers to allow you to sing in Spanish, and show that side of you?
KR: Oh, not at all. I mean, the producers were always, they encouraged me to do it. I told them from the very beginning, this is who I am. I want to be this person. I want to make it known in America that a Latin American crossover artist is coming your way soon.
And they just embraced it, and I”m so blessed. I feel like this season was the best season for that because there are so many different personalities, there are so many different styles of singing. And I feel that they were just open to anything and everyone, and I”m just very happy that I got a chance to be as free as I was in my song selections. They were so open to everything. And yes, they never gave me any hard time about anything. They were just like whatever you want to do honey, like let”s do it.
Moderator: Thank you, and do you have any closing remarks, Karen?
KR: Nothing. I just want to say thank you to all my fans. You know, you guys can keep following me at krodriguezai10 on my Twitter to just know what I”m up to. And just thank you for all the support. And this is not the end, it”s only the beginning.