From Purdue to L.A.,
alum anything but idle
Months after her run on the popular FOX TV show ended, the 2004 horticulture graduate is living near Los Angeles and pursuing her dream of a professional music career.
“Being on American Idol has led to new opportunities for me,” says Davis, 25. “I have a lot of work ahead of me, but having been on Idol definitely has helped me get my foot in the door.”
Since being voted off the show in February, Davis’ life has been a blur. She’s moved to California, met with a record company executive and prospective managers, and collaborated with other songwriters, while maintaining a regular concert and modeling schedule.
Davis says she’s in no hurry to sign a record deal. Contractual agreements with Idol prohibit Davis from inking a music contract until August, anyway.
“I’m trying to get some work in the modeling world, which might include commercials,” she says. “It’s going to be my livelihood while I work on my music.”
Davis’ exotic looks and smooth folk voice won over Idol judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell at a Dallas audition for the show.
After he heard her belt out a chorus of Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou, Cowell gave Davis an immediate thumbs-up. Jackson also was sold, saying,
“I like the possibility of the vocals with this girl. I’m going to say yes,” adding his trademark line, “Welcome to Hollywood!”
Millions of Americans — and the 8,000 or so who live in Davis’ hometown of Lowell, Ind. — watched Davis bolt through the audition room door clutching the prized yellow winner’s sheet. The moment culminated a five-year journey that began when Davis attended her first Idol audition in 2002.
“I was nervous when I went through my audition but a little less nervous than I thought I would be,” Davis says. “I thought about it as the most important interview in my life. I really wasn’t starstruck by the judges. It was a pleasure meeting them.”
Although she advanced past the initial Hollywood screening and into the final 24 contestants, Davis’ good fortune ran out on Feb. 21. Her rendition of Connie Francis’ Where the Boys Are failed to impress the judges and Idol viewers.
Jackson cited pitch problems. Cowell said Davis looked good but didn’t sound good. Abdul, the eternal optimist, could offer only that the song wasn’t the “most engaging.”
Davis blames part of her poor performance on equipment — or the lack of it. “I’m used to using in-ear monitors, and they don’t allow contestants to use those until they get to the top 12,” she says.
Another problem, Davis says, was song selection: “If I could do it over, I would absolutely change my song and the arrangement.”
Despite her early Idol exit, Davis was the toast of Lowell. The town embraced her when she returned in March.
“It was awesome,” she says. “A lot of businesses had my name on their signs for a long time.” Davis was added to the list of famous Lowellians in the town’s Wikipedia entry.
“I don’t know who did it, but I’m right next to Jo Anne Worley,” Davis says.
Davis is still a Boilermaker, albeit in the land of palm trees and ocean breezes. “I’ve completed seven courses in the MBA program through Purdue Calumet, and I have eight to go,” she says.
As for horticulture, Davis applies it when she can.
“When I was still on Idol we contestants would be going somewhere and I’d say something like, ‘There’s a sweetgum tree.’ They’d say, ‘Huh?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, I’m a horticulture graduate.’”
Davis remembered her alma mater as she progressed to the Idol stage.
“I got an e-mail from her asking me to vote for her and also asking that I encourage others in horticulture to do the same, which I did,” says Matt Jenks, a Purdue horticulture professor and Davis’ former academic adviser. “My wife did the voting for us.”
Jenks said he was not an Idol fan before Davis appeared on the small screen. That has changed. “I’m still watching the show,” he says.
Contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org