Karen Rodriguez went out with the same class she brought to her “American Idol” run, reprising her bilingual version of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and just missing a save from the judges’ panel, and her biggest supporter, Jennifer Lopez.
The Miami-born, N.Y.-raised Rodriguez has been singing most of her life, having attended N.Y.’s Laguardia High School of “Fame” fame with fellow “AI” contestant Pia Toscano, forming a friendship that transcended the intense competition. She was also the only finalist who entered with an online audition on MySpace.
Landing in the bottom three for the second consecutive week, this time with Naima Adedapo and Haley Reinhart, Rodriguez answered questions at her “Eliminated Contestants” press conference this morning with all the aplomb she showed as a finalist.
On singing in English and Spanish: This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I’ve always had a vision of myself as Latin American artist. To be able to sing in both languages on the #1 show in America, on a show called “American Idol”… America is a bit melting pot. There are so many cultures, such diversity. Everybody on the show brings their own style. And that was my way of expressing myself and showing America who I really was.
On leaving the show: Of course, I wanted to stay and continue. But I live by the words everything happens for a reason. Maybe my time on the show was meant to be up yesterday. .
On her New York roots: Living in a city as tough as that really kinds of strengthens me. There are so many opportunities for kids. I was just so blessed to get into Laguardia High School. And it’s free, because I couldn’t afford it otherwise. I want to be that person who encourages other young people to try out and know that it’s OK to reach for their dreams. Starting at such a young age, like I have, is better. They don’t have to waste their whole lives trying to figure out what they want to do. I’ve known my whole life I wanted to sing, and that sort of eliminated a lot of doubt.
Watch Karen’s Teary Goodbye:
On what the judges told her after her elimination: Jennifer has been a fan of mine from the beginning, and she was rooting for me. She’s always been supportive. I identify with her so much. And she has said she sees a lot of herself in me. She said she tried to save me. Steven and Randy both hugged and kissed me, and told me I was amazing, and that I was going to go far, and that this was just the beginning for me. And I just soaked up all those emotions.
On what’s next: I can’t wait to go home and reflect on everything that happened. It’s been very, very crazy these past couple of months. I just can’t wait to start writing, to start bettering myself as a musician, artist and a singer. I’m going to work really hard to become that artist who is ready. So that if something comes up when the show ends, I can be that package. I still have to work on so many things. But I know this time off is going to really help me better myself.
On how she sees herself: I would love to do movies and Broadway. Now that people know who I am, maybe there’s just more opportunity for me to go further. Anything that I can get my hands on. I want to take this and milk it as much as I can. I admire Jennifer Lopez because she’s been able to do both music and movies. I want to be like her for sure.
On how she remains so positive: I always live by the belief that things happen for a reason. Throughout my life, I’ve had to lose some things, and you don’t know why, to gain somewhere else. I’ll see why I was eliminated now maybe in a few weeks or months. I don’t want to only be known as an “American Idol” finalist. I want to be known as Karen Rodriguez, the next Latin crossover English-Spanish American artist. I feel I’ve made that name for myself and I’m very excited for what’s about to come.
Watch Elimination Night:
On working with Jimmy Lovine and the producers: It’s such a smart strategy they’ve incorporated into the show. It teaches us how our lives are going to change as far as the production side. Eventually, we all want record deals out of this opportunity. I’ve had an opportunity to work with these amazing producers, like Jim Jonsin, who wrote “Sweet Dreams” for Beyonce and Ron Fair. Jim took my Selena song and just totally transformed it. Working with people who know what they’re doing, Grammy winners… It’s just crazy. They turned my music into something so fresh, so new.
On her show highlight: Just the fact I got to record Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love” and it’s selling on iTunes. She’s the reason I began singing when I was five or six years old. She really inspired me. Her life was taken away so fast. She never got to see her songs progress. Just to be able to perform it on live television and people tweet me and tell me they love my version and it would’ve made Selena proud. I wanted to keep her memory alive, and let people know… Latinos are back.
On Steve Tyler saying she has that ethnic “what-it-isness:” Steven and Randy said they loved when I incorporated Spanish lyrics. They even think I sound better when I sing in Spanish. It’s great to know because this is who I am. I learned how to speak Spanish before I did English. I wanted to stand up for my race, my heritage. And I’m so glad I stayed true to myself on such an Americanized show.
On her relationship with Pia Toscano: Me and Pia used to go to school together. We were in a group and wrote together. There was a time Pia had trouble with a song and she asked me for help, and I finished it for her. Even though she’s older, I was always like that bigger sister. I supported and toughened her up because sometimes she doubts herself. And I’ve always been there for her.
On her future: There are so many things I want to do. I want to win a Grammy and an Oscar. I want to do so many things that top one another. And that’s what keeps me going. Knowing this is not the end. I just have so much faith in my destiny. I feel that I’m destined for greatness in every part of my being. And I’ve always felt that since I was a little girl. I’m ready to go back to work. I’m just so excited about my life, that there’s no point to crying.