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'Idol' exit Q&A: Syesha Mercado

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Syesha Mercado
Michael Becker

We knew this day was coming. Syesha Mercado didn’t have a chance in hell of stealing one of the Davids’ spots in the finale, so her ousting last night was no surprise. At least it wasn’t to any of us. To her, on the other hand…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Syesha, the whole country seemed to know it was going to be a David vs. David finale. How was it being on stage when you knew your fate?
SYESHA MERCADO: Well, I didn’t read that press. I didn’t get that memo. I’ve been in a little bubble for a while. I heard rumors that it was going to be a David-Syesha finale.

Which David?
David Cook. I was thinking it was going to be a miraculous change in voting, that little girls stopped voting for David Archuleta and a cloud of votes came in for me. But I had a feeling I was going home, especially after the bad commentary I got for two of the songs I did. At this point in the game there couldn’t be any harsh comments. I’m at peace with everything I’ve done, though. I learned a lot.

Randy talked a lot about you peaking late in the season. Why’d you wait so long to show off your talent? Or was that your secret strategy?
A lot of people have asked why I was holding back. Some of it was nerves. But it wasn’t my game plan. It just worked out that way. I wasn’t holding back — I just became more comfortable with myself as the show went on. Also, I felt early on I was being overlooked. And the more negative comments I got each week, the stronger I got and the harder I worked. The minute I made the decision to enjoy myself, everything got a lot better. That’s when the real Syesha came out. And there’s more to come. An hour TV show only shows you a glimpse of somebody’s life. There are going to be ample opportunities to see more of me.

Are you going to pursue acting or singing now?
I want to do everything. I want to make an album, do Broadway, act in films, open restaurants, homeless shelters, Lupus foundations. I want to do so many things. I’m really goal-oriented, and if you’re driven and focused it will happen for you.

NEXT PAGE: On her ”producer’s choice” song: ” I knew I had to do the song they gave me. My nieces and nephews love that song and their ages range from 2 to 6. They’re not really the people who are voting.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That is quite a list. So, looking back at Tuesday night’s show, do you wish you’d chosen a song other than ”Fever”?
SYESHA MERCADO: No. Everything happens for a reason. There were a couple of songs I had my heart set on that were songs I felt from the heart. I felt if I had sung those songs I would have touched a lot of people and changed people’s opinions of what I could do. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to do them.

What songs were those?
I’ve been told not to say. But the song I most enjoyed was ”If I Ain’t Got You.”

Even though you were going up against Alicia Keys’ original?
That didn’t make me nervous. Every contestant on American Idol is compared to someone. It’s not my fault if they choose to compare me to the person who sang the song. I can’t get wrapped up in that. I move on from that. It is what it is.

I thought all three of the ”producers’ choice” song selections were atrocious. When you heard you had to sing ”Hit Me Up,” did you curl up in a fetal position and cry?
I knew I had to do the song they gave me. I didn’t feel it was as recognizable to the older public. My nieces and nephews love that song and their ages range from 2 to 6. They’re not really the people who are voting. Maybe it did put me at a disadvantage. I never really thought about it like that.

What was it like behind the scenes with you and the two boys this week?
As the competition went on and there were fewer people, it became different. In the beginning it was all fun and games, and then it got serious and our relationships became more intimate. I felt like I was their sister. Someone was always saying, ”Can you tap David on the shoulder for me?” and I felt like I had to go get my brother to sign someone’s autograph.

You definitely upped the glamour as the season progressed. Why’d you wait so long to break out some of those looks?
In the beginning I was having a hard time with my stylist. Some things I wore I wasn’t very happy with, but it got better over the weeks. It helped me when I was on stage to have a look that was different from normal Syesha, which is jeans and sneakers. I wanted something that made me feel like a star. But the hair was a long process. That’s the one thing the boys never had to go through. It took so long.

The judges seem to think you’re destined to be a Broadway performer and not a pop star. Any last words for them?
I think they put limitations on me by saying that. I set a goal and I don’t quit. I want to do everything. I will be in films and do Broadway. But Broadway is very time-consuming. It’s intense, so maybe later in my career. But I want to do everything, and I can do everything.

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