Frenchie Davis is ready to leave Idol controversy in the past and be recognized for one thing: The Voice. In last week’s premiere, she belted her way back into the public spotlight when she powered through “I Kissed a Girl” (more on that unconventional song choice below), which was good enough to make Christina Aguilera do a 180. Davis took some time to sound off to EW about naysayers, her coach, the blind auditions, the upcoming battle rounds, and her love for the gays.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you feel when Christina turned around?
FRENCHIE DAVIS: I think you saw it in my reaction. It took everything in me to not stop singing and go like, “OH MY GOD, SHE TURNED AROUND!” [Laughs] I was so excited. I’ve always admired her. As far as pop singers go, she’s one of the few pop singers that’s a real singer, so I have a great deal of respect for her. It meant a lot to have her turn around for me.
It seems like such a perfect pairing. Was she your first choice?
At first — at first — because I’m such a huge Cee-Lo fan, I was hoping that Cee-Lo would turn around. But when I stripped away my fanaticism and solely looked at it as who could offer me the most as a singer, Christina was absolutely the right choice.
Were you worried that no one would turn around?
Oh yeah, I was, totally! Here’s the thing: This wasn’t like other shows where there were people who couldn’t sing; everybody was talented, so it was a very realistic possibility that they wouldn’t turn around. I was at the end of the first day of auditions, which means that they had to save their slots because they knew they had a whole other day of blind auditions to go through, so it was terrifying, to say the least. But you can’t get what you want out of life being afraid.
“I Kissed a Girl” isn’t really a singer’s song, so it was a surprise to hear it from you.
I was freaking out about the song selection because we were given a list of songs to choose from, and by the time I had gotten the list, “I Kissed a Girl” was the only girl’s song left that hadn’t been selected by the other girls that were auditioning. I just kept thinking this is something that’s completely out of my box and totally unexpected, but if I can nail this song, then it’ll just even further prove that I’m a good singer, because I would think that The Voice should be able to sing anything, even songs that aren’t in their particular genre.
Once you had chosen the song, how long did you have to prep?
Not very long. They give you a list of songs, you pick one, practice it once with the band, and then they send you out there to sing for four people with their backs turned to you. Yeah, it’s terrifying. [Laughs]
How did you hear about the competition?
I was performing for my gays at The Factory, a gay club in West Hollywood. A woman approached me after the performance, and she was just like, “I’m casting a new show on NBC called The Voice, and I would love if you would consider auditioning for it.” I was a little apprehensive at first, but again, I had to give myself that pep talk: “You can’t get what you want out of life being afraid to take chances.” It’s a blind audition — even if someone doesn’t turn around, you never know what could come of reintroducing your talent to the world again.
In some ways you were discovered all over again, the old-fashioned way.
Yeah. [Laughs] I was on Idol eight years ago. They say it takes about 10 years to become an overnight success, so I’m almost reaching that point.
What have you spent those eight years doing?
I performed with the Broadway company of Rent for four years, and I did two tours of Dreamgirls. I did a national tour of the Broadway show Ain’t Misbehavin’, and played the Nell Carter role in that. That was an amazing experience because I got to do that with Ruben Studdard. I’ve been really blessed to have a career in theater, and when I’m not doing plays, I’m traveling and performing in various gay clubs, various Gay Prides, Human Rights Campaign dinners, and things like that. Definitely when I’m not doing my theater stuff, the gay community has kept me working consistently. I owe them everything. Thanks to the gay boys, I’ve never had to do anything but sing.
What do you say to people who think you’ve already had your chance at stardom?
Frankly, I couldn’t imagine why people would feel that way. In all honesty, I think that everyone’s going to have an opinion — I think that maybe there are people in the world who have settled for less than everything they want out of their lives, so they walk around expecting other people to do the same, and I’m just not a settler. In some ways, Broadway was safe for me. It allowed me to what I loved without having to really put myself out there. Then I had a wakeup call, I had an epiphany in the grocery store, six, seven months ago, and saw myself on the cover of the National Enquirer for being fat. That’s when I realized, You know what? Being afraid to put myself out there isn’t protecting me from scrutiny. People are going to have opinions, and they’re going to judge me anyway, so I might as well go balls to the wall.
What kind of advice have you gotten from Christina?
Two of the best pieces of advice that I’ve heard from Christina: Number one, don’t forget to have fun. It was a very stressful environment filming the first part of the show. We were sequestered in a hotel we weren’t allowed to leave, we weren’t allowed to have visitors, they took our cell phones, they took away our laptops, and I mean, it was stressful. She said don’t allow all the stress surrounding this to take away from the fact that this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Number two: I heard her tell two other singers, “I really want to hear the quality of your voice. I don’t want a lot of extra riffing. Even I myself have been guilty of it, but I don’t want to hear that.” I fell in love with her a hundred times more hearing her say that. I think America is going to be pleasantly surprised to see that she’s a really insightful coach and she’s really invested. She really gives a damn and she really is invested in helping us all grow into better singers and better performers.
How have the battle rounds been going?
They have been going very tensely. I mean, it’s tense. You will see friends become foes, and you will see it get kind of icky. Unfortunately, competition does not always bring out the best in personalites, but hey, I still think that everybody involved with the show has a good heart. Some people just let the competition side of it not bring out the best in them, but I think they’ll be okay, though.