Washington native Sanjaya Malakar became one of the most famous faces from "American Idol's" sixth season. The teen captivated pop culture watchers with his ever-evolving hair styles and always toothy grin.
The result: "Sanjayamania" and a devoted following of "Fanjayas."
But the judges weren't as enamored with Malakar, often dismissing his performances. Now, the man who ended up placing seventh in the singing competition has penned a memoir about his "Idol" experiences and life. Read an excerpt of "Dancing to the Music in My Head: Memoirs of the People's Idol" below.
My "American Idol" experience was a constant race against the clock. If I wanted to eat, I had to shove it down and then run right over to the next rehearsal, interview, meeting, shoot, or sound check. It was all Get up at 7:00 a.m. and hurry to the van ... then wait at the lot for forty minutes ... then shoot some B-roll . . . then hurry back to the van ... then wait at the studio ... then hurry to the van ...then wait for the mentor to show up.
Since the producers and directors had to set up shots and locales—and because they wanted us to be available the second they were ready—we did a whole bunch of sitting around, chilling, talking, napping, and staring into outer space. We were sleep deprived, undernourished (or badly nourished, depending on your attitude toward catering), and stressed about auditioning for Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson—aka the Big Three—show after show after show.
I think that part of the reason they ran us so ragged was to emotionally strip us. They wanted to see what we could do when we were at our most vulnerable. If our nerves were right at the surface, that could lead to onstage meltdowns, or offstage drama, either of which would lead to better ratings. Also, they wanted to see how we could handle the pressure of having twenty-five hour-long commitments in a twenty-four-hour day. None of us knew if a successful (or even semisuccessful) career in the music industry would be that difficult, but at least we'd be prepared.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the Howard Stern situation. Howard Stern had gotten behind me, starting what he called the Sanjaya Revolution. He and his sidekick, Artie Lange, began a campaign to have the fans vote for me to stay on Idol again, and again, and again. I'm well aware he wasn't doing it because he loved my singing; it was because it made for good radio.
I never got a chance to listen to Howard Stern during Idol, but I wasn't completely blind to what the public and the media thought of me. The question has been asked, "Was Howard Stern the reason for my staying power on 'American Idol'"? Howard was an unlikely campaigner who had been advising his fans to vote (in jest) for the first contestant of Indian descent to make it into the show's Top 12. From what I understood, he'd called me his favorite contestant, and confessed he wanted to see me win.
Although I'd tried to avoid going online and seeing what the bloggers and the media were saying about me, I couldn't help but hear whispers about the general opinion of my singing. I realized that I wasn't as good (or as experienced) as the likes of such fellow contestants as Jordin Sparks, Phil Stacey, and Melinda Doolittle, but I thought that'd I'd been improving as a showman, and according to the Big Three, that's much of what American Idol is about: putting on a great show.