'American Idol' eliminee Lee Jean: The show gave me an awesome platform to inspire people
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/17/2016
American Idol determined its farewell season's Top 6 singers and eliminated Lee Jean and Avalon Young in the process late last week on Fox.
The two contestants ousted from the competition were Lee, a 16-year-old student from Bluffton, SC, and Avalon, a 21-year-old server from San Diego, CA, because the Idol judges chose to save the other bottom-three member.
Judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. saved Sonika Vaid, a 20-year-old student from Martha's Vineyard, MA, after all three singers performed. It was Lee and Sonika's first time in the bottom three, but Avalon had been in that spot once before.
During a Friday conference call with reporters, Lee talked about his American Idol experience. Below is what he had to say. Check Reality TV World's American Idolpage for more from Lee in addition to Avalon's interview.
Idol must have been a big growth experience for a 15-year-old. Now that you have been eliminated, how will you expand upon the lessons you've learned from Idol?
Lee Jean: This whole experience has just been amazing, and you're right, it has been a definite learning experience being here, aging a year, just coming here 15, leaving here 16, and just learning all the things that I have and being surrounded by these amazing people.
From this point on, I'm just going to try to keep surrounding myself with positive vibes and people that I can learn from and just continue to strive no matter what I'm doing, honestly.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during this Idol competition?
Lee Jean: Honestly, the biggest, the biggest struggle I've had being here -- and it doesn't even have to do with performing in the competition or anything -- it's just making such good friends with everybody here and just having to see them go.
Then being in this position myself having to say "see you later" to all my friends that I've met here, and going from seeing them every day and spending so much time with them and just cracking jokes here and there and just doing work with them and having so much fun to not seeing them for God knows how long. So, I think that's going to be the hardest part for me. It has been.
Many of American Idol's top performers who didn't win the show have gone on to bigger things and successful careers. Are you hoping that this is what will happen for you?
Lee Jean: As an artist, being in this industry, you can only hope for the best. So, of course, that's what I'm hoping for, but honestly, this whole experience, for me, has been just a platform. This is where I literally started my career because I didn't have much of anything before this, and now I have a following.
So now, going forward, I'm definitely planning on capitalizing on my following and just having all the people that support me now, [I'll be] showing them what else I can do. And I'll try to put myself out there as much as possible -- just progressing from this point forward.
At the end of the show, you mentioned being an inspiration to other young singers out there. It kind of seemed like you were, in a way, ready to say goodbye. That was just an observation, so can you comment on that?
Lee Jean: I always try to prepare myself for stuff like that because you never want to -- I didn't want to put myself on the top and then be shot down and just have a whole scene on the stage. So I'm always ready to go home, and I don't ever want to get comfortable being in the top.
With my speech, or whatever you would call it, honestly, that's one of the biggest reasons why I got into doing something like this, because I've always been touched by people that can do what they love and have honest music and the people that could just write and make you feel something because they feel something -- it's not necessarily the same feeling, but it's the same.
It's sympathetic and it's empathetic, and I just have so much respect for people that can do what they love to do and people that can inspire other people to do what they want to do because they see it. I would love to be one of those people, and honestly, that's what I'm going to try to strive for, for the rest of my life, to be someone who inspires people.
Your mentor Scott Borchetta was talking about how sick you were this week. That's always so hard to perform when you're under the weather like that. Did they do a lot to take care of you?
Lee Jean: Oh, yeah. They took me to the doctor, and they gave me a lot of antibiotics, but I had the choice of whether or not to perform this week, because if I didn't perform this week, then I was going to perform next week in the bottom three.
But I chose to perform because that's how it is in this industry. No matter what happens to you, the show goes on, and you must perform regardless of whatever is going on, so I just took that as a lesson.
What was it like trying to balance your schoolwork with the show simultaneously? How did you manage that?
Lee Jean: We were required three hours of school every day, and it was a crutch at times, but I honestly think it was also sort of a benefit just because those three hours were just kind of time to wind down from the competition, to not think about anything that had to do with the competition.
You could read, or you could do math, and you wouldn't think that schoolwork was relaxing, but in this kind of an environment, it was just kind of a chill three hours every day for me.
What was it like for you to sing a duet with Christ Daughtry earlier in this season?
Lee Jean: Singing with Chris Daughtry, I couldn't even tell you how amazing that was. He's such a down-to-earth person, and his voice is just so -- it's Chris Daughtry! You can't really describe him, but he's just a sweet [person]. I have his number now, and he's just nice, so down-to-earth, and he's so talented, so amazing. I feel like he really pushed me to better myself, especially in that performance.
You were a part of the last generation of American Idol. What was your favorite experience from being on the show?
Lee Jean: Yeah, just being here and being surrounded by all of these people and just, if you put x-amount of musical people into a room, they're not going to do anything but make friends, because they all love the same thing.
So putting those kind of people in an environment like that just for so long and forcing them to spend so much time together, there's been such a strong bond between all of us. Even the people that went home during Hollywood Week or the people that we met at the first audition... There's just some really, really down-to-earth people, and I think I'm just going to miss that the most.
Did you have a strategy for choosing songs to sing on the show?
Lee Jean: Definitely, my strategy, I didn't really have a set strategy, but it was just "be yourself." Because at home, I'm just so easygoing, and I just do what I feel just because I feel like doing it, and it's what I love to do.
So, I wanted to have the same mentality here, and I just wanted to have as much fun as possible and spend time with the people that I've grown to care about, and just have fun, because this is an amazing experience for anybody, let alone anybody who wants to be an artist for the rest of their life. So, I just tried to suck everything in.
Were there any songs you wanted to sing that you didn't get to?
Lee Jean: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Being an artist and being a singer/songwriter especially, there's a lot of songs that won't clear because not a lot of people know them, and it's kind of like an underground vibe kind of thing.
So there's a lot of artists that aren't necessarily -- they're independent artists, and they're making music, and I love the music, but they can't be cleared or there's some people that won't clear because just for x-reasons.
But I feel like every song that I sang on the show, I wanted to sing every song that I've sang on the show. Everything was a good choice for me, and everything was ultimately my choice, and I'm actually really, really proud of what I've put out this season.
Are you looking forward to coming home for a break? And, if so, what is one of the first things you'd like to do?
Lee Jean: I'm definitely looking forward to coming home because I love being in LA, and I love doing all of this, and I love following my dreams, but I miss my friends so much, and I miss everybody that I would always spend time with. So, going home is definitely going to put a big smile on my face.
One of the first things that I'm probably going to do is just lay down on my bed because I miss my bed so much. All the hotel beds are way more comfortable than mine, but it's just the fact that it's mine. Just being home and spending time with my little brothers and my friends, and my dad, and my little sister, and just everybody, I'm just going to be really glad to be home.
Have you heard from any big stars or celebrities, maybe one whose song you sang on Idol?
Lee Jean: Yeah, I don't -- Ed Sheeran, I'm pretty sure he's actually taking a break from social media right now. He's just trying to focus on whatever he's doing in his life, so I, unfortunately, didn't get reached out to by him. But I've gotten reached out to by a lot of people that have touched me on a musical level.
One of the main people was Chris Medina, and I loved his performance, and I loved how he was dedicated it to, I think, his fiancee at the time. And that song really meant a lot to me. I'm so glad that he got to sit there and just watch my performance, and he actually tweeted me, and he followed me on Twitter.
He was like, "You've got the stuff, man." And I was like, "I cannot believe Chris Medina said that to me! Thank you so much." It was just ridiculous, just seeing people that you look up to tell you you're good.
Any final remarks?
Lee Jean: I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart because I didn't have much before this, like I was saying, and now, I have a following and I have a platform, and now, I have music that I can share with you guys and people that will actually listen.
Just thank you especially everyone back home who's been hosting the watch parties and everything like that and donating to the fundraiser. Just thank you for supporting.
Thank you to the mayor... Just everybody who's been supporting me and just letting me keep following my dream. It's been an amazing experience, and it's been an amazing run, but it's just the start of my first road, so hopefully, it'll be a long one. And, yeah, just thank you from the bottom of my heart. I couldn't think of anything else to say or anything else that I could possibly say.
Check our American Idolpage for more from Lee Jean in addition to Avalon Young's interview.
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