Antonella Barba declines to discuss 'American Idol' photo scandal
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/09/2007
Despite being freed from American Idol policies that restricted her from meeting with the media and discussing her provocative photo scandal while she was still competing on the show, newly eliminated sixth season Idol semifinalist Antonella Barba still doesn't have much to say about the pictures that have heated up the Internet recently. At least not yet.
The 20-year-old Point Pleasant, NJ native met with reporters during a Friday afternoon media conference call that followed her elimination during Thursday night's live Idol results show. However throughout the at times contentious press conference, a Fox publicist -- citing Barba's intention that she "doesn't want to" talk about the photos -- told foul-crying reporters they couldn't ask any questions about the scandal and prevented Barba from answering any direct, and frequently even indirect, questions about the photos.
"It was definitely... it was difficult," Barba -- who wouldn't get into specifics about where the photos came from, how they were released or when she learned about them -- told reporters in one of her few comments about the photos.
"It wasn't how I intended things to go, but I tried to block it out as much as possible and focus on the competition because [I was there] to sing. I hope that I made it so far on the show because of my talent. I don't think that the photos... I hope that the photos didn't affect where I got in the competition because they are irrelevant to my singing. They are part of my personal life that was exploited unintentionally and without my consent."
Despite her now apparently self-imposed lack of details on the topic, Barba provided reporters with some limited insight as to how the emergence of the photos affected her Idol performances.
"You know what, I keep getting told that no publicity is bad publicity, and you know people try to make me feel better," said Barba. "I understand it's true my name is more well-known because of it. But I'm not known for the things I'd like to be known for right now. You know I'm trying to make a name for myself in singing, and I won't be trying to promote myself in any way that's been made apparent."
After the photos first emerged, Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe announced that the show had decided not to disqualify Barba over the steamy pictures and she also received public support from the series' host and judges. According to Barba, that support also extended to the reality competition's behind-the-scenes happenings.
"The producers... the whole time, Nigel tried to keep me focused on the competition and told me to ignore the other stuff because it's irrelevant and that's not what I'm about. I'm about singing for the show and all that other stuff was irrelevant," said Barba. "Looking back on it, I'm very thankful for the opportunity I've been given. And I know that because I've been in the public eye, all this embarrassment has come with it. In retrospect, I still think it was worth it because I'd still like to move forward in a career in music. Keeping [the photos] not part of it."
But although Idol's judges had supported her publicly, their support didn't extend to the most important place of all -- on stage, where they had made it clear that they didn't feel her singing ability was good enough to get her through to the season's Top 12 finalists.
"It's definitely difficult to be put down, especially on national television," said Barba. "But more so it's just difficult to be told that you're not good when you've made it this far and you know that you've earned it and you have nothing but support around you from people... my fans and everything. But at the same time, sometimes I think [the judges] say things to just to say things. I try to only listen to the constructive criticism because all this negativity will just bring your confidence down. What will make me sound better is just believing in myself and having confidence and not listening to the negativity."
Barba also said she received a moral boost from Stephanie Edwards, the 19-year-old Savannah, GA native (and now sixth season finalist) who served as her roommate during the semifinals.
"I'm so happy for her. I knew she was going to make it. We actually both thought that we both would make it," said Barba. "She's very excited to go on obviously, but she's very sad for me because she was really pulling for me. I was so happy for her though. I hope we both have very successful careers, I'd definitely collaborate [with Edwards]. I'm a huge fan of her voice and her style."
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Despite the personal problems she was dealing with while appearing on Idol, Barba said she got some good advice that helped her deal with all the stress.
"Sometimes when you get that nervous feeling in your stomach, the vocal coach here told me, 'Don't mistake that for nerves. Turn that energy into positive energy.' Sometimes it's not being nervous, sometimes its just your adrenaline preparing yourself for how big of a thing you're about to do," said Barba. "You can turn nerves into positive energy that is excitement that can feed your performance. And also right before I go out on stage I try to say a prayer."
Barba said she's going to stay in L.A. for a week or two to flush out the various offers she now expects to receive.
"I want to see what I can with this for a career right now because I want to strike when the iron's hot," she said. "So I have not made plans for the future yet. I don't know about this or about school because I kind of need to work it out and see what offers are given to me."
Barba also didn't rule out doing something other than singing, but warned those who approach her with ideas to not judge her based on the photos.
"I'm definitely not opposed to taking other offers such as acting or modeling or something," she said. "But again, the pictures that have been released of me -- the ones that actually are me -- they're very personal. That is not how I intended to portray myself, nor the way I intend to portray myself in the future. I'd rather promote myself in a more classy way. Again, that was personal, that was private, that was not for the public eye."
Barba also didn't comment on her recent offers from "Girls Gone Wild" and SugarDVD -- but she did refute rumors that Playboy magazine had made her an offer, claiming she was "never approached" to appear in the magazine, and if even if she were, she wouldn't take the offer.
"No, absolutely not," she said. "Right now I want to look at all the offers that I get and sort out what's best for me right now."
Barba said she was "proud" that she went as far as the Top 16, and got to know most of the finalists pretty well during the time they spent together. But she said it's still too difficult to pick a favorite.
"At this point it's hard to tell because everyone is so talented," she said. "I think comparisons are unfair because each person is unique. I'm just really anxious to see what each person brings new to the table because I know everyone has it in them to show something original."
Having told Idol judge Simon Cowell he "was wrong about Jennifer Hudson" last week following her performance, Barba said it was more of a comment to help her own self-esteem then it was to put down Cowell.
"It was a hopeful comment for me," said Barba. "I think of Jennifer Hudson as a role model, she definitely gives me inspiration and it's so inspiring to see where she's gone from her being on the show. That's inspiration for me to hopefully go as far as she has... or somewhere far."