Heejun Han: 'American Idol' judge Jennifer Lopez wanted to "save" me
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/30/2012
Heejun Han was cut from American Idol's eleventh season, determining the Top 8 finalists during Thursday night's live results show broadcast on Fox.
Heejun, a 22-year-old from Flushing, NY, became the fifth finalist sent home from American Idol's eleventh season after he received the fewest home viewer votes following Wednesday night's performance show, which featured the Top 9 finalists singing songs previously performed by their personal musical idols.
During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Heejun talked to Reality TV World about his American Idol experience -- including whether he was surprised he got ousted from the competition after having his best week yet performance-wise, what he meant by saying he wasn't trying to be a star on American Idol and whether he thought his chances were good that the judges were going to use their one-time "Judges' Save" on him so early in the game.
Reality TV World: Based on the judges' comments, your performance this week was the best one you've had so far this season during the performance shows. Did it surprise you that you were eliminated considering the judges and Jimmy Iovine kind of thought you had a breakthrough and did your best yet?
Heejun Han: You know, it's an ironic situation where you can't be pleased and you can't be sad about it because you had a performance where you get to show who you are and you get voted off. But it's good because I got to finish the show on a high note, so people can expect what's to come next, I guess.
Reality TV World: You said, "I'm not trying to be a star. I'm just really happy where I am" during last week's results show, and a lot of people interpreted that as you didn't want to win the competition. Was that actually the case? Is that what you had intended to suggest or no? And regardless of whether you implied you didn't care about winning American Idol, do you think it played any role in your elimination in that the fans might've thought, "Oh, well if he doesn't care, why should we?"
Heejun Han: You have to -- I mean, this is my first TV -- live national TV debut, so when everything comes to you so quickly, you have no idea how to react to it. I'm just a guy, an ordinary guy, who happened to be number nine on American Idol, and you never thought that you could make it. You've been doubting yourself your whole life.
And when you're having that moment when the biggest producer in this industry, which is Jimmy Iovine, saying, "You're not going to win this competition and we're not going to spend money on him because he doesn't deserve it and he's disrespecting the process," my reaction has to be automatically, "I know, I know. I'm not trying to be a star. Just calm down," you know?
That was my natural reaction to it. People could take it as, "Oh he doesn't want to win the whole thing," but at that time at least, I was really genuine and sincere about how humble I am through this competition. The spot where I was standing was pretty much more than I deserve, I guess. That was my perspective.
Reality TV World: What was the sentiment among the men this season? Because last season, the first four eliminated finalists all had been girls and the season prior to that was a similar situation. So did you guys think you had an advantage in the competition and might last longer than the girls because of the nature of the voting public? When I talked to Erika Van Pelt last week, she said she believed the women finalists had a much harder hill to climb than the men, and Shannon Magrane had said there needs to be more "girl power" going forward.
Heejun Han: Whoa, you do watch the show really well. (Laughs) I'm not -- to be really, really honest, I don't really have any thoughts on that, because I think it's not really about who's the best singer or male artist.
At the end of the day, it's going to be just the best singer, and if not, who can make something out of this opportunity. So, I'm pretty sure there are girls who have been voting for lots of guys, but I'm pretty sure it's the same game for everyone. At the end of the day, it's the same competition.
Reality TV World: So just to clarify, do you personally think a woman can win again or do you think the men will continue to dominate the competition?
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Heejun Han: You know, may the best win. May the best entertainer win. It doesn't have to be a man or a woman. I don't know if it's going to be a man or a woman, but to be honest, I really don't care I guess. So, if for me, if I really had to choose, I'd prefer a girl as the winner of this season. Yeah.
Reality TV World: Last night, you did an interview with the Insider in which you suggested you thought Diddy was drunk when he was mentoring you. Do you mind elaborating a little bit on that? Were you joking around or were you actually serious?
Heejun Han: (Laughs) Um, I have no comment on that.
Reality TV World: This was only the third week "The Judges' Save" was an option to use this season, so did you think it would be realistic for them to use it so early in the competition when you landed in the bottom three?
Heejun Han: It was too early, of course. It was way too early to use their [save]. I'm pretty sure they were saving it for a couple other people, so I was pretty sure that it was pretty fair.
Also during the call, Heejun told reporters which judge was rooting to save him against the other two judges' wishes, how he explained his silly side and whether he admitted to not taking the competition seriously, what his blunt thoughts were on Jimmy Iovine, and who he believed should win the current season of American Idol.
Jennifer Lopez was a huge fan of yours throughout the season. Did you get a chance to talk to her after the show? Did she say anything to you?
Heejun Han: She said -- she came up to me with the teary-eyes, and she said, "I was convincing them to 'save' you but I lost." But you know, only her vote counts for me, I guess. But Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler can just -- whatever.
You showed your funny side throughout the season but then gave a fans a glimpse of your serious side this week. However, you ended up getting eliminated when you gave the judges what they thought American wanted to see. So what is your theory on what voters actually wanted from you?
Heejun Han: I have no idea... I have no idea what you guys were doing. But you know, I mean, all the joking aside, everyone has different tastes. I can't please everyone, so I'm just happy with the fact I made it this far.
If Fox was to give you your own sitcom, what would the premise be?
Heejun Han: It should be an Asian guy who's trying to go out with a really, really pretty blonde girl.
What did Randy say afterwards when he was talking to you about the sitcom? What did he tell you?
Heejun Han: He grabbed me and said, "Dude you're a great singer, but dawg, you have to be in a sitcom." And I said, "Well Randy, I just got voted off of a singing competition. Is that the best you can give me?" And that's what happened.
Would you really like to be in a sitcom?
Heejun Han: Of course! I mean, I'm not going to be picky about anything. I'm just gonna -- I really want to make something out of this and regardless of [whether it's] a sitcom, a movie, anything. If they're willing to work with me, I'll do it.
There was a lot of criticism that you weren't takingAmerican Idol seriously as a competition. So just for the record, were you?
Heejun Han: I mean, that's a no-brainer question because if I didn't take this competition seriously, I would have never actually started in the first place, waiting hours and hours and auditions and rehearsals and all the hard work, right?
Do you ever have a chance to straighten things out with Steven Tyler after your Billy Joel performance?
Heejun Han: Mmm, no, but we kind of hugged it out afterwards -- after my "Fall For You" performance.
If you could bet on only one contestant to win American Idol, who would it be?
Heejun Han: Well, at this point, if I didn't make it to the competition, I hope no one will win.
You wouldn't even want Phillip Phillips to win considering you guys were good friends?
Heejun Han: Why? Would it have to be Phil Phillips?
What went into your decision in choosing to perform the song "A Song For You" by Donny Hathaway? What moved you about it?
Heejun Han: I liked the lyrics. It says, "I've been singing to 10,000 people, but I'm just singing in front of you." It was really saying, "I am in this competition singing to millions and millions of people, and now I really want to show my appreciation towards the people who have been there for me and supported me." And I knew it was going to be my last stage.
How did you feel when Steven Tyler told you that you weren't taking things seriously during Billy Joel week?
Heejun Han: We had our different perspective. I was trying to give a fun time to America because I thought it was going to be entertaining and it was going to be fun and everything, but maybe he took it wrong. But I can't please everyone, so it was just the fact that I got to show a little bit of my fun side.
When are you going home to New York and back to work with your kids?
Heejun Han: I'm coming back on Sunday this week, but I'm [doing] press until Thursday. So I might have to see them next week.
If you could go back to the very beginning of yourIdoljourney and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Heejun Han: Don't try this at home. (Laughs) No, I'm kidding. You know what? Singing competition, model competition, anything -- what it comes down to in a competition is literally just saying, "You're competing against each other."
It's a "Hunger Game" but just not killing each other. Why do you always have to be so serious when only one person's going to survive, right? So why not just have fun and have a thick skin and stay true to yourself.
Phillip was actually crying Thursday night when you got eliminated. Did you get emotional and cry at all?
Heejun Han: Um, I think he was faking it. No, I'm kidding. We were best friends since Day 1, and I really, really wish him the best of luck. He has what it takes. I'm pretty sure he's going to do well, and I didn't cry because I don't want to cry. So, I just kind of left really early on purpose, because I knew I was going to get emotional. So, yup!
Despite what Jimmy Iovine said about Interscope Records not wanting to spend their money on you if you didn't take the competition seriously, do you think you'll end up getting a record deal anyway?
Heejun Han: Regardless of what he said. I really don't want to work with him anyways, so yeah. (Laughs) I was kidding, but he is the greatest mentor that this industry could ever ask for, supposedly. We have our different perspectives towards life -- even the song itself -- so I don't know what's going to happen, but I really wanted to prove him wrong and I really do want to make him regret saying that.
What was your friendship like with Phillip? How did you two become so close?
Heejun Han: I thought this interview was about me not Phillip. (Laughs) No, I'm kidding, but Phillip and I had a different perspective towards the competition. He didn't want it to become a fancy Phillip or anyone like that. He really, really loves music and he really, really wanted to make a career out of it because he loves the music itself.
I started this competition off to help my kids out. So, our goal was not to become an ultimate huge successful mega-superstar. Our goal was really humble, so that's where we connected, I guess.
Some people are saying that you acted silly on the show and cracked jokes a lot because it was a defense mechanism in case you didn't end up winning or something like that. What's your response to that?
Heejun Han: I have no idea where they get that knowledge from. What the heck is a defense mechanism? What is that? Let me ask you. I have no idea what that is... People like lots of drama, but they're just way overthinking it... I was just being myself throughout the whole competition.
What are your plans for the near future?
Heejun Han: I'm not going to be picky. I'm just going to take any opportunities that are ahead of me. I want to be in a sitcom, movie, drama, singing, dancing -- anything that's ahead of me, I'm going to do it.
Who was your favorite guest mentor during the competition.
Heejun Han: The best mentor was Stevie Nicks. She was well-prepared. She was the one who gave me really great advice, saying that you have to be effortless when you're singing, which is amazing advice because I was trying to impress people too hard. That's when you fall, but she gave me advice saying, "Just tell your story and [don't] try to impress anyone."
You said Thursday night after the show that you might consider trying out for The Voice. Would you actually audition for another reality singing competition?
Heejun Han: (Laughs) I was just 100% percent joking. I was really joking. I'm not doing any competitions anymore, except for America's Next Top Model.
[Closing remarks] Thank you guys for voting. Thank you guys for believing in me. I started off this competition to show the world that if you really, really truly believe in yourself, you can make something out of it. And if you really, really do stuff for others, the outcome is something beyond your imagination.
I hope I could prove it. Even though this was a singing competition, I was just focusing on entertaining you guys and I hope it worked. I had fun. It was an amazing journey, and it's only going to get crazier. So just tune into me any time I'm on TV. Thank you. About The Author:Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.