Although Kendall Phillips’ moments on screen were brief, it was better than the alternative.

Phillips passed the first step in becoming a contestant on “American Idol,” a popular contest on Fox that crowns one winner per season, granting that person a singing recording contract. Viewers vote on their favorites, and each week a contestant is eliminated. Phillips was featured briefly in two clips on the shows fifth season premier, which aired Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Phillips, 17, said she wasn’t disappointed that her audition from Chicago did not receive more airtime, because most of the contestants shown were really poor singers, and their performances were played for laughs.

“I’m glad I wasn’t in that group,” she said.

More than 10,000 contestants showed up at the audition in Chicago in September, and only 34 were given the opportunity to travel to Hollywood to remain on the show, she said.

Phillips made it to Hollywood and believes she will get more airtime when those episodes begin airing, but she said she is contractually prohibited from revealing the results of the shows.

The audition process in Chicago was spread out over two days, and with so many applicants, the first round of the competition was held at Soldier Field where the contestants and their families had to endure cold weather and rain, said Kim Estep, Phillips’ mother.

“I sat through 10 hours of freezing rain,” Estep said.

Phillips said contestants go through several rounds of auditions with producers and executive producers before reaching the final round of the audition process were they perform for the television judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, who choose the contestant that will go on to Hollywood.

Contestants are told to prepare two songs, and Phillips said she was allowed to perform both songs she selected, “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera and “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” by Robert Palmer, for the three judges.

To continue on to the Hollywood round, a contestant must get a yes from at least two of the three judges. Jackson said no, and Abdul said yes. The final vote came down to Cowell, a notoriously harsh critic.

Phillips said Cowell thought she was good and was just going to improve, so he voted her in.

“I was a little nervous beforehand, but it was more excitement than anything,” she said. “They just sort of shove you through the doors (to perform).”

Estep said she was probably more nervous than Phillips.

“I was outside the door during, trying to peek through the crack,” Estep said. “I thought I heard them say yes, but I wasn’t sure.”

She said her daughter started performing at an early age, and was selected to be on “Star Search” and has performed on “The Caroline Rhea Show,” which makes her fearless when it comes to performing.

“She’s gutsy, she just goes in and throws caution to the wind,” she said.

The Chicago audition was not Phillips’ first attempt to get on this year’s “American Idol.”

She and Estep traveled to San Francisco in August to audition for the show, but did not get the chance perform.

She said she was in line to perform for a producer in the first round of auditions, but the producer said she wasn’t taking any more auditions.

“The lady didn’t even let me sing,” she said.

“It was terribly disappointing, but she was OK with it,” Estep said. “She has faith in herself.”

She said there was no backup plan if Phillips did not get accepted in Chicago, which was the last scheduled audition date, but a date was later added in North Carolina, and they probably would have traveled there for Phillips to audition if necessary.

Phillips is dedicated to music beyond “American Idol.”

She said she writes her own songs and is working on a CD that should be ready by the end of January.

The CD contains a song written by Phillips, “When the Answers Won’t Come,” and the Bon Jovi song “You Give Love a Bad Name,” she said.

Estep said Phillips is taking three music classes in high school, and spends on average five to eight hours a day working on music.

Phillips said even if she doesn’t advance in “American Idol,” it was still a great experience.

“It was so worthwhile,” she said. “It definitely opened my eyes to the music business. I’ve grown so much as a performer from the experience.”


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