American Idol 2012’s Erika Van Pelt Says “Guy Favoritism,” Vocal Nodule Contributed to Her Early Dismissal
If you missed Erika Van Pelt’s makeover during Top 10 week of American Idol, you might have been confused to see a dark-haired girl with a pixie cut get sent home during the results show on March 22. It seemed voters never quite knew what to make of the DJ/singer, so despite her smooth, powerful voice, she went home earlier than expected. In a conference call with reporters, Erika said she was devastated to leave the show but still has big plans for the summer tour. And as for her fabulous new hairdo? “I don't think it was detrimental to me. If anything, I feel like it got a few more people to at least notice,” she says.
Compared to early favorites, such as Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, Erika feels that she never had a “moment,” although she consistently sang well and was praised by the mentors and judges. “I feel like regardless of my solid performances, I feel like every time I hit that stage it was one of those things where I didn't gain enough momentum at the beginning and I sort of ended up lagging behind a little bit just in the minds of the voters,” Erika explains.
Although Randy Jackson said she has one of the best voices in the competition, the judges elected not to save her, and Erika says she saw that coming. “I had my preconceived notions as to why they wouldn't, so for me I was prepared. With what happened last year with Pia Toscano and them using their save early on with Casey [Abrams], they have a little post-traumatic stress and feel like they need to save it for an even crazier elimination,” she says.
That elimination could come in the form of Elise Testone, because Erika sees a lot of similarities between herself and the 28-year-old. Erika is 26 and she feels that with her and Elise, “being the two oldest, I think it played a role. When it comes down to it, American voters really need to feel like they can relate. Elise and I are a little out of the box, a little less mainstream.” Yet she can see Phillip’s appeal. “There has been a consistent what seems like guy favoritism, but then again we have to be realistic and look at the main demographic. There's a lot of teenage girls, and I keep saying if I were voting at home, it would be hard for me not to vote for the cutest boys, too,” Erika told reporters.
Even though America wasn’t on her side, the mentors were, and Jimmy Iovine was definitely rooting for her. Though the judges seemed to disagree with some of Jimmy’s harsher critiques of the contestants, Erika said his insights were nothing but helpful: “I worked with some amazing people — Mary J. Blige, will.i.am — but the person who was most beneficial was definitely Jimmy Iovine.”
Jimmy seemed to understand the unique attributes of Erika’s vocals, but the singer admits others’ criticisms got to her. “First I wasn't doing enough, then I was doing too much, then not enough, then I was over-singing. I felt like I could never just sing and be myself,” she says. Though her voice always sounded pitch-perfect, Erika revealed she has a vocal nodule, which she says gave her some trouble. “It's taken away part of my range certainly, which is another thing that I felt may have been detrimental to me in this competition because people like to hear those high notes,” she says.
For our money, with a voice like Erika’s, whatever notes she hits are good ones. Good luck, Erika! We know we’ll be hearing from you soon.