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OTHER ITA SITES:
An Interview With Author Debra Poneman And Idol Gina Glocksen About Chicken Soup For The American Idol Soul
I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul author Debra Poneman. In a complete surprise she also brought along one of the genuine articles, an actual American Idol, Gina Glocksen.
Debra, can you tell us a little about yourself?
In 1981 I founded Yes to Success Seminars ™, Inc. This is the seminar that launched the careers of many top transformational leaders including Deepak Chopra, Janet Attwood (The Passion Test) and Marci Shimoff (Happy for No Reason). The Yes to Success seminar provides a system for uncovering your true purpose and then gives you the tools you need to realize that purpose - as well as the knowledge of how to live each and every day of your journey joyfully and profoundly. I've also given hundreds of keynote speeches for businesses, associations and professional organizations across the country, penned a syndicated newspaper column on principles of success and have appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows.
However, my greatest achievement is that I took off 19 years from my career to be a full time mom! Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul is my first venture back into the world of writing. I spent 6 months interviewing and then working on their stories with top 10 Idols from every season, behind-the-scenes crew members, fans and judges to co-author this book that has brought together the #1 show in television history and the #1 non-fiction book series in publishing history.
The Chicken Soup series is one of the great book franchise successes of the last decade. How did you become involved with this organization? And a follow up, where did you get the idea of featuring American Idol?
Well, actually, it was because of my son.
When Daniel was 10, he started watching American Idol Season One. He was totally transfixed by this show, which was unusual because we're not a big TV family. One day he said, "Mom you have to watch this with me. You would love it." And I'm thinking, "Oh please, anything but that, don't make me watch a talent show." But being the consummate mother I am, and really appreciating a way I could spend time with my son, I put on a smile and said, "Great Daniel, I'd just love to watch this talent show with you." It took me two shows before I was a full-fledged AI fanatic. And of course we went to the American Idol Live concert that summer.
The next season — the big Clay/Ruben year — my husband and daughter joined us each week to watch the show and then the whole family went to the concert the next summer (twice!). And all along I would say to my kids, "I'm going to get to know those Idols personally. I'm going to do something with them. I don't know what it is, but I'm absolutely sure of it."
Also during Season Two I discover that my dear friend and colleague, Marci Shimoff, author of Chicken Soup for the Women's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul and currently the best-selling author of Happy for no Reason, was also a closet Idoloholic and we start e-mailing back and forth our own weekly reviews of every show complete with editorials… "Clay is going to win because he is the boy next door. There is no way that you can't love him."..."If Jennifer gets voted off, I am never watching again."…."What was up with Carrie's hair??" We just thought our editorials were so brilliant that one day we said, "We should really publish this stuff," and then simultaneously exclaimed, "Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul!" And as they say, the rest is history.
As I understand it you spent some time on the road with the Idols? This must have been a lot of fun. Can you tell us a little about it?
Actually, the only time I was with the Idols was last season. I was back stage for several days interviewing the top 10 Season 6 finalists as well as the crew including their make-up artist, stage manager, vocal coaches, wardrobe stylist, musical director, producers and director. It was a lot of fun – especially being there for the taping of the shows.
But what I enjoyed most about it was discovering that these contestants were not just okay people with great voices, they were amazing people with great voices. As I say in the introduction to the book…. "In the process of bringing their stories to you, we have discovered what most have suspected — that these are not just talented singers, but extraordinary human beings who touch our lives not only by the beauty of their voices, but by the depth of their souls." There's a reason why America falls in love with them and it goes beyond the talent. I think we have good instincts about who these people really are and we vote our hearts - being with them verified that America has chosen the right top 10 every season!
And what I loved most about spending time with the support crew is that I discovered that their lives paralleled the lives of the Idols. What I mean is that they also came from tough backgrounds and none of them had their success handed to them on a silver platter and they too were living their dreams. They're really the American Idols of their respective professions – you can't win a bigger pot than doing your thing for the #1 show in television history. They each tell their stories in the book. It's very inspiring.
Many of the stories in Chicken Soup are very moving and thought provoking, was it a difficult task to select the stories for inclusion?
In regard to the Idol's stories, any Idol who wanted a story included was welcomed. The difficult part was choosing which story to choose!! For example, Jasmine Trias shared an amazing story about a young man with cerebral palsy who lived in a group home outside of Las Vegas. He loved Jasmine so much that he carried an album of photos of her on the tray of his wheel chair and would show them to anyone who was willing to look. He also wore a t-shirt that read "Jasmine’s #1 Fan." She surprised him when she appeared in Vegas and arranged for him to attend her concert and come back stage. I cried when she told me the story. Then she tells me another story of a woman who had been in a coma for quite some time and she literally came out of the coma when she heard an angel singing to her. It turned out that her granddaughter was watching American Idol and Jasmine was singing. She believes that Jasmine saved her life. How do you choose when you can only have one story?
I understand you have brought along a special guest, can you do the introductions?
Yes, this is Gina Glocksen who came in at #9 on Season 6.
Hi, Gina thank you for taking part. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your involvement with American Idol?
Actually, I completely tell my story in the book but to give you the short version… My passion obviously was singing. I've been singing in front of people all of my life and started getting serious about it around 15 years old, but my day job was as a dental assistant. I auditioned 2nd season and didn't even make it past the first round and was told, I wasn't what they were looking for.
So I didn't audition for season 3 or 4 but watched religiously and thought, not what they're looking for? What do they have that I don't? How in any way is that girl different than me? So when Season 5 rolled around I decided that I didn't want to suck saliva the rest of my life so I auditioned again and made it all the way to Hollywood Week. When I was doing my final audition that would have gotten me into the top 40, I forgot my words — which is an instant good-bye.
I was so stressed that I said I would never do that again but when season 6 rolled around my boyfriend Joe, who, by the way, is now my fiancé - he proposed to me on stage at the Idol's Live tour in Chicago - said, "Gina, I have a feeling that this is your year." So I went to LA hoping the judge (which is one of the producers) that you have to get past before you get to Paula, Simon and Randy would remember me and he did. I didn't even make it past the first round. They told me that I just brought back the same thing I did last year.
Most sane people would have given up but I wasn't going to let anyone tell me that I couldn't follow my dream. And the next week I was off to the auditions in Memphis. And the rest is history. Not only was I in the top 10 but I'm one of the new co-hosts this year on American Idol Extra.
It wasn't until I read Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul that I really started to get an idea of the magnitude of the program, yet it also seems to be very much a 'family' environment. Do you socialize off set?
Gina: I'm incredibly close to the people from my season. I mean we lived in small apartments and then for 14 hour days backstage together for at least a month or more depending on when you got kicked off and then in 2 buses for another three months on tour. Did we socialize? We didn't really see anybody but each other!! Fortunately in my season everyone got along great. I've heard stories that there was conflict in other seasons but we are all really close and I think we'll always stay that way.
Debra: Something I noticed when I interviewed the backstage crew is how much affection they have for one another. I never heard one crew member ever say a bad word about another. They just expressed respect and admiration for their colleagues. Idol is really like a well-oiled machine. What also struck me is how much the crew members all genuinely care about the Idols and how heartbroken they are when each gets voted off. Mezhgan Hussainy who is the Idol's makeup artist, and by the way, has an amazing story in the book about how her family escaped from Afghanistan, told me that when Charlie Grigsby got voted off on Season 2, everyone loved him so much that the air backstage was worse than a funeral. She said that she couldn't even speak to anyone that night. She had to just go home, she was so devastated.
A question for fun. I'll mention no names, but one of the judges has a bit of a reputation for his candid remarks. Is this just an 'on camera' persona?
Gina: It's hard to say. We don't ever get to see the judges off camera, so I just have to assume that with "this person," what you see is what you get.
Debra: But I do have to say that several of the Idols I interviewed said that even though "the judge" can be brutal, he is often the first one to jump up on the stage when someone gets voted off and give them a hug and say, "Don't give up."
I really want to thank you for taking time to talk with me. Good Luck in your future endeavors.
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