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Dreaming of American Fame in San Diego

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Photo: "American Idol" hopeful Mia Buchignani, 28, of San Francisco. (Andrew Phelps )

The allure of fame is in the air. Auditions for the seventh season of "American Idol" are underway in San Diego. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps was at Qualcomm Stadium early this morning, where thousands of singers got just a few seconds in front of the judges. Andrew met one woman who's leaving her comfort zone and giving pop stardom a shot.

I'd like to introduce you to Mia Buchignani.

Mia: When some quarrel we had needs mending. Doesn't mean that our love is ending...

She's visiting from San Francisco. Mia decided to try out for "American Idol" a week ago, on a whim. I talked to her while she shopped for the perfect outfit.

Mia: I'm having a hard time finding something that kinda speaks to my personality. Um, you know I dress more on the traditional side. And I want something still kind of youthful but elegant.

Youthful, because Mia is 28 -- even though that's the maximum age limit for "American Idol." And elegant, because Mia is a professionally trained classical singer, and she usually dresses the part.

Mia: So it's not every day that I get a chance to sing in regular clothing. Being a classical singer, that comes with an image and that comes with an appearance that is polar opposites of "American Idol."

The girls are strolling by in short shorts and miniskirts. Most of them probably don't qualify for the minimum age limit on "American Idol." By the way, Mia couldn't find a thing to wear.

Mia: Oh well, I definitely don't have a teenager body. That's for sure.

It's Morning Edition from NPR News…

At 5 o'clock this morning, I'm already late to meet Mia at Qualcomm Stadium. The contestants have to arrive no later than 6. Mia got here at 4.

Mia: I'm awake, but I haven't slept more than a couple of hours, so I think it's my adrenaline that's keeping me up.

Mia looks professional: A navy blouse, fitted black corduroys and strappy sandals. There's a crush of people here, TV stations from all over the place -- an estimated 12-thousand people. When the cameras come around, Mia doesn't scream like everyone else. She's trying to save her voice.

Mia: I may seem like I'm really calm, but inside I'm still a little nervous. This is really out of my comfort zone. So you know, in that respect, it's really exciting, because I think you really grow as a person when you step outside of your comfort zone and do new things and take big risks.

Standing next to her in an oversized sombrero is Joseph Mejia, from Temecula. He says he wants to be the first Mexican-American Idol.

Joseph Mejia: My father came into this country when he was seven, and hey -- there hasn't been a lot of Mexican-Americans on the show, and I have a pretty good voice, and I deserve to be the next American Idol. You can reach me by railway, you can reach me by trailway, you can reach on airplane, you can reach me with your mind.

As for Mia, she decided on a Celine Dion song called "The Prayer."

Mia: I pray you'll be our eyes. And watch us where we go. And help us to be wise in times when we don't know...

Mia only got 15 seconds in front of the judges. She didn't make it.

Mia: I'm really not disappointed whatsoever. I mean I know I sang my best. I know there were people that were really much better than me, and they didn't make it through as well.

So Mia won't ever be an American idol. She says it's an equalizing experience. People from all walks of life have a shot at fame. And they don't necessarily need talent.

Andrew Phelps...

Mia: KPBS News.

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