syesha-mercado_web.jpgSUNRISE — Since the finale of “American Idol,” the lives of the top ten finalists have never been the same.

For the lucky few on the Idol tour, a 5 a.m. alarm announces morning in a new city.  Contestants check into hotels to freshen up.  Hair, makeup and wardrobe follows.  Hours later, each contestant appears for scheduled media interviews.  Rehearsals begin.

At 8 p.m., the finalists are on stage, performing their hearts out. A flurry of autographs, photos, and meet-and-greet routines follows.  By midnight, everyone makes his or her way to the big bus parked outside.  Each performer summons the energy to move onward toward a new town.   

Their current gig is far less stressful than the competition that got them here.

After singing as well as they could in a desperate bid to win the hearts of a national television audience, the contestants faced the ruthless criticism of Simon Cowell.  For nine of the top 10 “American Idol” finalists, the tension of performing had been reduced. But for the one individual facing elimination, based on audience voting, the pressure was formidable.

The Idols kicked off their 29-state tour in Glendale, Arizona, July 1.  So far, they’ve made their way through New York, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina.

South Florida fans of Idol finalists Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay at last welcomed their stars home with a gathering at Bank Atlantic Center on Aug. 20.   Both finalists were ecstatic to be home. Mercado, however, expressed her anxiety at the thought of performing in her hometown.  

“It’s significant to be back home performing.  The thing is, you think people are expecting something, and if you don’t give it to them, then it feels like you may be letting them down in some way,” Mercado told the South Florida Times.

Recalling her high school graduation at the Bank Atlantic Center made performing there an ironic experience for Pembroke Pines native Malubay.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for the longest time. I am so thrilled to perform back home in front of all the people I used to walk by in the streets. It’s great to be home. I’m home,” Malubay said.

The Idol experience has shaped the lives of these two women from South Florida.  Both are grateful for the opportunity to perform for their fans.  Both realize that fame brings change. 

“I no longer can go to those big super stores I love, and being away from family is tough as well. Because my schedule is so hectic, I hardly speak to family as much as I would like to,” Mercado shared.

Malubay said, “I used to just roll out of bed, hair looking crazy, drop my sister off to school, go to the local store, pick up something, then head back home. No one would know who I was.  Now if I do that, people look at me and spot me in an instant, so things aren’t quite the same but I’ve stayed the same.”

While the finalists are on tour, the air of competition no longer lingers. The top ten finalists have an opportunity to showcase their individual talents. 

At the end of the tour, they have no fear of the voting process that would eliminate one of them.  

At the tour’s conclusion, each finalist can focus on the future for his or her own vocal career.

Photo: Syesha Mercado