An idol mind

By on April 30, 2008

In the sixth season of American Idol, one contestant stood among his 23 peers, grabbing the attention of viewers everywhere, and his name has since been on everybody’s lips. This man is Sanjaya Malakar.

What have you been up to these days?
Since the show, I went on tour, and that was incredible. That was the hardest work I’ve done in a very long time, but it was very fun. Then, I took a little bit of time off and I did some travelling. I actually went to New Zealand. I was able to have some down time. Since then, I’ve just been working, doing a lot of charity work, and just really focusing on my craft.

You come from a Bengali-Indian, Italian-American family, and were raised in Washington. How has being a part of multiple cultures affected you as a person?
It’s actually very interesting because the Italian culture is very loud and outgoing. The Indian [culture] is also that way, but a little more demure. In my personality, every once in a while, I have my Italian [traits]. Then, the underlying personality is still demure, and polite. Although I am American and the American culture is very much a part of my personality, I’d think that my rots and my ancestors’ roots would definitely play a part in who I am as a person.

How did you react to the sudden fame and success?
Honestly, I don’t know. I think that people connected with me going out there and really, truly being myself, and not trying to impress people. I’ve always had a strong belief that if you’re yourself, people will judge whether they like you based on that, then you don’t have to put on an act. Like me, I’m a little crazy sometimes, I’m kind of wild. If I can go out there and be that, wear a ponyhawk or something, then people will like me for that.

Speaking of ponyhawks, viewers paid close attention to your constantly evolving hairstyle. Fans particularly dug the legendary “Sanjaya Ponyhawk.” What motivated you to go wild with the ‘dos?
It was an extension of my personality. When I first went on the show, I thought they’ll make [my hair] look nice, and I’ll go out there and sing. But when you’re competing with so many talented people in the same craft, you have to set yourself apart. The hair thing fell into my lap and I embraced it, and had fun with it. It was me showing my personality individually.

No one knows what goes on behind the scenes at American Idol. Tell us some secrets!
What people don’t know most about is that we don’t actually have as much time as it may seem. What people see is, you do your song, you do the results show, and you have a full week. But really, in that full week, we’re doing interviews, photo shoots, and the Ford music videos. When we’re picking songs, we have to have them cleared. A lot of the time, people submit a song to be cleared and then work really hard on it, and then find out that it’s not cleared and have to choose another song. That actually happened a lot. They didn’t have enough time to master it as they wanted to. It really helped me to understand past seasons, and why people may not have done as well as they could have.

You certainly have achieved a lot at a young age. What would you like to say to other teenagers who want to pursue their ambitions?
If you’re gonna go into a business like the music business where you’re gonna be critiqued and people are gonna be watching you, you really have to know who you are as a person and be very comfortable with yourself. When you’re out there, don’t be afraid to be yourself and do it full-heartedly. If you do it with conviction, then it’s going to be received better. It’s really important to show your full personality because that’s what people will connect with.

Imagine you were a superhero. What power would you possess and for what cause would you fight?
I think that I would have extra mind power. I’d be psychic and be able to do telekinesis and all this because I think that the mind is very powerful. I’d really want to tap into that and use it to fight negativity. Any bad guys or villains, rather than fighting them, I’d kind of “mind power” them.

Sanjaya Style!
[Laughs] I guess.

Interview arranged by Sachiko Nakayama for TFM.

About Martin Leroux