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American Idol hits home

Some have the looks, some the talent and some have the personality, but to receive the coveted American Idol gold ticket, a contestant must have the total package.For Stephanie Pontius and her sister, Shelly Stephens, the trek to audition for American Idol was an education on who has the total package, as well as what happens behind the scenes.”They definitely had a cast of characters in mind,” said Pontius, a Falcon resident. Pontius accompanied Stephens, who auditioned for the Denver segment.”Some people make it because they are just wacky. Three of Denver’s wackiest got through for sheer entertainment,” she said.Pontius said about 6,000 people turned out for the Denver auditions held at INVESCO Field at Mile High. Denver was one of seven cities featured on this season’s FOX network hit show, American Idol.Stephens, 26, an English teacher from Firestone, said she made it to the final round of judging before she was turned away by American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.Stephens said on the first day contestants arrived at the stadium. On the second day, 14 tents were set up on the field and contestants were ushered to the field by section. Four contestants at a time were led into the tent, and they took turns singing for the show’s producers. “You have a couple of seconds to shine,” Stephens said.The contestants were narrowed to about 250 on the second day, and then to 60 by the executive producers. Stephens said Cowell, Abdul and Jackson then judged the remaining 60 contestants over a two-day period. The entire process took about two weeks, she said.”I don’t have the same sort of naivety as before,” Stephens said about how the show is portrayed on television.Stephens said she made it through to the final round. “Simon said I had a good voice, but I was ordinary,” she said, adding that Randy wanted to send her to Hollywood. Stephens sang Janis Joplin, Dixie Chicks and Alanis Morissette songs during the auditions.”I’m proud of my audition. I learned that I have enough talent to make it to the top 1 percent of the Colorado population. Suitable enough for a singing contract, but not enough for television,” Stephens said.Stephens said she recently recorded a CD and because of Cowell’s comments, she titled it “Out of the Ordinary.”She was 5 years old when she first hit the stage, she said. “I have been a ham ever since.” She has performed in her high school choir, college jazz ensemble and at festivals, fairs, weddings and talent shows.After hearing her at a school talent show, a few of Stephens’ students decided to raise money so she could buy a plane ticket to an American Idol audition. When they learned the auditions were going to be held in Denver, she decided, “How could I not go?”Pontius and Stephens were featured on the American Idol Denver auditions when it aired Jan. 18. Pontius said, as they were leaving the auditions, they were asked to say a few words about their experience. Pontius said she jokingly commented on the number of breaks Cowell took during the auditions.”Going through it really gives you a different perspective. You can never really look at it the same way again,” Pontius said.

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