Commentary From a Filipino Fan: No regrets, Jessica Sanchez

Jessica Sanchez and Philip Phillips

Jessica Sanchez and Philip Phillips, winner of American Idol 2012. (Photo: Fox)

This story by Elton Lugay comes to us from our partner The FilAm.

On May 21, I stuck my neck out for Jessica Sanchez. I proclaimed in a rather self-indulgent essay – that was widely published and reposted – that the 16-year-old Filipina-Mexican-American would be the new American Idol.

Why did I do that? As a long-time viewer of the show, I was secure in the thought that I knew what the show was looking for in its “winners,” confident also that Jessica was out there meeting those standards and backed up by overwhelming voting numbers. AI after all is a talent competition where voting by the public also carries a lot of weight.

The night of the finals on May 24, I was home but bracing for an all-nighter of Facebook postings and photo-sharing of Jessica as they streamed from the FOX media headquarters. I was an accredited journalist. Around that time, I just had dinner and was preparing to wash the dishes — the excitement of the evening electrifying my whole being.

Minutes before the proclamation, I turned off my cell phone. I thought I’d turn it back on shortly after Jessica’s name was heralded as the first Asian-Latina Idol. By which time, I expected my Facebook wall to see a deluge of posts congratulating me for my prophetic boast.

Instead, host Ryan Seacrest announced the title went to Phillip Phillips. At first I was shocked. For a moment my mind went blank and then later I felt like I was robbed. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I couldn’t believe the consistently flawless Jessica Sanchez lost. I couldn’t believe I was wrong.

Never did I think that the finals would play a huge impact in the end game. I thought Jessica sang pretty well every time she appeared on the show. By comparison, Phillips earned his only standing ovation that night.

I am appalled at the final outcome, and here’s why. Though the finale took a big chunk of the judging process, the voting public remains the ultimate decider. I may have underestimated the judges’ ability to influence the voters but I was counting on Jessica’s millions of followers both here and overseas.

The tight contest had Idol fanatics swinging between Jessica’s vocal prowess and Phillip’s devil-may-care crooning style and adorable looks.

But reality bites. An unprecedented 130 million-plus votes were counted. I wondered how many came from abroad and how many from America. Of the overseas votes, I wanted to know how many came from the Philippines.

Phillip may have won the competition, but the night echoed with how splendidly Jessica’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” duet with Jennifer Holliday went. Both had inimitable power vocals and Jessica held her own alongside the Grammy winning singer from “Dreamgirls.” Jessica was very poised and did not appear intimidated at all.

Thank you, Jessica, for your time and for bringing the Filipinos closer to an Idol trophy. Most importantly, thank you for the gift of music you so passionately shared with the world. I had no regrets rooting openly for you and will do it again to any Filipino who is a genuine talent and, by my measure, truly deserving.

Elton Lugay is a reporter/photographer for He lives in Queens.

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Feet in 2 Worlds (Fi2W) is an independent media outlet, journalism training program, and launchpad for emerging immigrant journalists and media makers of color. Our work brings positive and meaningful change to America's newsrooms and has a broader impact on how immigration is reported and the ethnic and racial composition of news organizations.