The final nine, clockwise from top right: Jennifer Hudson, La Toya London, Jon Peter Lewis, Fantasia Barrino, John Stevens, Diana DeGarmo, George Huff, Jasmine Trias and Camile Velasco. Note the flower on Trias and wristband on Velasco.

Wristband sales
jump after Velasco’s
showing on ‘Idol’

"American Idol"
Airs: 7 p.m. today on KHON/Fox
Theme: The music of Sir Elton John

When Maui's Camile Velasco was spared the ax last week on "American Idol," some attributed it to an improvement in her stage act. Others saw a decline in the performances of her competitors. A few superstitious fans even viewed her good fortune as the work of the lucky wristband she has worn in each on-camera performance since she auditioned for "Idol's" judges at the Sheraton Waikiki last fall.


Unwittingly, the 18-year-old waitress from Haiku has sparked a flood of interest in the wristbands, not just in Hawaii, but across the globe. Striped red, yellow and green, a color pattern closely associated with reggae music, the wristbands, like many other products sporting the tri-colored motif, have long been a popular item at retail outlets like Hawaii's Natural High in Waikiki, but not on the scale seen B.C. -- before Camile.

"We got the wristbands probably about a year ago," said store clerk Bart Wilson, who noticed a spike in sales of the woolly bands in recent months. "They got a little more popular around Christmas time and again when 'American Idol' came on. Most certainly we've sold quite a few in the last few weeks, and I would say that those were definitely due to her wearing them on television."

The wristbands go for $8.99 a pair. Most purchases, Wilson said, are by people in their teens and early 20s, though parents sometimes buy them for their children.

According to store owner Greg Azus, it's not unusual for Hawaii's Natural High to sell the wristbands by the dozens. Some want them for friends and family, while a few have inquired about purchasing them for their sports teams. Though he does not have a precise figure on units moved, his latest shipment arrived last Thursday after a wave of purchases wiped out their supply.

"We got 72 in, and one guy wanted 50 of them," he said.

Since February, Ben Ayson, 30, a Mililani Middle School teacher, estimates he's made at least $4,000 through sales of the wristbands and flower picks, like those worn in the hair of Jasmine Trias, Hawaii's other "American Idol" finalist. Through eBay, the wildly popular online auction site, Ayson has fielded orders from all corners of the globe.

"When Jasmine first came on, I was selling a couple hundred flowers a week, easily," Ayson said. "We're not just talking the U.S., we're talking the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Canada, just everywhere. Same with the wristbands now. At one point, I had 5,000 wristbands in my garage, but I'm down to less than 50."

While it took a bit of legwork, Ayson found wholesalers who could keep him stocked through the remainder of the competition, which ends May 25. The starting bid for one wristband is $2.85, while his flower picks start at $2. As competition on eBay from other Hawaii-based vendors has increased, sales of the flower picks have decreased for Ayson, though sales for the wristbands have remained constant. If Velasco performs well, he predicts his average of 75 to 100 units per week will jump again, as it did last week.

Even so, you can find detractors on local and national blogs and message boards saying that the flower and wristband are tired, and suggesting the girls give them a rest.

Yet, as a fan of Trias and Velasco, Ayson appreciates the homage to the isles. "As long as those colors are getting out all over the world, even if I don't crack more of a profit, I'm content with spreading the aloha that way," he said. "The most important thing is getting these two girls as far as we can. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, everyone sees the flower and wristband and sees the uniqueness of the aloha spirit through these two girls. It's good for the whole state."

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