Camile Velasco: Last weeks have been stressful, particularly due to the judges' mixed reviews

‘Idol’ ax
finally falls as
Camile is ousted

The evening Camile Velasco hoped would never come arrived last night.

As judge Simon Cowell predicted last week and again Tuesday evening, the Maui "American Idol" hopeful became the fourth casualty in the nationally televised singing contest.

Following several tense minutes in which viewers were left to guess if Velasco or fellow Hawaii entrant Jasmine Trias would be eliminated, it was announced that Velasco would be leaving the competition.

Though she shed tears during her farewell onstage last night, she was in much better spirits later in the evening, according to her stepfather, James West, who had been staying in Los Angeles to attend the shows with his family throughout the competition.

"She's really relieved, as we all are," he said last night, en route to a post-show dinner for the entire "American Idol" cast and their friends and relatives. "She was getting frustrated because she felt like she was singing the songs really well and the judges all had different opinions. Simon was trashing her, Paula (Abdul) was praising her and Randy (Jackson) was sort of in the middle. When you're singing your heart out and working really hard and you don't feel like you're getting as much appreciation as you can, it adds a lot of pressure on you. But she's really smiling and happy now because there's actually a lot of relief."

It was a stressful campaign for Velasco, particularly during the past four weeks, in which she repeatedly drew mixed reviews from the judging panel. Two weeks ago she placed in the bottom three, though she narrowly avoided termination. To intensify the suspense last night, the producers changed the elimination process by arranging the nine remaining finalists in groups of three. Velasco found herself bracketed with fellow Hawaii hopeful Trias and Diana DeGarmo, of Snellville, Ga., in the bottom group. DeGarmo was cleared first, followed by Trias. Upon Velasco's dismissal, Trias and Velasco shared a long embrace.

"I wish it didn't have to end so soon for her, but she really overachieved and made the whole state proud," declared Susan Delos Reyes, of Makiki, a devout "AI" fan who held a viewing party at her home last night. "It was almost painful to see what she had to go through each week, but I think a lot of people got to see her potential, at least. What worries me is that both Hawaii girls ended up in the bottom three."

While the general assumption is that Trias will receive much of the Hawaii vote now that Velasco is eliminated, a victory is far from secure. As the field is whittled, it becomes increasingly difficult for Hawaii voters, while still sizable, to offset the vote of the rest of the nation. Verizon representative Kevin Laverty revealed yesterday that Verizon's land-line calls from the Aloha State jumped from 927,000 last week to 1.43 million during Tuesday night's call-in voting window. Nationwide, Verizon recorded 10.1 million calls in that period. "Any way you want to look at it, one out of 10 calls came from Hawaii," he noted. A detailed breakdown on calls in favor of Trias and Velasco was not available.

In the end, said West, Velasco's dismissal could be just the beginning of greater fortunes. "For a girl who was a waitress four months ago to be on the front page of the Star-Bulletin several times and to perform week after week in front of 30 million people is incredible," he stated. "There'll be more opportunities."

Just on the horizon is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform in the upcoming "American Idol" concert tour with her fellow "Idol" finalists. In addition, Velasco has recently attracted interest from the entertainment industry, but because "AI" contestants are locked into contracts for a specific time period, no deals have been confirmed.


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