Sarah Restuccio impressed the "American Idol" TV judges enough to have them send her to Hollywood during the first episode of the new season of the singing competition last week, but they did not see the Hammonton teenager at full strength.
Restuccio was sick and had a head cold when she auditioned in September in New York City.
"I switched my song the night before because I couldn't breathe through my nose, so I chose that song ("Mama's Song" by Carrie Underwood) the night before because it sounded better with my nose being all stuffy... It obviously wasn't my best performance because I was sick," said Restuccio during a phone interview.
Restuccio also was nervous and star stuck when she saw the "Idol" judges.
"Those four people are some of the biggest names in music right now, and they are people I look up to and want to be like one day. Obviously, I love Keith Urban because I'm a huge country fan, but I also love Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, all of them. It's surreal," said Restuccio, 18, a senior at Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City.
Restuccio wants to bring a new, edgy vibe to the country music scene. She sings country music, but she also raps, which is why she did Minaj's hit "Super Bass" when "Idol" judge Randy Jackson asked her to perform another song.
"I love to rap, and Nicks was there so why not just go for it," Restuccio said.
In September, Restuccio knew she was moving on to Hollywood, but she couldn't tell anyone or talk to the media. Few people knew besides her parents, Ross and Sharon Restuccio, and her grandmother Sally Restuccio.
The word that Restuccio auditioned for "Idol" started to spread when she could be seen in the promotional spots to hype the 12th season.
"Honestly, I recorded every single one of them on my phone. Whenever they would come on, I would get a million text messages. 'Oh my gosh, I didn't know you auditioned for "Idol." I just saw you on TV.' It was crazy," said Restuccio, who added she thinks she was in five different TV advertisements for the show.
When the show aired Wednesday, Restuccio had 35 people spread over two floors at her parent's house.
"I was so nervous. All my friends and family were over. I had a viewing party... I was running up and down, back and forth, so I could spend time with people," Restuccio said. "I'm used to seeing people I don't know on 'Idol' and just watching it for fun."
Restuccio was hailed as a conquering hero when she arrived at school Thursday.
"Everyone came up to me and said, 'I'm so proud of you. It's amazing that you could get up there and do that,'" said Restuccio, who added she's outgoing and friends with everyone at her school. "All my teachers were like, 'Oh, my goodness' and gave me hugs. It was awesome."
Jim Goodrich has been Restuccio's choir director for two years at Cedar Creek. He knows her qualities as a singer.
"Sarah has a very strong alto voice and is a musical leader in choir. Not only is Sarah a very talented soloist, but she also has the ability to blend her voice well with other singers in the choral setting," Goodrich said. "Sarah is well liked by her teachers and fellow students. She is very humble about her singing ability."
Restuccio will not be seen again on "Idol" for a while.
The show will air four more audition episodes today, Thursday, Jan. 30 and 31 that will take place in Charlotte, N.C., Baton Rouge, La., Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Los Angeles. The first episode of the Hollywood round will be broadcast 8 p.m. Feb. 6 on WTXF-TV 29.
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Airs 8 p.m. tonight on WTXF-TV 29