He may not have won the crown. But soulful, raspy-voiced Paul McDonald can leave American Idol knowing that he was one of those rare contestants who had such great personal style that he didn't need a makeover.
Part of it is his age, 26, and the fact that he had already been performing for five years. He knows what he likes and feels comfortable wearing on stage. He isn't like Lauren Alaina, 16, who has never owned anything like the glamorous, flowing gowns she wears on the show. Or Casey Abrams, 20, who struggles with the concept of trimming his film camp beard. McDonald arrived knowing exactly who he is.
"They all dig what I'm doing," says McDonald. "The hair people were like, 'don't even need to touch your hair. You're already good.' And the [wardrobe] stylist was like, 'Dude, you need to show me where you shop.'"
In fact, that stylist, Miles Siggins, was so impressed that he didn't even consider tinkering with the most important piece of clothing McDonald brought from home: That outrageous cream-colored suit embellished with red flowers and rhinestones. Long before auditioning for Idol, McDonald asked Nashville's Manny Cuevas to design something he'd always wanted: A rhinestone suit. Cuevas comes from a rich family history of stage design. His father made clothes for Elvis, including the famous gold lamé jumpsuit.
The suit, which McDonald considers a professional investment, was inspired by a suit worn by his own idol, alternative country rocker Gram Parsons. It ended up costing $4,500, and took every dime McDonald had. "I love that suit," says Siggins.
Steven Tyler, who can outdo Jennifer Lopez in the glam department, took one look when McDonald first wore the rhinestone suit on the show and said, "Hey, man, what were you doing in my closet?" Added Lopez, "That's not a suit you see every day."
That's not a contestant you see every day, either.
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