Jes Hudak's ride to the Top 2 of Platinum Hit was rocky, to say the least. Underrated by her peers (and flat-out antagonized by Nick), she exhibited the effects of her stress at one point in what looked like a meltdown at judging. Despite it all, she bounced back to become the show's first runner-up. Below, Hudak tells us why being an underdog was to her advantage, why she shared something as personal as her past assault on national television and how, regardless of what you may think, she's a "diehard optimist."
Did you learn anything from this show?
Jes Hudak: I really learned to start a song with a concept. Before, I would just start playing music and just kind of sing and melody would come. I'd fill in some words and be like, "OK, I think I have a solid song here." I flipped it and I start with that concept before I even delve into the music now.
Were you surprised by the way the judges reacted to your final song, "Come Alive"? The consensus was that it was your best work on the show.
Hudak: I knew that this was some of the best work that I had done not just on the show but in my life. I used everything I learned in the competition. I knew that I was able to do it, and I was happy that I was able to pull it out in the end.
Early in the finale, Sonyae was asked who her competition was, and she replied, "Definitely not Jes." Did being such an underdog bother you?
Hudak: I was fine with that. I don't care. People say mean or bad things about me and I don't care. I'd rather be happy in life and not focus on negative things. That was fine, though, because I was paying attention to feedback the judges not only gave me, but gave them as well. I knew how to go up against them. I was paying attention to how I could beat them and they weren't thinking of me at all. I think that gave me an advantage.
Was it hard to maintain focus on the positive when you're in a reality show environment that is negative, virtually by definition. Nick said some terrible things about you, for example.
Hudak: No! I am a diehard optimist. I will keep a positive attitude no matter what. I want to attract positive things to myself and my life, so that's the kind of energy I want to give out. Nick can say whatever he wants. That's fine. He needs a hug.
No resentment at all?
Hudak: No. It was a reality show. It was crazy. I didn't get too down in the dumps. I went off because I was like, "I can't take this anymore. You think I'm not gonna fight for what I want?" And then when he tried to give me advice on lyrics, I was just not having it.
Despite your positivity, this seemed like a very emotional experience for you. Is that typical for you, or was the reality show getting to you?
Hudak: I'm a very emotional person. I cry at dog food commercials sometimes: "He was just so hungry!" I always have been emotional. I used to be embarrassed about it, but now I'm not. That's what makes me a good performer and a good writer.
Any regrets in sharing so much on the show, including your assault?
Hudak: No. My goal in sharing what happened to me with the assault was to raise awareness and let people know this happens all the time. I know more than one other person that has been roofied. I don't think people take it seriously. People joke about it. Things like this happen to people and it will ruin their lives. They won't get over it, and they'll feel like they did something wrong. I just want to let those people know that they aren't alone, that it does get better and that there is help out there. If there's anybody out there that my story helped in any way, I'm happy that I shared it.
Any thoughts on your on-screen relationship with Johnny? Where is that now?
Hudak: Johnny's awesome. We got along immediately. We just hit it off. We were like, "Oh, we'd probably be friends in real life, for realsies." He lives in New York and I live in L.A., and we weren't about to be having a long-distance relationship. We're both really focused on our music careers. We're definitely friends and we both hang out when we're in each other's cities. When wack stuff happens on the show, we'll text each other.
Was the show a positive experience for you?
Hudak: Yeah, it got my music to people who want to listen to my music, and that's what matters. Now I have the world's most amazing, awesome fans hollering at me on Twitter and Facebook all the time. That's amazing. What's important to me is getting my music to those people. I'm gonna keep making it.