The third season of American Idol ended last week, but people are still buzzing about it, including former guest judge Gloria Estefan. The Latina diva took a break from her busy pre-tour schedule to discuss her experience with the pop-culture phenom, Fantasia's victory and, of course, the acid-tongued Simon Cowell.
Do you think these reality-music contests are taking away from "real" musicians? Gloria Estefan: I think it's kind of arrogant of us to think that we're the only "real" musicians. If you think back, there have been these kinds of shows since the dawn of time; all the way back to Arthur Godfrey, there's always been talent shows. I think the difference with this one and why it's had such success, quite honestly, is Simon. We started watching, my daughter and I, a couple seasons ago, because of "the mean guy."
Is Simon really that nasty in real life? Gloria: No, of course not. It's a shtick and he's gotta do it. He's gotta play his part. He's honest. I think what we love about him is that he says stuff that we're all thinking but would never say because we're nice, because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. And I think that it would be a lot less interesting without him. After everything is said and done, I think it gets those kids ready for life in the limelight because you've gotta develop a very thick skin in this business.
You were complimentary to all of the singers, even those who clearly struggled with the music. Did you want to avoid being the bad guy? Gloria: I don't judge. I can give them advice as a professional, but I'm certainly not going to sit there and say, "Oh, you sound terrible." I admire the fact that [the contestants] get up there and do it at all. I don't think I could do it. I wouldn't have made it past the first round. But I wasn't holding back. There's no way that I was going to criticize anyone when they're doing what they love and they believe in what they're doing.
Do you think America chose correctly, picking Fantasia over Diana? Gloria: I thought she was great. I love the fact that America has voted for someone who may not be everyone's idea of perfection. She's a single mother, she's a woman who's struggled; she's a very, very talented person. At the same time, she didn't have to be a raving beauty. I think she was a great choice. She's an amazing singer.
Were you personally rooting for anyone? Gloria: I really wasn't rooting for anyone. I loved La Toya, and I was pretty shocked like everyone else when she got [voted] out, but only one [contestant] can win and everybody's got to go some time along the way. I think they made a very good choice.
What advice do you have for Fantasia? Gloria: I think she has a good head on her shoulders. I think that she needs to do something [musically] that is going to be [representative of] her, and stick by her guns when someone tells her to do something different. If not, you pay the price in the long run.