Gianna Isabella (L) and Jackson Memorial High School guidance counselor Eve Caruso
Gianna Isabella (L) and Jackson Memorial High School guidance counselor Eve Caruso (Eve Caruso)

Gianna Isabella's adventure on "American Idol" continues as she made the show's group of top 24 candidates Friday night.

The 15-year-old sophomore at Jackson Memorial High School sang her mother Brenda K. Starr's 1980s hit "I Still Believe" to earn her way in to the next round as her tearful mom watched from the audience.

"I am such an ugly crier," Isabella said as judge Keith Urban broke the news that she was advancing on the show. Urban and fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. were cogzinent of the the dynamic Isabella has with here mom and said they would be "a mess" if one of their children was auditioning for the show.

Idol music director Ricky Minor was also aware of their relationship and had to gently tell Starr "we got this" after she coached Isabella off stage during rehearsal.

"Let us take care of her. It's what I do all day everyday for everybody," he told Starr as he led her to the audience. "Its kind of hard to let go but I'm learning and that's part of being a parent," said Starr on the show.

Isabella told New Jersey 101.5 her time in California for Idol's Hollywood week was a great experience.

"It's made me grow as a performer. I feel through this whole process I've become more comfortable" and developed a better stage presence, Isabella said.

She also said she has become more professional as a performer.

During Hollywood week, she said, "I would have to learn a song in a day, which would be so hard for me. Through American Idol I learned that losing your voice or not getting the song you hoped for, you have to learn to be professional and try to push through. If you were in a concert and you didn't have a voice you'd have to somehow make a performance because people would pay money to go to your concert."

Isabella said she made a lot of friends and was part of a "minors group" of under-18-year-old contestants on the show.

"That would be my friends Genieve, Emily, Thomas and Tristan. We're all really close to each other. It's like we're a family," she said.

She had one day off and went to the Santa Monica pier to ride the roller coaster and "hang out on the beach."

Isabella, who was in California with her mom, said she missed her "friends and my bed," and was planning to go back to school for the first time on Friday. She got to see her sister, who is a model in Los Angeles, and hopes her father gets to see her on the show at some point during the season.

Jackson Memorial principal Kevin DiEugenio said he is personally "very excited" about Isabella's success on the show and said he hears the students talking about her as well.

"It says 'Jackson, New Jersey' (on the screen when she appears), which brings a lot of pride to our school," DiEugenio said. "I think what's really interesting about Gianna is you have a 15-year-old kid who alot of students at Jackson Memorial can relate to and are really sharing her success."

The top 24 contestants will perform on Feb. 17 and 18 and again on Feb. 25 and 26 when the show's top 10 is announced. The show will then begin its weekly live programs as Idol heads toward the end of its final season.

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