NJ high school sends ‘Idol’ contestant Gianna Isabella back to Hollywood with a rally
Jackson Memorial High School gave Gianna Isabella a rousing sendoff to Hollywood as she continues her journey on Fox's "American Idol."
"Fat Heads" of Idol judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. and her own head on sticks greeted the sophomore as she entered the auditorium to the American Idol theme played by the school's Jaguar band as part of a special assembly to send Isabella back to Hollywood, where she begins competing this week as part of the show's top 24 contestants.
Isabella, whose mother is Brenda K. Starr, sang her mother's 80s hit "I Still Believe" to make the show's top 24 last Wednesday. Her initial "Idol" audition in Philadelphia was recognized by the school's Jazz Band when they played "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from the Philly-based "Rocky" movies.
Sophomore advisor Michelle McCann, who organized the rally, talked with Isabella about her Idol experience so far. The rally was not a complete surprise, McCann said, as they worked through some of the interview questions beforehand so Isabella would be shown in a positive light.
"I didn't want there to be anything that would make her feel uncomfortable because at the end of the day she's a 15-year-old kid," said McCann.
Isabella tweeted her thanks for the rally and the support: "Soooo much fun today at the JMHS idol pep rally so lucky to be a Jaguar!! Love you all," she tweeted.
McCann had nothing but praise for Isabella.
"She has it together, she's well rounded, grounded and humble. She a good head on her shoulders and a really mature attitide about this whole experience she's having. She's very motivated and dedicated. It's refreshing to see someone so dedicated to her craft at such a young age," she said.
One surprise for Isabella was the montage of clips in a video of her young career showing her singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" as a 3-year-old and some highlights from her first "Idol" appearances according to McCann.
Another surprise was the chorus' performance of OneRepublic's hit "I Lived" for Isabella. McCann explained that Isabella had practiced the song with the group, and the chorus wanted to perform it for her because of the message of the song's lyrics.
"They hope that she gets everything she can out of this experience and that she will take advantage of the opportunity presented to her," jumping in with both feet with no regrets.
The beginning of the song captures that sentiment.
"Hope when you take that jump, you don't fear the fall. Hope when the water rises, you built a wall. Hope when the crowd screams out, they're screaming your name. Hope if everybody runs, you choose to stay," the song says.
McCann said that most of Jackson Memorial's students are excited for Isabella and want to see her succeed. She grew up in Jackson and they have watched her grow as a singer and shared her successes and failures.
"They can always say 'I know her' and 'I knew her when,'" she said. "There's always going to be people who have something negative to say but Gianna has this great positive spin on it. She embraces the negativity because it motivates her to do better and to work harder."
Isabella will perform on "American Idol" Wednesday night as the first group of 12 contestants perform.