Student chases Canadian Idol fame

Elena Juatco may be lovely, talented and a heavy contender for the Top Ten finalists of this year’s Canadian Idol—but she admits there’s one thing she just can’t do.

“I can’t rap,” the modest Queen’s student admitted.

“I just can’t do it. I can’t rhyme instantaneously.”

Well, nobody’s perfect, and Juatco has a pretty loaded resume as it is.

Before being bombarded with the fame and accolades of joining Canadian Idol’s top 32 contestants, Juatco was a biology and drama major at Queen’s, who had wowed audiences here with both her turn as the crop-wielding, black clad “Woman Who Liked To Make Vaginas Happy” in this year’s Vagina Monologues, and also with a part in Queen’s Players, where her rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” shook Clark Hall Pub to its rafters.

Juatco credits Players for giving her the pivotal push towards theatre and music.

“Players was definitely my greatest experience this year at school,” she said.

“When we were doing our ‘I have learned’ bit on the last night, I burst into tears. I just didn’t want it to end. I knew I needed to keep performing.”

Players has also given her a solid support network now that she’s battling it out with

Canada’s best and brightest on national television.

“I’ve been called constantly - they’re all getting me through each day,” Juatco said.

“I say ‘inspiring’ a lot when I talk about Queen’s students.

When I first got here, I thought I was all grown up and knew what I wanted...but I know now that

I have sooo much to learn.” Juatco also developed a lot of confidence and her distinctive onstage charisma through doing Players.

“If you do Players for two weeks,” Juatco stated, “you can get through pretty much anything.”

Juatco is a rare bird on Canadian Idol for a number of reasons: she’s irrepressibly funny, she has a voice that belies her tender age of 19, and yet she still remains down to earth.

Juatco is aware that a contestant’s attitude can make all the difference in maintaining their longevity on the show.

“You need to be happy with your performance, and with yourself. I think that’s the bottom line,” Juatco said.

“This entire experience has been one of the most intense things I’ve ever done...I couldn’t eat all this past week. I was weak, I was emotionally drained.”

“You definitely have to be mentally prepared - it has to be the right time in your life,” she said.

And was this the right time for Juatco?

“I wasn’t ready for the auditions last year,” she said.

“I wanted to go to prom, and go to Queen’s. I don’t think my whole heart would have been into it.”

“After being at Queen’s for a year and meeting so many fantastic, wonderful people who have pushed me in the right direction, I knew the time was right.”

Juatco has received support not only from her Players’ friends, but also from people she hasn’t met.

“I’ve gotten some emails from random people at Queen’s. One person wrote and said ‘I don’t know you or anything, but I wish you the best of luck.’”

“It means so much to me,” Juatco said.

“My friends aren’t here with me, my family can’t be here. (The support) really genuinely means the world to me.”

Juatco’s among some pretty heavy contenders in this year’s competition.

Many fans have been buzzing on message boards that the competitors are far better than in last year’s Idol, where wild card contestant and unlikely superstar Ryan

Malcolm took the title.

“I can’t make a fair comparison,” Juatco admitted.

“I do kinda get that vibe though...the judges say we are pretty strong this year.”

Juatco was able to meet Malcolm and the other top four contestants from last year earlier on in the competition.

“I was really excited to meet the top four,” she said.

“When you’re in this competition you develop an immense respect for people who have gone through’s a lot harder than it looks on TV.”

Juatco’s voice took on a bashful tone as he spoke about meeting Malcolm in the flesh.

“I was so excited - the Kingston bond!” Juatco crowed.

“I was introduced to him. Then I just smiled and said ‘Oh, gahhh’ and then everyone started laughing at me. Then I asked him if he went to the Iron Horse a lot - because I do.”

“He didn’t.”

Juatco spoke to the Journal before the episode showcasing her group of competitors had been aired.

Although last Wednesday’s show reaped mostly favorable comments for

Juatco’s lusty rendition of “Sweet Georgia”, judge Zach Werner quipped that

Juatco had “a few screws loose, a few bricks short of a load.”

Although Juatco breezily laughed the comment off, one has to wonder how her family feels about those types of backhanded compliments.

“My dad can’t even watch the show,” Juatco said.

“He tapes them and then watches them later at his own leisure. It just makes him far too nervous.”

In the results show last Thursday, Juatco placed third highest in the numbers of caller votes.

She was ranked below Kaleb Simmonds of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and Kalan Porter of Medicine Hat, Alberta.

There is still a chance Juatco could make it into the wild-card round, which takes place on July 14th, which would give her a chance at one of the remaining top two positions. In other words, she’d pull a “Malcolm”, as Ryan was a wild-card contestant last year.

There’s no doubt that Queen’s and Kingston should keep hope alive for Elena Juatco.

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