Her success has already drawn fans, recognition
The audition is much more than meets the TV audience's eye.
By KATIE LIBECCO
EAST PALESTINE -- The phone is off at Sarah Burgess's house.
Her family has told her it hasn't stopped ringing since she appeared on Fox's "American Idol" Wednesday night.
Burgess said she auditioned for the show two other times without making it past the first audition, but was optimistic this year would be different.
"I just had a feeling this would be my year," Burgess said.
Burgess, who said she prefers to sing soul music because of the emotions in it, sang "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor, "Call Me" by Blondie and "Walk Away" by Christina Aguilera, but only her performance of "Call Me" was aired on Wednesday's program. The songs prompted the judges to give her the "yes" necessary to move on to Hollywood.
She said what helped her this time around was her outlook.
"I wasn't nervous. I had a good attitude. While other people were standing in line practicing their songs, I just smiled; it got me through," Burgess said.
And there was plenty of standing in line.
Though the segment looked like it didn't take very long, Burgess said the show edited several auditions together.
"First you have to go stand in line to get a bracelet. Then you come back the next day where you wait in line to try out for producers. And it's not just a few. You try out for 10 to 15 tents of producers, cameras and a lot of other people," Burgess said. "Then you have to stay in town for a couple of days until you audition for the executive producers, Nigel and Simon Fullerton, the creators of the show. Then two weeks later you get to see Simon, Randy and Paula."
She said most people don't realize what that last audition is like.
"It's not just the three judges. It's them, more producers and like, 300 to 500 people on the side," Burgess said. "Plus, there's so many lights in your face. You wouldn't believe it. It's nothing like what you see on TV."
It was that environment and seeing other people who had families that traveled to the auditions with them that she attributes to making her cry.
"You see all these people with their moms and dads hugging them. It just made me really emotional," Burgess said. "It's funny because I'm usually a very happy person."
But she wasn't alone. Her best friend Rachel Miller went with Burgess for the audition and was with her until the final audition.
"I wanted to be there. I just got lost in the subway system," Miller said.
Miller stayed by her side and accompanied Burgess on her interviews with the media Thursday.
"It's really nice to have your best friend by your side," Burgess said.
In fact, she told her parents she was staying with Miller in Ohio for a few days when she was actually auditioning for "American Idol" in New York City. And although she said in the segment on Fox that her parents weren't supportive of her musical career, she said that's changed now.
"My parents are very happy for me. They're very supportive," Burgess said. "My dad said if I don't make it this year, he'll take me next year."
Burgess said her family, including a younger sister and two younger brothers, has told her they're very proud of her making it to Hollywood. Burgess said they have company in giving her their support.
"I already have a fan Web site," she said. "I can't believe it."
She said she didn't even know the creator of the site and was flattered by the number of people who said they were supporting her. She spent all day Thursday doing interviews, answering phone calls and responding to e-mails, she said.
"I love this. I can do this the rest of my life," she said, but discounted any celebrity.
However, Web site addresses that include her name have already began appearing.
"My boyfriend is a computer programmer and he keeps checking domain names and everything with my name in it has been bought -- SarahBurgess.com, SarahBurgess.net," she said.
Her boyfriend, Mark Bembnowski, has been very supportive of her, she said.
"We didn't go to sleep last night until three in the morning because he recorded the show and kept rewinding it watching my part the whole night," Burgess said. "He's so supportive it's cute. He's been recording the interviews and saving articles."
"American Idol" even gave Burgess a chance to make some new friends.
She said she made friends with Jason "Sundance" Head and Ian Bernardo, who appeared on Wednesday's show directly before her segment.
The next time Burgess will appear on the program is expected to be in two weeks for the Hollywood program, but she won't say what happens next.
"I can't tell you," she said.
But Burgess did say she's surprised by how many doors the show has opened for her already.
"It's amazing. So much has happened just since I appeared on the show," Burgess said. "I have people telling me, 'I'm rooting for you.' Some of them I don't even know. It's just been incredible."
But she advised that the support she's being given didn't come without work and detractors. Many people have been negative about her singing in her past and she's only gotten this far with determination, she said.
"If it's your dream and you're going to work for it, you can't -- not for one second -- not believe in yourself. Because that one second when you don't believe in yourself, that's when you're going to fail," Burgess said.