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Supporters of Tampa 'Idol' see a beginning, not an end

As one of American Idol's top 10 contestants, Jessica Sierra will go on tour with the group.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
Published March 31, 2005

TAMPA - In the hours after Jessica Sierra was voted off American Idol Wednesday, she called home. But she wouldn't talk to her grandmother because she didn't want to cry.

The 19-year-old remained composed throughout the night, just as she had on stage when the results were announced live. At a dinner for all the contestants and their family and friends afterward, Jessica thanked everyone for the experience.

"She handled herself beautifully," Betty Sierra, Jessica's grandmother, said from her south Tampa home Thursday. "She's going to be fine."

Sierra's run with American Idol doesn't end with Wednesday's night show. Because she was among the top 10 contestants - there are nine left - she is bound by contract with American Idol to go on tour with the group.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens after the tour," said Mrs. Sierra.

Thursday, supporters still couldn't believe Sierra received the least amount of votes by viewers, prompting her exit.

Message boards lit up with fans protesting the show, promising a boycott and urging a change in the voting procedure.

But Sierra's family and friends said they're not worried about her future. They said the American Idol exposure will help catapult her to stardom.

Cynthia Gries, who trained Sierra as part of a song and dance troupe called Entertainment Revue, has become one of Sierra's advisers and biggest fans.

Several weeks ago, Gries packed more than 100 people into her home for the first of what would become weekly American Idol watch parties.

She moved the festivities to the Press Box sports pub on Dale Mabry Highway. Then she booked the Tampa Theatre, which drew about 350 fans.

Gries, who spoke with Sierra after Wednesday's results show, is planning a party to welcome her home.

"Obviously she's sad," Gries. "But she's really excited about going on tour. She told me, "no matter what happens, I did my best."

Gries, who flew to Hollywood several weeks ago to attend one of the shows, wants to see Sierra land a recording contract.

"She is just a one-in-a-million singer," the 37-year-old instructor said. "I encourage America to go on some of these online forums and listen to the music. Just listen to her voice and listen to the other contestants and decide which album you would want to buy. At the end of the day, music is about wanting to buy a CD to listen to in the car as you're driving around. Jessica has that unique quality that makes her the recording artist."

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