|Updated: 2/22/2012 10:04 pm
||Published: 2/22/2012 4:37 pm
HARDY, AR - Lauren Gray is back at work at her mom's dress shop - quite the contrast from the girl we've seen on American Idol.
The raspy-voiced 23-year-old traded in the sequined dresses for a pair of jeans.
"Everywhere I go it's can I have an autograph? Or, can I have a picture with you?" Lauren said. "It does surprise me. I mean, I'm just a little small town girl. I just never imagined someone ever wanting to be like me. I have these little kids that are like ‘I want to be like you,’ and I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh!’"
That adoration, and the praise coming from newspapers across the state, are far cries from what Lauren went through on the show last week.
"A lot of people are like ‘we would have done this, we would have done this.’ I said, ‘No, you wouldn't have,’” Lauren said. “Not at American Idol when you have producers sitting there watching your every move. You don't talk back to the vocal coach. No, you don't."
"I knew the moment that the moment we met, you know, I'm not a dramatic person at all and she's kind of there for the TV." Lauren said of her vocal coach Peggi Blu. "She's to the point, and they put here on there for that reason. She's great at what she does and maybe she went a little far with the Ritalin comment."
Lauren credits Blu with helping her get to the next round.
"It is very much a mental game. I've seen people that I thought were just as good as I or better, already go home just because maybe they don't directly look into the camera," Lauren said.
"There was a girl there, I'm not naming any names or anything, but they kept telling her, ‘Quit turning your back to the camera. Quit turning your back to the camera. Look at the camera.’ That's a big part for them. At different stages they want you to look at the judges when you're singing and then there's points when they want you to start looking at the camera. It's very important for them that you look in this camera. That you look on your cue. It's a big production. If not, you're gonna get yelled at."
And you may face challenges when you think you have it all figured out. The night before a performance, the show's producers told Lauren her song wasn't cleared.
"I knew that somebody had sang it earlier in the competition. So, I was like, oh no. What am I gonna do,” Lauren said. “At that moment, I just had to throw in a different song. Something off the top of my head. I just had to tell them something else."
"It's kind of hard to do that especially when you had in mind something that you knew really might have reached out to somebody or might have been one of your best songs."
And other challenge: not being able to work while on idol.
While the show pays for room and board, Lauren bought the gold sequined dress you saw last week in Vegas.
"I just thought, you know, we had a really fancy stage, really shiny and I didn't have anything shiny and the girl that was in my group kind of talked me into buying this expensive outfit, which I'm glad because I thought it looked great, and I'll have it forever," Lauren said.
***SPOILER ALERT*** ***SPOILER ALERT***
Don’t read any further if you have not watched the Feb 22nd airing of American Idol
Lauren Gray did not make it into the top 24. In a meeting with all three judges, Lauren was told that she was being cut, but the judges asked Lauren to continue to work and come back next year. On Facebook, Lauren said it was a fun experience and “Next year it is going to happen!”