It’s down to the Final Four on American Idol, with only girls left in the competition. In fact, last week’s results show saw the first female finalist go home after five-straight boys were sent packing, including our Latino hopefuls Devin Velez and Lazaro Arbos.
Inspired by this historic feat and the guarantee of a female victor this season on Fox’s reality singing competition, we’re recalling the standout Latina contestants of all time. Here’s a look at the six best Latina contestants in Idol history.
Vanessa Olivarez, Season 2
She may not have finished in the Top 10 in the second season of American Idol, but Vanessa Olivarez did make history as the first Latina finalist on Fox’s reality singing competition. Following her appearance on the show, Olivarez went on to become a successful artist in Canada. Along with releasing the single “The One,” which made it to the Top 10 on the Canadian charts, the now 32-year-old Latina singer also played the lead role in the Canadian version of the hit Broadway musical Hairspray.
Standout Performance: Irene Cara's "Out Here On My Own"
Karen Rodriguez, Season 10
From the get-go, Karen Rodriguez impressed the American Idol judges, including Jennifer Lopez, with her emotive voice. Rodriguez, who was one of the first contestants to get an invitation to tryout in front of the judging panel after performing on Myspace, went on to earn kudos for her Hollywood round performances, including J.Lo’s "If You Had My Love.” Sadly, the now-24-year-old singer’s Idol run would end after performing Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back” in the Top 12. Here’s hoping that one day our love for K.Ro. will lead her back to us!
Standout Performance: Selena's "No me queda más.”
Syesha Mercado, Season 7
It looked like it would be Lucky No. 7 for Syesha Mercado, who competed on Idol’s seventh season. The now-26-year-old Afro-Puerto Rican singer was even the last woman singing on the Fox reality competition. But Mercado’s journey would come to a close at the hands of not one, but two Davids… David Archuleta and David Cook. Even though she didn’t realize her Idol dream, she did become a Dreamgirl. In 2009, Mercado was named the lead in the national tour of the hit musical Dreamgirls.
Standout Performance: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”
Allison Iraheta, Season 8
During her run on the eighth season of American Idol, Allison Iraheta was dubbed the “one to watch” by Simon Cowell and the “dark horse” by Paula Abdul. And, for most of the season, it looked like the teenage Salvadoran-American singer with the rasp-tastic voice and rockin’ musicality was the one to beat. Iraheta even managed to breathe new life into Fergie’s iconic hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” But she’d have to settle for fourth place, even though she gave an acclaimed performance of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” in the Top 4 round. Still, Iraheta would have little reason to cry… She landed her own record deal, released the catchy single “Friday I'll Be Over U” and toured with Idol also-ran Adam Lambert.
Standout Performance: Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
Jessica Sanchez, Season 11
Talk about having confidence beyond her years… During her Idol run in Season 11, Jessica Sanchez showed absolutely no fear, despite being only 16. The Mexican American singer tackled the music of some of the biggest divas in history, including Madonna, Whitney Houston (Twice!), Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Jennifer Holiday. And the pint-sized singer with the to-the-rafters voice earned raves time and time again, earning a spot in the Idol finale last season. Unfortunately, Sanchez couldn’t break the notorious white-guy-with-a-guitar reign on Idol last season. But she’s not letting that second-place finish bother her one bit. She’s preparing to release her debut album next week and she’ll be guest-starring on Glee next month!
Standout Performance: Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”
Fantasia Barrino, Season 3
Now that’s how you bounce back! During her Idol run, Fantasia Barrino was at risk of being booted from the show twice after all the public votes were counted, making the Afro-Cuban singer the only female winner to ever land in the bottom group more than once. The key word is “winner.” That’s because after each misstep, Fantasia roared back to the “safe zone” with impressive performances. Since her Idol victory, Fantasia has won a Grammy Award, starred on Broadway in The Color Purple and sold nearly three million albums worldwide.
Standout Performance: George Gershwin’s “Summertime”