Paige Miles doesn’t have the typical “American Idol” semifinalist story.
She hasn’t been performing since she was a toddler. She didn’t sing in the church choir as a little girl. She never practiced singing into a brush in front of the mirror.
The 24-year-old Naples native knew she could sing a little but only because she did so to the radio or TV.
“I was a closet singer,” she said in a phone interview during a break from “Idol” rehearsals. “My family never really even heard me sing.”
Now the world will hear her. Miles, along with 11 other female semifinalists, is scheduled to perform Tuesday night at 8 during a live broadcast of Fox’s popular singing competition. If past ratings are any indication, as many as 30 million people will tune in — more than have watched anything that wasn’t the Super Bowl or the Olympics since last season’s “Idol.”
Those are stomach-butterfly-inducing numbers for all but the most seasoned performers. But Miles can’t wait to get up there.
“I’m really looking forward to America getting to know me,” said the 2004 Community School of Naples grad. “I can’t wait to be on stage and have America hear me sing.”
For the first time in the competition, Miles is expecting to get some serious camera time. So far, viewers have seen bits of her: a few seconds during the group round and another snippet of Miles finding out she had made the final 24. That last shot contained a glimpse of hope for her future on the show as notoriously contrarian judge Simon Cowell lavished her with praise.
“You are better than you even know,” Cowell said, during Miles’ brief appearance on the show last Wednesday. “You are a really, really good singer.”
How good? Well, we don’t really know and some have speculated that it might not matter at this point. Both the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly have singled out Miles as a contestant who might already be too unknown to make it far on the show. The Times said the show’s producers have “ruthlessly drawn narratives for its favored contestants.”
If she’s worried about a lack of air time, Miles isn’t letting on.
“At this point I don’t have a choice but to do my very best (Tuesday night),” she said. “We all do. I think we are at a clean slate. We will do the best we can do.”
Miles moved with some of her family to Houston a few years ago. But Naples remains near to her heart.
“I was born and raised in Naples. Born at Naples Community Hospital,” she said. “All of my family is there. It’s really my hometown.”
Between her family and local friends and fans, Miles said the support from Naples has been “mind blowing.”
“It really makes my day to hear all the good things people are saying about me in Naples,” she said. “It really means a lot.”
After a quick visit to Naples two weeks ago, Miles has been in Hollywood rehearsing for the show.
The rehearsals and the Hollywood Week round, when the 170-plus contestants were whittled down to the Top 24, were stressful times for all the contestants, Miles said. She called Hollywood Week “the best and worst week in my life.”
But her jitters and nerves calmed when she got up on stage.
“I got the nerves and the butterflies when I was standing around or waiting,” she said. “But when I’m onstage, I’m confident and comfortable.”
People who know her voice well think her big, bluesy style could play well with the audience.
“She reminds me of Aretha Franklin or Lena Horne,” said Mark Danni, Miles’ drama teacher at Community School. “She filled the theater.”
And that’s what Miles intends to do again tonight.
“I don’t have a bunch of performances (from the show) for people to look back on,” she said. “I have to bring everything I’ve got.”