13275 Livingston Road, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Paige Miles knew how they felt.
She could relate to the throngs of Community School of Naples kids pushing and shoving to get her autograph after a brief performance Friday at the school she used to call home. After all, she was in their shoes just a few days before.
Standing on stage Wednesday night in Los Angeles for the finale of “American Idol” she was with her idols. She sang with Christina Aguilera, her “favorite idol of all time.”
“And then Janet walked on to the stage,” she gushed.
So she was only happy to sign autograph after autograph. She signed pictures of her, both those professionally printed and photocopied. She signed hand drawn pictures by elementary students. She signed bandanas. For a few minutes there was a big run of shoes being passed toward the 24-year-old singer.
She just chuckled and kept on signing.
Miles made her first public appearance in her hometown since hitting the national stage on “American Idol,” with a three-song private concert at the school. Although the singer finished 11th in the competition, the exposure put her firmly in the spotlight and made her a big time celebrity for the kids.
The packed gymnasium was a far cry from a sold out Nokia Theater, where she performed on “Idol.” But Miles didn’t mind.
“It’s like coming full-circle for me,” she said after her brief performance. “I got my start on this stage.”
Near the end of her run on “Idol,” Miles struggled with her voice, both in physical ailments and in hitting the notes the judges were expecting from her. But since her elimination, Miles has sounded strong. She appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” a few days after her elimination and wailed on Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.”
Miles sang that song again, twice, on Friday. She opened and closed with it. The last was a bit impromptu. After singing parts of “Living for the City,” “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat and ramped version of “Mercy” by Duffy, Miles decided she wasn’t finished performing.
But since she had only arrived in town two hours before she was set to go on stage, she’d only had time for a brief run through with the band her former drama teacher, Mark Danni, had thrown together the night before.
“Let’s do it again,” she said.
The crowd loved it, especially the 20 or so members of her family wearing matching white T-shirts that said “Team Paige.”
“It’s just so exciting to see her back at home like this,” said her aunt, Cindy Jones, 45 of Naples.
Her fellow Community School attendees agreed. Fifteen-year-olds Juliet Jewett and Colette Rackleff, both sophomores, waited in line for an autograph after her performance.
“I never really watched the show before Paige,” Rackleff said. “It’s kind of cool for Naples, this little retirement community, that someone can go on and be famous.”