By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Antonella Barba, the Hester Prynne of "American Idol," has finally spoken -- on "interview shows" affiliated with the Fox network -- about the racy photos of her that have been zipping around the Internet for the past few weeks.
But when The Reporters Who Cover Television at last got a whack at her in the afternoon, during the traditional day-after March of the Booted "American Idol" Contestants conference call, their questions about the pictures and about some of the gigs she was now being offered were mostly censored by a publicist from the PR firm that has represented "Idol" producers since the show began.
So while we can absolutely report -- and we know you're dying to know -- that Antonella will entertain offers to sing "R&B-ish," "bluesy" or "jazzy" music, though she definitely prefers pop, we sadly cannot confirm that, as her BFF and fellow "Idol" auditioner Amanda Coluccio steadfastly has insisted, Antonella would never wear acrylic tips on her fingernails.
Barba may be the best-known "Idol" contestant who didn't make it to the finals, thanks to a bunch of photos of varying degrees of raciness that recently hit the Internet: Antonella on the toilet, Antonella flipping off the person with the camera while smiling her beautiful smile, Antonella with a bunch of gal pals and holding a box of suggestive pasta (don't ask), Antonella dripping wet in a T-shirt and undies in the World War II Memorial on the Mall, Antonella cupping another woman's breasts, Antonella sunbathing topless -- which, sadly, passes for racy in this great country of ours.
A second batch of photos popped up soon thereafter, showing someone who looked like Antonella in a sex act with a guy. But those photos have mostly been dismissed by many, including Coluccio, who said the chick in those pics is wearing acrylic nails, something Antonella would never do. The controversy raged, on "Idol" chat sites and on ABC's morning show "The View," among other places, about whether she is fit to be on the show that is the most popular in the country -- with an average audience of about 30 million viewers, including millions of children, as well as their parents and grandparents -- and whether "Idol" should sack her given that it previously kicked out D.C. area contestant Frenchie Davis over pictures she did for an Internet porn site.
Antonella was one of four competitors who got the hook Thursday night as this edition of the singing competition hit its midway point. Antonella, "Sundance" Head, Sabrina Sloan and Jared Cotter were eliminated because they received the fewest phone and text-message votes from viewers. Viewers will continue to vote each week on which of the 12 finalists is booted, until the Glorious Orgy of Excess known as the "Idol" finale airs on the last Wednesday of the May ratings sweeps and our next American Idol is crowned.
On "The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet," Antonella was told: "You know what the story is with you. The big story all across America is about those pictures." ("The Morning Show" is produced by Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television, a subsidiary of News Corp., which also owns Fox network. It airs on 24 Fox-owned stations and stars Fox News Channel headliners Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick.)
Antonella called the photos "personal private property" that "got into the hands of the wrong people" and said it was "really unfortunate" and "at my expense," by which we think she means she's a victim.
"Well, look, just cover your tracks, girls," Antonella said. "That's for all the girls -- be careful," she added.
It was much the same during WTTG's interview with the Catholic University junior. Asked about "the elephant in the room" by morning anchor Bob Sellers, Antonella said, "All this happened pretty much against my knowledge, against my consent. All that stuff, that was personal. That was private property and, yeah, I was betrayed -- yeah, it hurt."
Her family, she told Juliet and Mike -- and also Ryan Seacrest, an employee of "American Idol," on his morning radio show and on his E! Entertainment cable TV show -- has been "so supportive." They've told her, "Don't worry about it," "We'll worry about that later" (say, isn't that Scarlett O'Hara's line?) and "Focus on the singing."
But on the phone call with TRWCT, when asked whether she thought the lesson of the experience was that young women had best not have sexy photos of them taken for boyfriends, because boyfriends can go away but photos never do, The Headmistress would not let Antonella answer the question.
The Headmistress also would not let Antonella answer the question about whether she gets acrylic tips on her fingernails, saying, "You know what -- we're going to skip over that question and focus back on Antonella's career."
In fairness, the questions did all tend to lead back to The Photos: Was her run on "Idol" cut short by The Pictures? Was she prevented from enjoying her time on "Idol" by The Pictures? Did The Pictures teach her that there is no such thing as bad publicity? And, where did you get that green dress?
"Yes, it's true that my name is more well-known because of it, but . . . I'm not known for the things that I would like to be known for right now," Antonella told TRWCT.
"I wanted to make a name for myself in singing. I wasn't trying to promote myself in any way that has been made apparent."
Asked whether her next career move will be more carefully planned to focus back on her singing, Antonella said, "I'm definitely not opposed to taking other offers, such as acting or modeling or something."
But, she hastened to add -- and, closing our eyes, we could imagine The Headmistress poking her in the ribs -- "The pictures that have been released of me, the ones that actually are me, they were very personal and that is not how I intended to portray myself, nor do I intend to portray myself in the future. That's just not the way I'm trying to promote myself. I'd rather promote myself in a more classy way."
The Headmistress would not allow Antonella to answer a question about the offer she's received to become the newest member of the "Girls Gone Wild" family, for a quarter of a million dollars. No reporter was brave enough to ask her about the half a million she'd been offered to become the spokeswoman for a company that puts out adult entertainment DVDs.
Which is why it was so odd that The Headmistress let slip through a question as to whether Antonella was entertaining an offer to pose in Playboy.
She said she'd never heard of that. Then she said she had heard of it but she had not been approached.
"Would you do it?" asked the reporter.
"No," Antonella said.
"Absolutely not?" the reporter continued.
"Well, right now I want to look at all the offers I get and sort out what's best for me right now."