Lake Ridge’s ‘Idol’


Olivia Wurtz

English teacher Jessica LaBonville nearly became the next Carrie Underwood after auditioning for American Idol.

English 1 teacher, Jessica LaBonville, auditioned for “American Idol” in 2004 – the same year as Carrie Underwood.

“Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a famous country singer. I was in musicals since I was 9, sang in every school and local choir offered, and fronted my own country band at 19 that toured casinos around the country,” stated LaBonville.

In 2004, LaBonville took a flight to Orlando, Florida for her once in a lifetime chance. She made it through her first two rounds of auditions, and out of over 13,000 contestants in Orlando, she made the top 100. 

“Then I was one of 50 contestants to advance to the last round which was scheduled for the following weekend. This was the semi-finals and would determine who was going to Hollywood,” said LaBonville.

That same night, she flew back home to Fort Worth with her mind racing. 

“I remember being so excited as I flew back that night and exhausted because an audition of this magnitude, I didn’t sleep at all the night before,” stated LaBonville.

LaBonville was thinking about two things.

“Two things kept entering my mind, what was I going to sing for the next round? And what was I going to wear? I was told by executive producer Nigel (he’s on the show So You Think You Can Dance now) that I dressed too old for my age,” said LaBonville.

A few days after her first round of auditions, Orlando was hit by a hurricane, so LaBonville was relocated to Las Vegas for the semi-final round.

“I didn’t know at the time the 50 0f us from the Orlando auditions were made up of contestants bloopers- people who were terrible but thought they were good and people who actually could sing, but the producers had to eliminate some. Fortunately, I made up the latter group, however this is where my luck ended,” said LaBonville.

LaBonville was flown round-trip to MGM Grand Hotel in Vegas. She was placed with a roommate who got an adequate amount of air time, while none of the experiences LaBonville shared were ever televised.

“The show always made it seem like it begins with the round in front of the celebrity judges, but it doesn’t. There are several rounds before you even get in front of the celebrities,” stated LaBonville.

It was the end of the road for LaBonville once she met the judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and the infamous Simon Cowell.

“I sang a few lines of Journey’s ‘Just a Small Town Girl,’ later realizing it wasn’t the smartest choice and was told by Randy I was a good bar singer. It was Paula’s turn. She thought I was great and could ‘really sing.’ Finally, it was time to hear Simon’s thoughts. He said, ‘I could go either way. I’m going to let you decide,’ pointing at Randy and Paula. And that was it, they let me go,” stated LaBonville.

Although the show was draining, it came with rewarding aspects.

“I met and got to hang out with some cool contestants, one being Bo Bice. He would eventually make it to the final 2 contestants. Bo Bice vs Carrie Underwood, and we all know how that ended,” stated LaBonville.

The results of that season were a surprise and it seemed to some that the winner had been pre-selected by the producers.

“The name Carrie Underwood is still a sore subject because many people hinted that the show didn’t want nor did they need another blonde, country singer since they had already chosen Carrie from one of the previous cities that season. Little did I know,” stated LaBonville.

Since her time on “American Idol,” LaBonville hasn’t sung much. As of now, she sings on the praise and worship team at her church.