Frances has been sharing her talent and competing on television since the age of 16. Some of you may remember her as a contestant on the 10th and 11th season of ‘American Idol’ when she successfully reached the Hollywood week finals. Fast forward four years and the, now 20-year-old, Californian lives in France and has just competed in D8’s ‘Nouvelle Star’ reaching the top 11. Naturally, as soon as we heard an expat was competing we were excited! There was only one person we were rooting for… Meet Frances Isabel.
You’re a long way from home! When did you arrive in Paris and what brought you here?
Before leaving to study psychology at UC Davis in California I lived in Alsace for a year, that’s when I learnt to speak French fluently. By then I had fallen in love with a Frenchman which helped me decide to come and study at the American University of Paris.
What made you decide to audition on a French TV show?
My boyfriend is the main reason. I did ‘American Idol’ at a younger age, but I didn’t really take myself that seriously in the competition back then. This time I wanted to do it more for myself, to have the experience and enjoy myself and he really motivated me to do it. He told me “You never know what can happen”, and it’s true. I entered with minimum expectations from ‘Nouvelle Star’, especially as I was an American auditioning for a French show.
You auditioned with Alicia Key’s ‘Fallin’, How much preparation went into the audition and what was going through your mind?
I think that as singer, you always have to prepare yourself no matter what, but also not to take yourself too seriously, otherwise you don’t enjoy yourself. I chose this song because it’s one of the songs I’m most comfortable with. You don’t want to have any more pressure than there already will be when you’re in the audition. “Fallin” is a song that makes me feel I get out of my comfort zone but at the same time I feel like this sexy side comes out. I was having a great time which helped me focus, rather than thinking what are they going to think of me?
How did your experience of ‘Nouvelle Star’ here in France compare with ‘American Idol’ back home?
The culture is very different, it’s much more cut throat in ‘American Idol’ and there’s a lot more pressure. You instantly feel the competition. The show receives 100,000 people auditioning and they have to get rid of people really fast. Also, I think there is less distance between judges and singers. At the end of a long day of auditions, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith came up to me individually and told me “I really loved your cover”. I really loved the intimacy.
On the other hand, with ‘Nouvelle Star’ there is a lot less pressure and much more freedom. It’s less about “Where is that big voice, the big show?” I think this was one of my downfalls in ‘Nouvelle Star’. It was hard for them to decide if they liked that or not. That was super interesting for me to experience. ‘Nouvelle Star’ let me be myself!
You had an unexpected return to the show, how did you find out you were comingback and who was the first person you told?
I remember the moment when we were eliminated. I knew I had to accept it, it’s the best thing to do at that moment and the best way to move forward. I just remember leaving followed by an announcement that out of the six of us eliminated, one would be taken back. Obviously there was hope in me, but at the same time I told myself there was no way because I wanted to just move on and not hope too much.
When I received the call from producer Laurent March I was in shock. I was in bed and I was like “Are you kidding, is this real?” It seemed magical, like I was in a dream. I called my mom straight away, she was so happy; the first thing she said was “I knew they were going to take you back”. Of all the experiences I’ve had, that was most awesome, it really was. There was something about being taken back that felt very deserving, like a huge honor.
Can you describe how it feels to perform, knowing 1.3 million people are watching in their homes?
Exhilarating, it’s really thrilling. But when you sign up for a show like this you don’t think “What if I’m on TV?” You don’t analyze it; you’ve just got to go with the throws. You’re in charge of how you show yourself. But just knowing how many people were watching and that they were French was very exciting.
As a performer what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
Hard work, it takes maturity. When I was 16 in ‘American Idol’ I didn’t have the resources or maturity to know what I had to do or understand that a lot of work needs to go into it along with the talent. Being on ‘Nouvelle Star’ and getting this far showed me that I can do it, work is much more valuable to me now, it pays off. I’m putting my foot out as the artist I want to be and not waiting for someone to create that for me, and that’s a huge lesson for me. If I ever go back to studying psychology at least I’ll know that when I had the opportunity to be a singer, I took it, and that’s important for anyone pursuing anything.
Has ‘Nouvelle Star’ created new opportunities for you as an artist? What’s next?
The main opportunity is the fan base. A lot of people who wouldn’t normally be able to connect or discover me as an artist have been able to, and that’s really great. I have a lot of people offering to collaborate in terms of music, but I’ve chosen my own direction and I’m working with a manager. He’s helping me to start work on my EP that I’m really excited about. I’m also working with a really good friend, Adrien Graf, who’s always been there with me throughout my music.
Do you have any advice for those who are passionate about singing and interested in entering a televised competition?
There are many ranges of level of passion and I think that if you’re passionate for singing you should ask yourself, “Why and what do I want from it?” I think if you want to audition and you believe in experiences then you should definitely go for it.
For me, I knew I wanted to have this experience, and if they said no to me on the first day, it wouldn’t matter because I wouldn’t lose anything, but just have, maybe, that feeling of rejection. But the thing is, rejection is not a loss and should never been seen as one, it’s what keeps us going! We need to learn from it and be prepared to be rejected if putting ourselves out there. So, if you’re interested in auditioning, ask yourself: “What can I lose and what can I gain, and is what I gain more than I lose?” I think anyone should audition if they have a passion for singing.
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