– By Chaunce Hayden –
Antonella Barba, a singer who made it to the top 16 on the sixth season of American Idol in 2007, faces a minimum of 10 years behind prison bars following her courtroom admission Tuesday she tried delivering nearly two pounds of fentanyl to a stash house in Virginia back in October.
Federal prosecutors say a judge could decide to send Barba, 32, to prison for life at her sentencing hearing in late November, but noted in a statement that “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.”
Barba pleaded guilty to 10 separate counts of possession Tuesday — nine months after her initial arrest.
The plea deal comes four months after Barba was indicted on 11 federal charges, including one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine, heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute and 10 counts of distribution or possession of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute.
I had the opportunity to photograph and chat with Antonella about your life just prior to her arrest….. Here is that interview.
Chaunce Hayden: It’s been years since your controversial “American Idol” appearance. Since that time, you seemed to have vanished from the spotlight. My first question has to be: where have you been?
Antonella Barba: A lot of people have asked me that. After “American Idol,” I immediately went back to school. I only had one more year to go and I feel very strongly about finishing what I start. So, I got my degree. Now, I’m just working on my music.
But why not strike while the iron was hot? You had the attention of the entire country during your “American Idol” run. Wouldn’t that have been the time to go after your dream?
I like to commit myself to everything I do, no matter what it is. I was committed to school because it was something that I had only finished halfway. It would have killed me if I didn’t get my degree. Now, I’m committed to my music. Basically, I had to close one book before I opened another.
I’m sure there were those who tried to talk you out of finishing school.
Oh yeah! And don’t get me wrong; I really wanted to go after music right after “American Idol,” but my opportunity was such a unique experience. I had a lot of offers that weren’t for the right reasons. I wasn’t looking for another 15 minutes of fame. I wanted my next experience in the public eye to be something of substance. I’m in this for the long haul, not for the 15 minutes. It just wasn’t for the right reasons.
You’re referring to the racy images that showed up on the internet during your “American Idol” performances. However, similar scandals have made superstars out of people like Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams, Kendra Wilkinson, Rob Lowe, Carrie Prejean, Paris Hilton and the list goes on and on.
I waited forever for that thing to be old news. It just went on and on. I didn’t want that to be my launching pad. Even though I knew the scandal would give me a lot of notoriety, it wasn’t the notoriety that I wanted. I wanted to make sure the very next thing I did was great music. I didn’t want my music to be part of the scandal.
You’ve never publicly spoken about it before. Are you concerned that now you’re going to have to talk about it every time you do an interview?
I can’t run from it. I’m aware of the fact that it’s there. I know so many people are going to be curious about it. There’s so much I could say about it and clear the air, but at the end of the day, I just want to move on from it. To me, it’s old news. It should be old news for everyone else too. And I also believe that there’s good that comes out of everything that’s bad.
Let’s talk about your music. You’re not signed to a record label as of yet; however, your first single, “Jersey Girl,” is available on iTunes. Today, when we think of a Jersey girl, we think of Snooki, JWoww and Sammi, but you’re actually from Point Pleasant, N.J. What do you think of the popular MTV reality series?
That show has brought the Jersey Shore so much attention, but it’s not about the people who are actually from the Shore. It’s not me. It’s not anyone from my area. A lot of people see the cast as residents of the Jersey Shore, but none of them are actually from the area! They’re what we call “Bennies.” It’s a term we give people who come to the Shore from North Jersey. Every summer, it’s a zoo down here. It’s just crazy. I live less than two miles from the beach. I can drive to the ocean in two minutes. But in the summer, it can take an hour to get to the ocean!
But tourism is what keeps the Jersey Shore alive and kicking. Don’t you agree?
You’re right. All the locals will put bumper stickers on their cars that read, “Bennies, go home.” But at the same time, we really do rely on summer tourism to survive. Still, the summer crowds will always be something all the locals complain about.
What do you think of the reality series “Jersey Shore”?
The show is ridiculous! I’ve only seen it a couple of times, but it’s very entertaining! The people that come down to the Shore aren’t sane. They’re so wild! I’ve watched that show my whole life right outside my front door.
Jersey is so hot right now… literally. Have any of the reality shows based on Jersey culture showed interest in your music?
We’ve been pitching to all the networks. In fact, I believe “Jersey Girl” will be played on an episode of “Jerseylicious” for the new season.
“Jersey Girl” paints a different picture of what we see on MTV. Tell me about the lyrics.
I co-wrote the song with Dan MacKenzie. I’m just trying to clear the air about Jersey girls. We’re not a bunch of fistpumpers. I poke fun of it in the song. We’re not like the MTV reality series. It’s really different here. It’s not like what people think of Jersey. I try to tell it how it really is. We’re not all a bunch of crazy meatheads. It’s just a fun summer song.
Besides being able to sing, you’re also a very beautiful girl. How far can looks get you in the music business?
When it comes to appearance, there’s always a double-edged sword. People will always love you for the way you look and hate you for the way you look. That’s with anybody. You just have to be comfortable with who you are and what you’re given. There’s only so much you can control.
So, you’re not afraid to be sexy?
It’s not something I try to broadcast. (Laughs) I’m not looking to just strut around! But I do get stressed when I have to put on makeup and do my
Why do I get the feeling that your extreme good looks are going to be a problem for you?
You’re very right about that! I have so many sides to me. I hope people see more to me than just beauty. (Laughs) I’m very multi-dimensional!
You performed several times already this summer. What’s been the crowd’s reaction to you?
It’s been great! People seem to love the song “Jersey Girl.” It’s just awesome when everyone is singing along to it and getting into the music. It’s just so cool.
Anyone who can stand on stage and sing in front of the entire country and be criticized by one of the meanest people on earth deserves a medal. Everything else in life must seem easy.
That experience was so incredible and surreal. It was an opportunity I always dreamt of and to achieve it was so rewarding. I didn’t want to leave the stage. I felt like I have to
stay here and do this forever. It was such a whirlwind. Plus, I’m not going to lie; it’s really nice having somebody else do your makeup and hair!
When you first auditioned for “American Idol,” you came with your best friend at the time. She got the boot, but you stayed. Are you guys still close?
I don’t speak to her anymore. We both went our separate ways. I get asked that all the time. It does suck to say that someone who was my best friend is no longer a friend at all.
Have you stayed in contact with the other “Idols”?
I have! I was supposed to meet up with Blake Lewis this past weekend. We always try to get together when he’s in town. I also speak to Jordin Sparks a lot on Twitter. She just
linked my song “Jersey Girl” on her Twitter page, which was really nice of her. But I probably keep in touch with Jared Cotter the most. We both got voted off the same night. He actually wrote Jay Sean’s hit song “Down.” [Sings: “Baby, are you down, down, down…”] He actually wrote that song! It’s awesome! I actually talk to a lot of them. It’s really nice.
There seems to be a special bond with all the “Idols.” Would you agree?
Definitely! Plus, I think Season 6 was the best! I might be a little bias, but we are all so close. They are all such really cool people. We always joke, “Nobody is as cool as us!” In fact, during Season 6, we were all talking in the rehearsal room and one of the security guards walked in and said, “What are you guys doing?” We said, “We’re just hanging out.” “Why?” he said. “That’s weird. Nobody ever hangs out together. They always just go into separate rooms and rehearse.” We all just got along so well. We were just really lucky to get paired together.
Simon is leaving the show. Can “American Idol” survive without him?
It’s hard to say, but I can’t imagine it without him. I felt the same way when Paula left. Now two of the original judges are going to be gone. I just can’t imagine the show
without him. I don’t see how it can work.
What do you think of Ryan Seacrest?
Ryan’s a funny guy. I got to say he’s a very nice guy. He’s one of the most professional people I’ve ever met. He’s always in character! Even if the cameras aren’t on him, he’s
always on. He’s got it down. It’s so funny! He defended me when the scandal was going down and I thanked him for it. He was so nice. It was the one time I saw him come
out of character. He said, “Look, you don’t deserve it. The hell with them.” He was really supportive.
OK, let’s talk about now. How do you plan on promoting yourself? Will we see you in Maxim? Jay Leno? What’s next?
I thought about Maxim. I got an offer in 2007 when I was fresh off the show. I even had Playboy calling me. But there was no chance I would do that. I will never do Playboy. Maxim is a different story. But at the same time, I had nothing to promote. It just would have been a spin-off of the scandal. Now that I do have something to promote, I might consider it.
When do we get to hear the rest of the songs off the new album?
We’re still working on finishing the album. I just finished the video for “Jersey Girl,” and I got 50,000 hits during the first three days. It’s just incredible! I know I can sell records. I just need a record label to believe it.
I could see you on “Glee.”
(Yells) I want to be on “Glee” so bad! I want to be on that show so bad! You don’t even know.