MK Nobilette sings "The A Team" onstage in February.
American Idol isn't quite the ratings juggernaut that it once was, but San Franciscans have a new reason to tune in: MK Nobilette, a scrappy 20-year-old San Francisco underdog turned surprise favorite this season. Nobilette is one of the only would-be idols from the Bay Area in all the show's 13 seasons, and also its first openly gay contestant during the competition (though Adam Lambert's sexual preferences weren't exactly a mystery).
Nobilette doesn't have the polished image of many past Idol hits and judge Jennifer Lopez said she's not the typical Idol winner. But fans love her, and she's one of eleven final contestants. Can MK's trademark San Francisco funk scuff the polished Hollywood stage? We asked.
San Francisco: Turns out we're neighbors; I live a block away from your house. Are you a San Francisco native?
Born and raised. I've lived in Glen Park since I was a couple months old. I went to Portland State University, but came back after a year. College just isn't for me.
What's a Bay Area music act who influenced your performances?
The Brothers Comatose. They're a folk-rock band who shoot videos in Dolores Park. I saw them when they closed for Ani DiFranco in—2010? 2012? One of the years the Giants won, that's all I remember. Also, Train.
Did you always want to try out for American Idol?
It was my aunt's idea, she told me to do it. I've been watching since I was 7 but I never considered it. Reality TV seemed too far-fetched. Those people never seemed real. It's feeling pretty real now, though.
What's it like getting onstage in front of 12 million people?
It's like a workout. You get exhausted. All that adrenaline can aggravate you and upset your performance. But my nerves go away once I start, and then when I'm done I want to go do it all again. It's so weird seeing yourself on TV though.
The rules don't allow you to perform your own songs, but if you could, would you?
I've never played my own songs in concert, actually. I've never felt confident enough. I've been writing a song about a friend who died for three or four years now and if I had to perform one I'd do that. It's never felt ready. Being on the show has helped though, so maybe I should just do it.
You're the first Idol contestant to be out of the closet during the show. How do you think that affects the competition?
It might affect the votes. A lot of people have been very supportive, but I'm sure there are a few others who don't want to vote for me. But also, it's just not important. My voice is what people are voting on, not my sexuality.
American Idol airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8/7c on FOX. You can vote for her at AmericanIdol.com.