The Little Red Haired Girl

May 11, 2016

During American Idol’s season nine audition rounds, judge Kara Dioguardi gave a serious, meaningful look to a skinny, freckled, ginger-haired hippy girl and said, “You’re great!” with such emphasis that I figured the little hipster in the granny glasses was going to be one of the stars of the season. Several weeks went by, though, without another sighting of the little red-haired girl. I didn’t know who she was, or even if she could sing, but I needed to know what happened to this kid, this would-be Kelly Clarkson who was on the Idol air for about five seconds.

Who was she? What did they do with her? Were they saving her? Did she get dumped in the first week of Hollywood? Did she even exist? Had the producers mixed a couple of different videos together to make it look like Kara was looking at this little red haired girl when she was ogling Casey James?

Finally, on group night, there she was, singing beautifully. For about two seconds.  She forgot her words and she was gone. Just like that. Two seconds of airtime, not even enough to superimpose a graphic with her name, age and hometown on the screen. I felt like I was Charlie Brown, watching the bus drive away with the little red-haired girl and I’d never know her name.

Later in season nine, while I was putting together my annual research article, I found out that the little red-haired girl was in fact Columbia College, Missouri student Kelsey Madsen, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Last week, researching an Idol update, I found out that she graduated from Columbia College in 2012. Kara looked at her admiringly sometime in the summer of 2009, and she flashed across my plasma screen in 2010.

I found this video on YouTube. It’s Ms. Madsen, singing Bill Withers’ “Ain’t no Sunshine” for a recital during her senior year at Columbia. I don’t want to oversell the video; she’s good, but she ain’t Carrie Underwood. But we finally get to hear her sing for more than two seconds. Boy, is she skinny.

According to her Facebook page, Kelsey is singing for the Carnival Cruise line. I didn’t dig any deeper than that; I don’t want the FBI coming after me, wondering what the hell is so fascinating about Kelsey Madsen.

Wherever you are out there, little red-haired girl, I wish you luck and happiness. And thanks for providing me and my blog several weeks of sleep depriving angst, trying to figure out if you were as good as Kara DioGuardi said you were, or just a random bump in the night. As it turned out, you were both.