THE BACK PAGES

Even her rough edges are charming

The newest Canadian Idol could be the one winner to make a splash outside of Canada

SHANDA DEZIEL October 2 2006
THE BACK PAGES

Even her rough edges are charming

The newest Canadian Idol could be the one winner to make a splash outside of Canada

SHANDA DEZIEL October 2 2006

Even her rough edges are charming

music

The newest Canadian Idol could be the one winner to make a splash outside of Canada

SHANDA DEZIEL

The Canadian Idol stage is packed—everyone from U.S. teen actress Amanda Bynes to CTV head honcho Ivan Fecan is angling to congratulate winner Eva Avila. But when the pride of Gatineau, Que., hears that Nelly Furtado is about to leave, she sneaks out of her own celebration to make her way to a dressing room down the hall. Inside, the pop stars embrace. “I smell like pizza,” giggles Furtado, who performed earlier in the show. But Avila doesn’t hear her, squealing, “This is my idol. I’m holding my idol.” And just as the love-in is wrapping up, Furtado remarks, “You don’t really record your whole album in three weeks, do you?”

Well, give or take—the record label wants the CD out by November to feed the perceived short attention span of Idol fans. And that is part of the reason why Canada has yet to produce an international success story like Kelly Clarkson of American Idol. “Kelly Clarkson had Clive Davis,” says Canadian Idol judge Zack Werner, “and a million dollars to make a record.” She also had a luxurious six months to work on it. Avila, who’s got the pipes and the stage presence, doesn’t have that kind of time or the U.S. star-making machinery. And yet, she seems like the one Idol winner who could, despite it all, make a splash outside of Canada. “If I was working at an international record company,” says Werner, “I’d take a good look at a girl like that. She’s trilingual, incredibly comfortable in French, English and Spanish, with no accent. She’s dropdead gorgeous, has an incredible work ethic, and is very appealing to both females and males in all the right sorts of ways—like being a role model. And she has an urban feel that she hasn’t really shown on this show.”

While she was strong throughout, two per-

formances in particular won her the crown over runner-up Craig Sharpe, a l6-year-old power balladeer from Upper Island Cove, Nfld. There was her sexy, soulful take on How Come Yon Don’t Call Me Anymore, a song written by Prince and covered by Alicia Keys; and her mature, vulnerable performance of God Bless the Child, which floored guest mentor Tony Bennett. Even her rough edges are charming. When she was told to get rid of her gum on the way to her after-party, she instinctively spit it on the ground. And during the limo ride there, her publicist had to motion to her to close her legs during a TV interview.

Until coming to Toronto for Idol, Avila, whose parents are divorced, lived in Gatineau with her mom, Suzanne, a federal government worker. “I did two semesters of cinematography in college. I was so not motivated. I started skipping classes and I lived next door to the school. I decided to work and save money.” She started selling Mary Kay cosmetics and got a job as a postal clerk, selling stamps, weighing parcels and filling out change-of-address forms. “It was hard work,” says Avila. “There was always a lineup.”

Music-wise, she’d enter contests and every once in a while would join her musician father, Carlos, on stage at an Italian restaurant in

Hull, where he has a three-nights-a-week gig. Carlos, a Peruvian, taught his young daugh-

ter to sing, and would bring her with him to the ByWard Market in Ottawa—where they’d duet Spanish songs on the sidewalk. “You never saw a street musician like my dad,” says Avila. “He’d have huge speakers, amps, keyboards and a guitar. And he sings in five languages. Hundreds of people would watch.” Both of Avila’s parents, who remain friends, spent the summer in Toronto, sitting together at each week’s show, supporting their daughter. But now they have to let her go. She’s got a place in Toronto and a new shoulder to lean on. Avila is dating fellow Idol contestant Chad Doucette of East Chezzetcook, N.S.—who made it to the final four. It’s the second time romance has blossomed on Canadian Idol. Last year, winner Melissa O’Neil and runner-up Rex Goudie were a couple three weeks in—although they kept it a secret for months. Avila and Doucette started dating toward the end of the competition, but announced their giddy feelings right away. So even as she’s celebrating the biggest win of her life, she’s a little preoccupied. Her ears perk up when she hears someone say Chad’s name in the hall. Clutching her phone, she says when he calls, the ring tone is Never Tear Us Apart (by INXS). Even after her handlers suggest she talk in vague terms about the relationship, she can’t hide her excitement. Pulling up to the after-party, she thinks she sees Doucette waiting outside the bar—but it’s not him.

There are only reporters and adoring fans— and a one-way ticket out of the post office. M