Chris Medina on Meeting Fiancee Juliana and Why J.Lo Cried When He Got Kicked Off 'Idol'
By Dave Steinfeld Posted Feb 25th 2011 01:36PM
Fans of 'American Idol' know that periodically, a contestant brings more than a good voice to the show -- they bring an emotional backstory that touches both the judges and the viewers. This year, that contestant was Chris Medina.
The 26-year-old aspiring singer from Illinois was engaged to marry Juliana Ramos, his longtime girlfriend, in December 2009. But two months before they were supposed to walk down the aisle, Juliana was involved in a major car accident. Tragically, the crash left her partially paralyzed and caused traumatic brain injuries. Medina continued on with her, not only as her fiancee but now as her primary caretaker. And he didn't give up singing.
On Wednesday, Medina was eliminated from the 'Idol' competition, before making this season's top 24. A lot of people were sad to see him go -- one being judge Jennifer Lopez, who broke down weeping after telling him that he'd been eliminated, fearing that she didn't break the news to him in the right way. For his part, Medina disagreed. He seemed to take it well, perhaps because his experience with Juliana has put a lot of things into perspective.
Still, Medina's music career isn't over -- far from it. Super producer Rodney Jerkins was so moved by the young singer's story that he wrote a song just for him, 'What Are Words' -- be sure to watch the exclusive video for the new song below. With an appearance Friday evening on 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,' this may just be the beginning for Medina. PopEater caught up with the singer to discuss his 'Idol' run, his future and the inspiration he gets from Juliana.
A lot of people were sad to see you go. How did you feel about the way things turned out?
I thought that the judges nailed it pretty much on the head. They kind of had a good explanation as to why I was being released. I think they got it right. With the talent that's there, I kinda felt like I was gonna go home before they even said it.
You seemed to take it pretty well. I guess you weren't shocked.
No. I didn't think that highly of myself. I believe in myself, but I didn't think I belonged in the top 24. I felt honored to be where I was. If I had [the] chance to do it all over again and be eliminated again, I would because I was in such prestigious company.
Tell me a little more about the judges. Did you have a close relationship with J.Lo? She seemed especially upset to see you go.
When she was telling me that she liked my character, she liked that I was a good man, I think that she meant it. I think she really did like who I was as a contestant. I think she even liked what I brought to the table. I just wasn't right for the competition at that moment.
Any thoughts about either of the other judges?
I love 'em both. I love all three of 'em, actually. Steven Tyler, what he's done for Juliana has been remarkable. [The Aerosmith frontman told Ramos, "That's why [Chris] sings so good, because he sings to you."] Just like a magic kiss. She's been getting better at a faster rate ever since that happened. It's pretty surreal. And Randy's just a character and half, man. He's too cool.
Tell me about some of the musicians you like or that have inspired you over the years.
Some of the newer music that I've listened to -- I would have to say the Script, OneRepublic, Maroon 5. I love a lot of older [artists] too: John Lennon, Elton John, Billy Joel, Queen, Aerosmith, you name it. I guess I'm just a lover of all music. OneRepublic is one of my favorite bands.
How did you and Juliana first meet and how soon did you know she was the one?
I met Juliana through a friend of hers. I was trying to date her best friend. I'd never met Juliana at the time, but I was in this small band, and I had invited her friend to come watch [us] play. I was hittin' on her, trying to make her laugh, [but] Juliana was the only one laughing at my jokes! I was going, "Who's this girl laughing at my jokes?" Something about her energy caught my eye, and I couldn't get her out of my head. I went back to college that night, [and] I was like, "Who is that wacky girl that I [can't] get out of my head?" After that, I started dating her. It was within the first three or four weeks that I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.
How does she continue to inspire you now?
She knows the impossible task that she has ahead of her. She knows that every day she wakes up, there's a new challenge that is so difficult that anyone else would give up. The fact that she gets up and toughs it out and tries to get better, it's an inspiration. It makes you not complain about the caramel that you don't get on your caramel macchiato. Or the fact that you got a flat tire. The trivial things in this world don't mean anything when you're faced with "I can't even hold a cup without [it being] completely difficult." It changes your whole life.
It puts things in perspective for a lot of us, and that's why so many people have been moved by your story and Juliana's. On a music-related note, you're working on a new tune with Rodney Jerkins. Can you tell us a little about that?
I would love to tell you a little about that, or a lot about it actually! It's called 'What Are Words.' It's a song about making promises and fulfilling them, about telling someone you love that you'll be there and having them be able to count on you because you said it. Because the words that you say really mean something. It's a powerful song. A [short] time after I had gone on the show, I got a call saying, "Rodney Jerkins wrote a song for you, and he wants you to come in and hear it." You know, I've always known who Rodney Jerkins was and that he's worked with some pretty big people, but I had no idea that he was THE man. Flattered is not even a good enough word. I was just 100-percent honored to be working with someone like him and that he gave me this opportunity.
Watch Chris Medina's 'What Are Words' Exclusive Video // Get the song on iTunes
What's in store for you, Chris? If you were to look at 2011, what are a couple of things that you hope to accomplish in the next year or so?
Well, one thing I wanna get past is 'The Jay Leno Show' tomorrow [Friday]. That's the biggest gig other than 'American Idol' that I've ever been a part of. I'm hoping to nail it. And after that, I just wanna write music, release it, make people happy -- just sing from my heart and do what I love.
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