‘X Factor’ auditions come to Long Island

Bill San Antonio

More than 16,000 hopefuls lined up outside Nassau Coliseum last Thursday bright and early for a chance at reality television glory, as auditions for “The X Factor” came to Long Island for the first time in the show’s run. 

And though people from all across the Northeast stood in line starting at 5:30 a.m. in hopes for a spot on creator Simon Cowell’s latest musical competition show, residents from throughout the North Shore were well-represented in the ranks.

According to a Newsday report, Great Neck South senior Steven Telsey, 17, advanced to the second day of preliminary auditions after earning the coveted golden ticket.

“They told me to keep singing,” Telsey told Newsday. “I went from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ to the Plain White T’s ‘Hey There Delilah’ to Jason Mraz’s ‘I’m Yours.’ My head was spinning!”

Telsey, a tenor, represented Great Neck South High School as part of the All-County Music Festival back in January, according to school officials.

Because Telsey signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Fox network, he and others who reached the next round were not made available to reporters after their auditions.

According to producers, the turnout was the largest in the show’s three-season American run, topping the estimated 15,000 that turned out when auditions took place in New Jersey during season one.

So many people arrived at the Coliseum to audition, producers said, that some had to return the next day to show off their talents.

“We love the spirit of Long Island,” executive producer Rob Wade said. “It really reflects the personality of the East Coast. We’ve heard a lot of great things about Long Island people, and we are here to see if it’s all true.”

Wade said auditioners would have 90 seconds to perform for “X Factor” producers and Sony Music executives, showcasing their singing and dancing skills for a spot in the next round.

Just what does it mean, though, to be “the X Factor?”

“We are looking for that secret something,” executive producer Andrew Linares said. “It’s a strange energy that makes someone a superstar.”

But just what is that “secret something?”

“It’s definitely someone who is going to set a good example for children,” said Victoria Strocchia, 25, of Williston Park. “A celebrity who won’t fall into the negative aspects of being a star.”

Strocchia, a teacher’s aide within the East Williston school district, said she has been singing “since [she] could talk,” and everyone in her family is a big fan of the show. Strocchia’s little sister Michele registered her for the audition, but did not join her in line because she was taking the state math assessment exam that morning.

Accompanied by a friend, Strocchia planned to sing K.T. Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” by K.T. Tunstall and, if her time in the booth permitted, Alicia Keys’ “Fallin.’”

“[My plan is to] just to go in there with a smile on my face, show off a few dance moves, and make them love me for me,” Strocchia said.

GinaMarie Lopez, 14, of North Hills, said the ideal “X Factor” would be a pop star unlike any other, with an honest and refreshing personality.

“I’m very funny and present myself very well,” she said. “I’m a pretty shy person, but once I’m on stage I turn into a whole other person. I turn into a bit of a goofball when I’m with my friends.”

If she and her peers were to advance, they would have to eventually perform for Cowell himself, who has become notorious for his intimidating presence and brutal honesty, dating back to his time as a judge on “American Idol.”

But Lopez, who has performed the National Anthem at the U.S. Open tennis events as well as at local festivals, said her experience will give her the confidence to perform in front of Cowell, who is responsible for signing some of the biggest acts in pop music.

“It is very intimidating, just from seeing him on TV, but if I just show him what I have, I’ll be okay,” Lopez said.

Strocchia, who described herself as a fan of Cowell’s, said she’d be ready no matter his opinions of her singing.

“I would be nervous, but it’s good to be nervous,” Strocchia said. “I’d love to get constructive criticism from him. That would be a dream in itself.”

Though Cowell was not in attendance for the preliminary auditions, which will next take place in Denver, Co. May 14, he left his producers with a message – more a mission – in filling the playing field for the show’s upcoming season, which returns this fall.

 “Find me a star,” Wade said Cowell told them. “Just find me a star.”

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Bill San Antonio

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