Hell on Heels
Is Louisiana native Brandy Hotard the next American Idol?
By Kasey EmasPosted Feb 20, 2013
If Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson had a love child, it might sound something like Brandy Hotard. The charismatic 27-year-old from Port Allen recently made it into the American Idol Top 40, and on her third try she’s hoping to take the stage by storm.
Hotard often describes herself as a mix between the two superstars who got their start on the hit TV show – with Underwood’s passion for country, the spunk of Clarkson, and the sweet Southern girl-next-door charm of both.
Meeting with Hotard was like meeting with an old friend to catch up. She was down to earth, easy to talk to, and had a great sense of humor. Hotard was briefly in Baton Rouge at the end of January before leaving to film in Las Vegas, and not only was she eager to talk about her experiences, she was genuinely excited to share the big news that she made it to Season 12’s Top 40 – an announcement that wouldn’t be official until after the episode aired on Feb. 14.
From the small stage
Hotard, a psych nurse in her native Port Allen, has been singing since she was a small child. She has performed The National Anthem at several LSU baseball games and has also competed in a handful of pageants, but she’s not your typical pageant girl.
“I hate to admit that I’ve done pageants because I was never a pageant girl growing up – ever,” Hotard said.
She admitted to struggling with her weight in her younger years, and said that getting into a swimsuit was really what turned her off about pageantry. But after Hotard heard about the $1,000 award one pageant offered, she decided to participate and won. In 2008, she went to the Miss Louisiana pageant and was awarded second runner-up.
“Some of the girls were still your typical pageant girls, but a lot of them were down to earth girls just trying to get scholarship money,” Hotard said. “The Miss America Organization is honestly mind-blowing to me. I got $20,000 in scholarship money.”
In 2004, Hotard participated in Louisiana Idol and won, gaining the privilege of skipping the line at American Idol that year, and going straight to the judges for her audition.
That was her second shot at American Idol. Her first was at the age of 16, when the judges told her she was too young and to come back when she was ready.
Third time would be the charm. On the brink of hitting American Idol’s age limit of 28, Hotard finally got her golden ticket to Hollywood and her moment to shine as her story and audition were broadcast on TV.
“We had everybody at the house, not knowing what they were going to show or not. They called and said, ‘Just a heads up, you’re gong to be on tonight.’ I was so nervous. It’s very weird to see yourself on national TV,” Hotard said.
Another Baton Rouge resident, Megan Miller, who did not make it to the Top 40, was also featured on the episode. Hotard and Miller know each other from the pageant world and faced their biggest competition yet on the show.
“I’ve learned you can’t compare yourself to everyone else in the competition, as hard as it is not to. It will mess with your mind and confidence, which is super important in this competition,” Hotard said. “If you are too focused on what everyone else is doing, you will forget why you’re there and mentally check out.”
To a much larger stage
Hotard believes in healthy competition.
“It’s a competitiveness within myself. Like, am I going to do better than the last time I was here?”
Her go-to audition song has always been Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” but this time she chose Pistol Annies’ “Hell On Heels” because of its personality and sass.
Although Hotard appreciates Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and her connection to blues music, her deepest connection is with country.
“Country has always been my heart growing up. At the same time, I still love that inner black lady in me,” Hotard said. “You can connect to blues too, but I feel like country is easier for me to connect to. I feel like that’s just home to me in a way, and it feels more natural.”
Whether she’s singing blues or country, Hotard thinks she was born to be on stage.
“I feel like when I’m on stage it’s a completely different world, and I transform into different characters depending on what I sing. It’s like therapy to me,” Hotard said.
Hollywood Week was a tough one for all of the contestants. Luckily, Hotard was paired with three other country singers for her group performance, so they were able to quickly agree on a song. However, they had to choreograph dance moves and arrange harmonies in little to no time, all while trying to get a couple hours of sleep before show time.
“It was definitely hard and tiring at times because we had been up since 4 a.m. that morning,” Hotard said of her group’s experience performing the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon.” Hotard admitted she contributed the name of her group – Raisin’ Kane – in reference to her favorite fast-food restaurant, Raising Cane’s.
Back in Louisiana, Hotard has a great support system.
“Me and my mom are more best friends than mother and daughter,” Hotard said.
Her father, Dean Hotard, is one of her biggest fans.
“I thought it was exciting when Brandy was crowned Miss Southeastern, competed in the Miss Louisiana pageant, graduated from Southeastern, and then passed her nursing exam, but this has been special for her,” Dean said. “As a parent, you only want your children to be happy. This has been a great experience for all of us, and one we will talk about forever. Making it to the Top 40 in the country in anything is a long shot.”
The community is starting to rally around Brandy as well, Dean said.
“It’s truly humbling to have so many people approach us saying they are watching American Idol just to watch Brandy,” he said.
Despite the burst in fame, Brandy Hotard remains grateful that she has come this far. She is currently in Hollywood rehearsing for the Las Vegas rounds, and still cannot believe her luck.
“The whole thing to me is still really surreal. When I stop and think about the reality of [winning] possibly happening, it’s just really weird,” she said. “I still feel like I’m dreaming. To be in the Top 40 is an amazing feeling and an opportunity of a lifetime. The hometown and local support has been unbelievable.”
After the Vegas rounds, which start on Feb. 20, the Top 20 will be chosen.
“The thing I really want to get to is the Top 20 – the final cut and the makeovers and that whole experience. I feel like that group gets the most. They do the commercials, they get the makeovers,” Hotard said. “I think it would be cool to see what they would want me to look like.”
Hotard promises she will bring something different and entertaining to the stage.
“I feel like there are too many blondes in country music,” Hotard said. “I feel like they need a sassy brunette.”
For more information, find Hotard on Facebook.