His final song as a contestant on American Idol was Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About,” and that’s just what Sanjaya Malakar gave America for the last nine weeks, alternately exasperating and thrilling audiences with his morphing hairstyles and wacky performances. But it all came to an end this week as the 17-year-old from Washington state was finally booted from the show. In his farewell performance, Sanjaya crooned, “Let’s give them something to talk about—other than hair.”
That, Sanjaya, is why your fanjayas love you.
And maybe also because of this: “Before I was on American Idol, I loved to walk on the street singing very, very loudly. So if you ever saw a little Indian kid walking around singing, it was probably me.”
Many South Asians in America also got a kick out of Sanjaya’s success, even if they didn’t all agree on if he deserved to keep advancing. His father, Vasudeva Malakar (who came to the U.S. as a Hare Krishna pujari and met Sanjaya’s mother, also a Krishna devotee at the time), told the Indian Web site Rediff that “People of Indian origin here and in India love him. I will not be surprised if more and more Indian kids show up in this competition in its next season.”
The soft-spoken Sanjaya talked about his Idol run today—free from the sequestration the contestants face:
How surprised are you by all the fans you’ve formed over the last few weeks on Idol?
It’s crazy. I knew the show was big, but I had no idea how big it really was and how much impact it had.
Did you see it coming last night, especially when Ryan looked at you?
When we saw the show on Tuesday, I kind of had a feeling. I was in the dumps all day on Wednesday. I kind of knew.
Are you and your sister, Shyamali, going to form a duo now?
I think that we’re probably going to sing together. I don’t know if we’re going to become a duo band but I think that we will definitely sing together.
You said your hair was your thing. Which was your favorite hairstyle and why?
My favorite hairstyle was when I sang “Besame Mucho”—minus the grease. I’ve always wanted my hair to be curly like that. It’s a little bit curly naturally but that’s like, my dream hair, so I really liked it.
You ad libbed “Let’s give them something to talk about—other than hair.” Was it frustrating for you that your hair got almost more attention than your singing?
No, because at a certain point that almost became my thing. Everyone looks for something to grab onto with each contestant. That’s why I thought that my hair was that for me. That was just my little joke “back atcha” thing.
What’s next? Are you going to pursue a music career?
I’m definitely going to look at a music career, but I also want to venture into acting and modeling and possibly Broadway or something. I just want to really get the full entertainment business and the full entertainment career.
You got your GED instead of finishing high school. What was your parents’ reaction when you told them you were taking this extreme step of American Idol? What do your parents do for a living?
My father’s a construction worker and my mother’s an independent employee. It was actually my mom’s idea to get the GED and focus on this because I had a little bit of trouble in school. Not because I didn’t know the material—I just didn’t ever really do my homework, which is a horrible habit that I had. I wanted to get my GED so that I could move on and focus on what I really wanted to do, which is music.
Will you go to college?
My dream would be to go to Berklee School of Music. I definitely want to go to college. I definitely want to finish my education. I think that’s the most important thing I can do.
You heard that people were talking about you—was there any stuff you heard about you that was completely wrong or made you laugh?
When Saturday Night Live did that skit on me and they said, “I don’t know if he’s scared or happy”—I had to laugh at that one. I love to poke fun at myself. If you can’t do that then I don’t know what’s gonna happen in your life.
Some of your support came from VoteForTheWorst.com. What do you think about that?
I don’t think that VoteForTheWorst or Howard Stern really had enough people voting for me enough times to make a dent in anything. I think the reason why I am here is solely because of my support from my fans.
Have you processed it all of this yet?
Well, I was kind of content with the fact that I was going to go home at some point, because everyone has to go home except for one … I just need to focus now. This is the end of my high school career, as I call it. Now I’ve graduated and I’m going into my life and starting my career at the beginning.