Fame gets ‘Idol’ fan positively teary-eyed

Times Staff Writer

If you are an “American Idol” fan, then chances are Ashley Ferl broke your heart last week. She was that awkward 13-year-old girl with blond pigtails and braces who cried her way through the entire two-hour Tuesday night show. The camera kept cutting back to her as she wailed uncontrollably and looked downright miserable.

But as it turned out, she was having the time of her life.

Since then, life has been hectic for the Ferl family, who hail from Riverside. As they have now repeated many times in their multitude of radio, television and newspaper interviews since Wednesday morning, Ashley and her mother had obtained tickets to a taping of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” which allowed them to go to the dress rehearsal of “American Idol.” Ashley started crying from the get go. (Despite being cast as a Sanjaya Malakar fan by the media, Ashley’s crying was indiscriminate. She cried for every performer.) The producers liked what they saw and invited her back for the taping of the show. “Before they asked us to stay my mom kept telling me to stop crying, but I didn’t listen to her,” said Ashley in a phone interview this week.

She was right not to listen: Because of her crying, she was invited on stage at the end of the show to hug each contestant, and was introduced to the judges during a commercial break. Paula Abdul gave the young fan a pair of earrings that Ashley describes as dangly gold hearts.

By Wednesday morning it was clear that Ashley was well on her way to temporary stardom. She woke up to find television vans from E!, “Access Hollywood” and Fox outside her door, and that evening the entire family flew to New York on NBC’s tab so that Ashley could be interviewed on Thursday’s “Today” show.

After that, Ashley was interviewed by MSNBC, Fox News and “Entertainment Tonight.” This is not the first time that Ashley has cried her way into an enviable situation. Last year she was at the dress rehearsal for the top 3 episode of “Idol,” where she saw Mikalah Gordon, her favorite contestant from Season 4. Ashley got so excited that she started to scream. An usher agreed to take her over to meet Gordon. As Ashley tells it, she was practically hyperventilating, and a concerned Gordon offered to take her backstage for a Sprite and candy to calm her down. “I didn’t calm down,” said Ashley. “I went back to my seat and watched the show, and then Taylor [Hicks] waved to me and I got all excited again.”


Ashley and her family hope that Fox invites them to sit in the “Idol” audience again. The producers should know that Ashley is a sure thing when it comes to the waterworks. She said she’s been to at least 10 “Idol” concerts in the last five years and she’s cried at every single one.