"Oh my God, they know who I am!" That's how American Idol finalist Jorge Nuñez, still giddy over the news that his singing moved Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to tears, tells Latina.com he reacted when he got a message of praise from the two super-famous boricuas.
Nuñez had better get to used to that kind of attention. Now that the Cidra, Puerto Rico-bred singer and university student (major: Comparitive Literature) is headed for the Kodak Theater, there's nowhere to go but up! We spoke to the Idol hopeful, whose favorite Latin pop star is actually Luis Fonsi, about what it's like being in the Top 12, why he took the judges advice to tone down his Spanish accent and how he plans to represent la isla del encanto on the world's biggest stage.
Congrats on making the Top 12! How does it feel?
There’s no word to describe it. It's been amazing. When you see people go home and you're still here, it's sad, yet it makes you feel like, 'I'm blessed.'
What was it like hearing such great feedback from Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez?
That’s the best thing that has happened to me throughout this whole journey. They’re so famous here, so imagine how big they are in Puerto Rico. I’m like, "Oh my god, they know who I am!" It's a great feeling.
Why did you choose Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" for your first live performance?
Because it was perfect for the show. I just got here, so it's like, "Don't let it go down now." But also because I love Elton John's music and he’s such a good composer. His songs manage to combine all the elements into one. It’s a beautiful song, and it always makes me cry.
We've seen those tears before. Are you always so emotional?
I’m an artist, so I would say that yes, I’m an emotional person. But the reason that I cried was that they told me that I was born to sing. That’s my dream. For someone to tell me that this is what I need to do for a living, it’s such an amazing feeling. But I’m not always crying.
Before American Idol, what was the extent of your singing experience?
I did choirs and small groups, but nothing big. I've never gotten the opportunity to be part of a record label or anything like that. I auditioned for Objetivo Fama in Puerto Rico three years ago, but I didn’t even get through the first round. So I got disappointed—I was like, "You know what, maybe this is not my thing." But apparently the judges from American Idol think otherwise.
What was your life like back home?
I’m majoring in Comparitive Literature, and I was studying International Law. My aim in life was to be a lawyer. I was supposed to finish this year, but since I’m here, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon [laughs].
Aside from the chilly weather, what cultural differences have you noticed since arriving in Hollywood?
People from Puerto Rico, we’re hospitable and very warm. It doesn’t
matter who the person is, we’re like, so happy to have them with us.
Here it’s such a big city, which I’m not used to. The atmosphere is
different. People are not as warm as you would think, but it’s still
Why are you working with a diction coach to tone down your Spanish accent?
Well, I decided to take the judges’ advice about my accent when singing
because it was kind of distracting. When I auditioned in Puerto Rico,
it was definitely stronger. I wanted to let them know that I listened
to what they said. I take any advice I can get. But now I feel kind of
relieved because I can actually come out more comfortable onstage, now
that Simon said he wants me to keep my accent. I’m 21 years old, so it's
very difficult for me to change. I can tone it down when singing but
when speaking...I don’t think so.
Are you planning to sing any songs in Spanish?
Actually, I was hoping to get to this part of the show because there are a lot of songs that are really known here in the U.S. that have been translated to Spanish. For example, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Killing Me Softly." I think my voice sounds best when I sing in Spanish, so it'll be nice if I get to do a song where I could integrate a few verses.
We'd love to hear that! What else are you psyched to experience on Idol?
I'm looking forward to working with mentors—I would love to have Britney Spears as a mentor!
Do you feel any extra pressure to represent for Puerto Rico?
I’m the only person from Puerto Rico who made it this far, and
apparently I’m going farther now! It's a lot of pressure, yeah, but
it’s a lot of pride, too. I feel really happy to be representing my
country and showing the talent that we have to offer.