With the exception of slavery and voting George W. Bush into office, choosing Taylor Hicks over Katharine McPhee might just be the biggest mistake that the United States has ever made. The prematurely gray dude may've won season 5 of American Idol, but the raven-haired runner-up should give even the staunchest Soul Patroler a bad case of McPheever with her poppy self-titled debut album. We spoke to the 22-year-old knockout about her highly publicized weight struggles, her bad breakups, and her long history with homos.
By Brandon Voss
HX: Are you into the new season of American Idol?
Katharine McPhee: Actually, I prefer to watch closer to the top 24 when the competition really starts. Before that, honestly, I get kind of bored. I'd rather just see the good stuff. But I'm definitely looking forward to tuning in as much as I can, especially now knowing what those poor kids go through.
Were you prepared for the media scrutiny that's come with your new fame?
I don't think you're ever prepared for that. Luckily for me I live in the Valley, so it's not really paparazzi-ridden. Recently I've started to get people following me, but I just give them what they want and walk off. If they catch me with no makeup, whatever, that's what I'm like in real life. More people should get to know the real me anyway.
But you're a fashionista now!
I've always loved fashion, but I was never really in the body that I felt comfortable in, so I always got stuck wearing big sweatshirts and jeans because I was really self-conscious. I still don't have the best body image, but I feel better about myself. I love Vivienne Westwood and everything from little t-shirts to Dolce & Gabbana. Stores like Forever 21 are really fun, too.
What do you hope people take away from your debut album?
I just hope people see a little bit more of my fun, young spirit then they did on Idol. I put on a stern face to deal with getting negative feedback in front of millions of people. That was my business Katharine. But the people who really know me know how silly I am.
After the huge success of your single "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" last year, are you concerned that fans might be expecting a more traditional album of standards?
On Idol you're just trying to make it week by week. You don't think, Okay, this song is going to affect the way people perceive the way my record should be. Yes, I do love Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, but if you asked me since I was 10 years old what kind of record I wanted to make, it was always rhythmic pop or R&B-pop. Thankfully, I got to make the record I wanted to make.
The lead single, "Over It," deals with a breakup. How do you get over a man?
I should have a song on my next album about being a cold-hearted woman. [Laughs] Fortunately, I've been able to move on very quickly from relationships. Except for one or two. And when I'm singing that song, i'll definitely be thinking about them.
Do your gay fans make themselves know?
Yay! Gay Pride! [Laughs] I'd love them to make themselves more known! I went to musical theater school, so my gay boys and I go way back. One of my best friends is totally gay and we have so much fun together. Every girl needs a good gay man by her side. I love that I have somewhat of a gay following, and hopefully I can get more because they are such great supporters of the arts.
Which songs are your gays boys going to go crazy for?
The boys are going to just love "Open Toes." I have a feling it's going to make them want to put on their little open-toe shoes and walk around West Hollywood. And "Dangerous," which is another breakup song about how you should never let your gaurd down — like, I'm warning you, this guy is going to do you wrong! I'm hoping we can remix them with some techno vibes so we can all get on the dance floor. I'm definitely planning to visit the gay clubs in New York at some point.
Do you party hard and panty-less like Paris and pre-rehab Lindsay?
Uh, no, not quite like that. But I've met all those girls, and they're actually very nice. I don't like to drink too much. I just like to get dressed up, look cute, and dance. I can dance forever! When I went to Boston Conservatory, we used to go out to the gay clubs in Boston and dance for hours. Me and my girlfriends would also crash big gay parties at these mansions — we were totally not supposed to be there! Of course, they always embraced us and we had a lot of fun.
What should a Katharine McPhee drag queen always remember?
It's all about the hair and brows.
What's the secret to that fab 'do?
Well, sometimes I add those little clip-in extensions. If you're looking to go out, the clip-ins are great because they're really convenient and they don't damage your hair.
You sound ready to be a gay icon.
Totally! Madonna, here I come!
HX, February 2007.