BY JOE ANUTA
Students of PS 207 and residents of Howard Beach were shocked after “American Idol” contestant and darling of the southern Queens neighborhood Pia Toscano was voted off the program last Thursday.
“We thought she was going to go all the way or at least until the top three,” said Nina DeBlasio, a parent coordinator for PS 207, where 22-year-old Toscano was once a student. “But she tried for years to get on that program and she made it. We’re so proud of her.”
In the weeks leading up to last week’s show before voters from across the country made the decision to oust Toscano, Howard Beach was buzzing with support. Students at PS 207 held a rally in the school’s gym and several local restaurants named menu items after the singer, like Pia Penne Pasta and Pia Pizza.
Posters of Toscano adorned shop windows all along Cross Bay Boulevard and “I love Pia” pins were worn by residents with pride.
But the three judges of the program — Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson — had no control over the decision and were just as disappointed when the results of the nationwide vote were announced. Lopez even wept.
“I have no idea. I have no idea what just happened hereï»¿,” Lopez said. The shockwave went all the way to the state Senate, as state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Woodhaven) expressed his outrage over the result.
“Pia’s elimination from American Idol was shocking and premature,” he said. “If I had the chance to give Pia a message, it would be to express my appreciation for her God-given talent, for exciting a community and for touching the hearts of millions of people around the country. I am so proud to have Pia within my district.”
The result was hard to stomach for many of the PS 207 students, who were enamored with Toscano and her rise to fame, DeBlasio said. Many harbored big dreams of their own.
“They don’t quite understand how the voting works, but we’re trying to keep them positive.”
But it also served as a lesson that hard work pays off, she said, since coming in ninth place on a nationally televised talent program has its perks.
“She’ll go far,” DeBlasio said. “She might not have won, but there are lots of people who noticed her singing.”
In fact, other contestants on the show like Kellie Pickler, who did not win, have scored record deals in the past.
It could not be independently confirmed that Toscano had scored a record deal with Interscope Records.
In an interview after the program, Toscano expressed her desire to keep singing.
“It was sad that my journey was coming to an endï»¿,” she said. “But everything happens for a reason … I don’t regret anything.”
This summer Toscano will tour with the other contestants and PS 207 hopes she will return to Howard Beach some day soon to pay them a visit.
“Whenever we find out when she is able to be back for a few days, we’re definitely going to do something,” DeBlasio said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.