Julianne Aurora Manalo is a freshman who has been where many only dream of going.
Between her last year at Torrey Pines High School and her first year at San Diego State, Manalo sang her way through the preliminary rounds of “American Idol.”
Manalo, 19, ended up face-to-face with the show’s panel of judges where she was told she “had the whole package” by Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez after showcasing her jazz roots singing Ella Fitzgerald’s “Cry Me A River.” Steven Tyler, another new face to the panel, wasn’t as taken with her performance, but that didn’t stop Manalo from getting the elusive golden ticket and another chance to wow them in Hollywood.
Manalo’s sultry, powerful voice rivals the ranges of Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé Knowles and Alicia Keys. She plays the piano with the same passion and focus she brings to her vocals and it’s this ability that puts her ahead of others aiming for a chance at stardom.
Also an excellent dancer, Manalo has the skills to make it as a performer. For a short time, she was part of a girl group called Eleve. The group snagged performances at legendary venues such as House of Blues and the Universal Studios CityWalk, but Manalo eventually decided to branch out on her own.
Back in Hollywood, Manalo reworked “Circus” by pop princess Britney Spears into a jazz ballad, slowing down the song and making it her own. Despite her creativity, Manalo didn’t make it to the next round and the judges believed Hollywood to be the end of the road for her. Even though her “American Idol” journey may have ended for now, Manalo doesn’t plan on giving up anytime soon and her passion for stardom shows no sign of letting up.
For her, “Idol” was a learning experience. “I think the biggest thing is just to keep going. There are other ways to get to where I want to be,” she said. “(‘Idol’) taught me a lot about being prepared … I don’t really have any regrets. I know I did my best even though they said it was the end of the road for me.”
Now, Manalo stays busy juggling school, family time and her passion for performing. A hectic schedule is nothing new for her as she was also extremely involved in high school. She sang lead vocals in the jazz band, was class vice president, took on leading roles in theater and was a member of the varsity dance team.
Filming every performance, show, and concert was Manalo’s family who she said played a huge part in her life and roots for her every step of the way. As a child, Manalo began accompanying her dad’s piano playing and knew at a young age she wanted to be a performer.
Today, as a seasoned vocalist, dancer and piano player, Manalo lends her talented hand to her 8-year-old sister who is already following in her footsteps. “We sing duets together and it’s so inspiring to know that I have an impact on her,” Manalo said of their bond.
Though she said she wouldn’t object to another go at “Idol,” she isn’t dwelling on the past.
Instead, Manalo is looking toward a future of endless possibilities. One such possibility comes in the form of the United Kingdom’s famed talent competition, “The X Factor,” which is scheduled for this September. “The X Factor,” some would say, is more of a comprehensive performance-based competition compared to “Idol’s” emphasis on vocal ability. In this new competition, Manalo will have the chance to showcase more than just her vocal ability; she will also be able to put her piano and dancing talents on display.
With a new goal already in mind and the backing of her friends, family and fans, Manalo is determined to succeed. Always looking to improve her talents, she said, “I want to expand my range, strengthen my voice and take every opportunity I can to get on stage and keep on doing what I love to do.”