American Idol’s Season 7 second runner up is a musical powerhouse imbued with grace, humility, boldness and a work ethic that is uncommon for a young performer. Syesha’s success on American Idol has resulted in a windfall of accolades and national visibility.
Show business has been in Syesha’s heart and mind from a very young age. Born in Connecticut, she spent her formative years in and around Sarasota, Florida, where she began singing in the church choir. Her mother Zelda, a former Motown back-up singer, and father Jose exposed young Syesha to a wide range of music, including contemporary Pop, R&B, Gospel, Latin and musical theatre classics like The Wiz. Syesha’s parents enrolled her in the Manatee School for the Arts, where she was exposed to visual art, acting, dance and singing. She later continued her studies as a theater major at Florida International University in Miami where she began pursuing an acting career, resulting in booking national spots for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ford Motors, Winn Dixie and many others. These early professional experiences helped build Syesha’s confidence and honed her skills in front of the camera and the microphone.
UrbanBridgez.com: Dreams looks like such a great but yet emotional movie, what made you want to be apart of it?
Syesha Mercado: The script and what it stood for. I was just really intrigued with the story and it really resonated with me. So I felt like I wanted to tell the story of Mia.
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about the film, your role and the film as a whole?
Syesha Mercado: Dreams tells the story of four characters and their battle with overcoming their past to fulfill their dreams. My character loves to sing but she’s hunted by her past. Her father doesn’t want her to sing, so whenever she sang he didn’t like that. So she kind of held this burden and carried all of this weight throughout her life. She really wanted to sing, but because of her past and all of the bad things that happened it kept her from moving forward to fulfill what her true passion was.
UrbanBridgez.com: Everybody is in this film from Angie Stone, to Terri J. Vaughn to Vicki and Marvin Winans, with a cast like that, were you ever star struck?
Syesha Mercado: I was just happy to be apart of something where I actually got to work with people that I looked up to and listened to their music growing up. I remember when I was younger me and my sister recorded over one of my mothers tapes. It was one of The Winans songs, so it was really surreal that I got the opportunity to meet Marvin and Vickie; just really surreal.
UrbanBridgez.com: What was your overall experience shooting your first film?
Syesha Mercado: I was just really grateful and excited to be apart of it and nervous at the same time. While I was filming Dreams the movie, I was still working on Dreamgirls the national tour. So I was nervous because I’m use to doing one thing at a time (laughs). And focusing all of my energy on one thing, I had to actually balance out 8 shows a week and preparing for my role as Mia in Dreams. It was nerve wracking because of that, but I actually took my vacation and filmed the movie. So whenever I was off I was reading my script and going over my lines. I kept a journal for my character Mia. Not only was that fun to do but it was great character work that helped me create a back story for her.
UrbanBridgez.com: When people go out and get the movie, what do you want them to get out of it overall?
Syesha Mercado: I want them to feel inspired and motivated to go after their dreams. I always considered myself a dreamer growing up of being on Broadway, film and television. Now I’m living my dream with doing Broadway right now in Book of Mormon. When people see this film I want them to look at it and be able to go after what they want and know anything is possible. Your past doesn’t have to determine your future.
UrbanBridgez.com: You made your official Broadway debut last week in Book of Mormon, what was the hardest part for you getting use to with doing this production?
Syesha Mercado: It’s the different blocking, it’s the same show it’s just the blocking with different people. So being able to do that with the new cast and as the days went by I got use to the different cast and the blocking. Now, it’s just like doing it in Chicago with my Chicago cast.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s the gist of the production and how long will you be doing it?
Syesha Mercado: I’ll be doing it for about a year, here in New York. Well it’s a parody on Mormonism pretty much. So it tells the story of two elders, when Mormon turns 18 they go on a two year mission. So these two go on this particular mission to Ganda. When they get there it’s not what they expect so they’re trying to convert these Africans into Mormons, but they’re having challenges. Because of all of the horrible things that are happening. So it’s a Parody it’s really funny and it’s written by the writers of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I have a great time doing it every night.
UrbanBridgez.com: You released your debut EP in 2011, when can we expect some more new music from you?
Syesha Mercado: Well I just recently bought some stuff for my home studio. I’m still getting more things so when I’m not on stage I can start recording. So I don’t have a time-frame, I’ve spent a lot of time just getting to know myself as an artist. Who I am and what I want to do. So now I’m starting the process you know of just being creative. Exploring different sounds and all kinds of stuff. I don’t have a date, but it is something that I’m working on this year. I’ll be doing some shows in New York once I write some more music to showcase the new songs.
UrbanBridgez.com: Most remember you made it all the way to the top 3 on American Idol Season 7 and the last female in the competition. Take us back to that time and experience, if there was anything you could change now would you?
Syesha Mercado: I felt like everything happened the way it was suppose to happen. Even after Idol I was able to learn a lot and grow, it was a great stepping stone for me. So to me changing anything would mean I wouldn’t be where I am today, so I’m grateful for how it all worked out. I went into the completion to be third place or second runner-up and that’s exactly what I accomplished so everything happened exactly how I wanted it to. I do believe that all things work for the good.
UrbanBridgez.com: I remember like yesterday how you straight killed the ending to I Will Always Love You, Dolly gave you her feedback, but did you ever meet or get any from Whitney?
Syesha Mercado: Thank you! Unfortunately no, the day I could of possibly seen her perform live which was her last performance. I was somewhere else doing a red-carpet event or something. I got invited, I can’t remember what it was. Do you remember what I’m talking about and it was her last performance?
UrbanBridgez.com: The Kelly Price Pre-Grammy party?
Syesha Mercado: Yeah, Kelly Price’s event. I got invited and ended up going to another event. I was so heartbroken because I was already having a bad night and experience like that whole night. So I went home and I wrote this poem and then the next morning was when I found out that she had passed away. So I didn’t get a chance to meet her but I’ve always been a fan of her voice, work and beautiful spirit. She definitely had a major influence on me.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s your thoughts on American Idol since your departure and did you watch the premiere this week?
Syesha Mercado: Unfortunately no, usually when I’m on stage is when Idol is on. I think the way to keep Idol working is if they just stick to what worked before. I really appreciate when they have actual artists as judges because it’s like they’ve been there before. They can understand and if you’re standing up there getting judged, it’s a little bit more comforting to know that someone has been on this path before and can give advice being an artist. There’s a lot of competition right now with The Voice and X-Factor. I really, really miss Randy, Paula and Simon, my season was the last season that they were all together as judges.
UrbanBridgez.com: Is there anything else you want to share with your fans?
Syesha Mercado: They can follow me on Twitter (@Syesha) when comes to updates and stuff on new music, Dreams the movie and pretty much anything concerning me and my career.