Monday, February 26

Selling No Comment: Antonella Barba


American Idol has no comment on 20-year-old contestant Antonella Barba's wet T-shirt (spoiler: just shy of topless, but no links here) photos that surfaced last week. This time, after learning public relations lessons the hard way with Derrell and Terrell Brittenum, American Idol is sticking to the statement that it conducts background checks (but largely stays out of the personal lives of contestants).

Indeed, there are a handful of times when "no comment" withstands the scrutiny of the media, and making comments or personal assessments on the private actions (or past actions) of employees is one of them. Considering this is true in extreme cases, American Idol will be smart to stick to the issues that involve the show and off any speculation of Barba's past.

The buzz has, however, driven Barba to the top of most search engines, outpacing Britney Spears' self-destructive behavior by a healthy margin according to TMZ. Several less flattering shots were taken from her Myspace (the photos have been taken down) profile.

While there seems to be a clear contrast between the innocence of the Catholic University student (she said she did the shoot to pay for college) portrayed and the one who might pose for a professional photographer in somewhat revealing poses, Barba's photos and the context bear little resemblance to those that resulted in second season contestant Frenchie Davis being booted from the show. (Davis was featured on a porn site.)

American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe, who had not seen any photos when Entertainment Weekly first asked if Barba would go the way of Davis, said ''We have really good background checks on everybody, and we deal with that every season. It's sad, isn't it, that your best friends are the ones that come forward with information that will go to Smoking Gun or put your photographs on the Web?''

Over the weekend, several more sexually explicit photos that are allegedly of Barba have been produced, but their authenticity is in question. While the girl in the new photos seems to resemble Barba, it seems probable they will be disproved in time.

The net sum of all the photos is that Barba seems several levels shy of producing anything even comparable to the judgement lapse exhibited by former Miss Nevada Katie Rees. Then again, no one has ever said being "wholesome" was a key ingredient for an American Idol contestant.

Still, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned here for anyone who ever hoped to one day pursue a path that would make them a public figure. Just say "no" because what seems like a secret will always surface when you least expect it and possibly cost you a crown, or in this case, a little more time to polish lackluster vocals. (It will be interesting to see if the pics have any bearing on this week's vote).

Over here, we call it the Wall Street Journal equation. If you wouldn't want it featured in The Times or Wall Street Journal, don't do it.

For employers, with exception to how any incident might impact your company (or show), it's best to stay out of the second-guessing game. Stay away from assessing the personal choices of employees and stick to the relevant answers: will they stay or will they go. With the exception to Lythgoe expressing some sympathy for Barba, it seems to me that American Idol has finally got that part of its public relations right.


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2 comments:

Rich on 2/26/07, 10:05 AM said...

Kudos to Allie Is Wired for finding partial confirmation on what we suspected...

Her best friend and fellow "Idol" auditioner, Amanda Coluccio, said the tamer shots are of Barba, including a full-length shot of Barba naked, covered with rose petals, taken for a calendar she made for her boyfriend of several years. But the lewdest of the bunch, she is certain, are not Barba, a Red Bank Catholic High School graduate who had been studying architecture until she got her break on "Idol."

"The really bad ones aren't her," Coluccio said at her Holmdel home. "I've studied them. It's not her nose. She's never had (acrylic nail) tips in her life. She's the least slutty person I know."

"Idol" producers won't make Barba, or any of the semifinalists, available for interviews until after they are ousted. But Coluccio, who speaks with Barba daily, says they believe someone from Catholic University broke into her computer and posted the pictures.

"She's been crying. She's horrified," Coluccio says. "She's most upset about what her parents think."

Rich on 2/26/07, 10:53 AM said...

Votefortheworst.com, which encourages people to vote for the worst American Idol contestants, has also called the lewdest photos a hoax.

Tomorrow, we're following up this story with some lessons from social media that sometimes posting inaccurate photos can lead to libel. I suspect that when the original hoax posters are caught (and they will be), they may find themselves in a bit more trouble than they want.

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