Voice of Pride 2009 lost its winner, but the first and second runners-up are on deck for this weekend
As the top 12 contestants at this year’s Voice of Pride finals were narrowed down to five, anticipation in the Rose Room was thick. Like watching a soap opera cliffhanger, people held their collective breath, sat on the edge of their barstools and waited to hear their favorites’ names called. As the spots trickled down to the top three, the excitement grew almost unbearable.
Some people were delighted; others were disappointed. But the night ended in an abundance of applause. At the end of it all, the audience deemed everyone on stage a winner. Or maybe they merely enjoyed a night filled with local talent singing their hearts out. And witnessing something akin to a live reality show contest is kinda nice, too.
Earlier this month, first-place finisher Michael Gasparro had to step away from his commitments (see sidebar) but first runner-up Juliana Jeffrey and second runner-up Greg Castillo are getting ready for their Pride performances Sunday. But first they all took some time to let everyone get to know them a bit better.
Name and age: Juliana Jeffery — I just turned 28!
Day job: I work at Dougherty’s Pharmacy. Wish I had more to report but that’s not very exciting.
Qualified at: The Round-Up Saloon. Everybody that placed last year was there to sing. I was like, "Holy crap, I really have to bring it tonight to get in!"
Winning song combo: Something real that the audience and judgescanconnect to. I sang "Stay" by Sugarland and "Broken Wing" by Martina McBride. I tell myself every year I’m going to do something upbeat but at the last minute change my mind.
Why those songs? "Stay" because we all have one person in our life that we never want to let go of. I think we all can relate to that. "Broken Wing" because everybody knows that’s my song.
Strategy for competing: I don’t feel like I have to act, say or be something I’m not to win anything in life. I think the audience and the judges can pick up on the fakeness of a performance. That’s why it’s best to always stay true to the music and what you’re feeling at the time.
Why you should have won: I did win! Winning is not about placing; it’s about what you take from the experience. Granted, I came in first runner-up, but in my heart I believe I won that night. I won the feeling of letting it all go on stage! What more could I ask for?
What would you have done different? I was happy with my performance, I was honest and true in my delivery and I hope it came across on stage. By no means was it perfect but I’m happy with things overall.
You’re not a newcomer to this — what did you learn this time around? I learned to let it all go. My boyfriend sent me a text message after my first song which read " You did great last song, leave it all on the stage and it’s yours Julie. Walk away knowing you left everything in you on that stage and you’ll win." That text shot through me; he was right.
Does being the Voice of Pride bridesmaid bother you? I do not believe that I deserved the title those last two years. Each year, I’ve become a stronger performer. Some of my gay friends tell me, "Voice of Pride will never let a straight person win." It hurts to hear those things after a great night. I would hope the very thing the gay community fights so hard for — equality, acceptance and understanding — would not be the one thing holding me back from winning. I feel that Voice of Pride is not about that! I’ve always felt welcomed.
Who’s your toughest audience? Friends and family. I hate singing in front of them because I always want to sound perfect for them. I refuse to sing in front of my mom or my boyfriend. Crazy, huh?
Relationship status: I livein Waxahachie with my boyfriend Brandonand our three dogs. He calls me on my crap and that’s what I need. I’m not sure if he knows this but I really look up to him.
Last album: Rascal Flatts Unstoppable.
What’s on your mp3 player or inyour CD player? I’m listening to Kevin Sandbloom. That man is amazing!
Last concert attended and what was your experience? I think it was Maroon 5. I went with two of my best friends in California. We had a blast!
Your singing indulgence: I’m always trying to sing [what I call] divasongs, like Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. I’m not very good at busting out high notes, soI save those for when I’m in the shower.
Singing influences? I love Kevin Sandbloom, Sade, Carrie Underwood, Bjork, Rascal Flatts, Imogen Heap… Man, this list could go on forever! I listen to everything rap, rock, country, pop, R&B. I want to turn the radio to any station and be able to sing along.
Play any instruments? Does Rock Band count?
What’s next for you musically? I’m goingto audition for Desoto Star Search (thanks Angie!) and of course sing at the Pride Parade. I promised myself to do more singing from now on.
American Idol — ever consider auditioning? Oh, that show is so rigged. It’s really sad how many talented people they let go in order to boost ratings.Now that’s not to say that if they picked meI would not be on the show, butit’s a joke!
Nobody knows I: Dance and sing in front of the mirror naked!
Name and age: Gregory "Greolgas" JasonCastillo; 31.
Winning song combo: "Feeling Good" by Michael Buble and "Time of My Life" by David Cook.
Why those songs? I wanted to show a variety ofgenres I can sing. "Feeling Good" is an awesome crooner song that has a sexy vibe to it,and "Time of My Life" has a great vocal range and lyrics.
Strategy for competing: Feel my songs and deliver them to the audience as if I was a part of an awesomeconcert rather than a competition. Winning third placein this competition means a lot! Not only did I win third but I got to be a part of some amazing talent, and got to make some awesome memories and make new friends. VOP ’09 rocks!
Why you should have won: When they called my name as second runner-up, I flipped out! Even though I didn’t win first place, I was a winner to bein the top five of Voice of Pride with my friends.
American Idol — consider auditioning? Ha! Callate! [English trans: shut up!] I auditioned for season two in Austin and didn’t get through. I’m too old now. Awww.
Proof that not everyone knows what they are talking about: A person once told me Ididn’t have the talent and confidence to ever win a voice competition.If I ever listened to that person I would have never done this competition.
Nobody knows I: I went to high school with Norah Jones! She and I sang in the vocal jazz group together. Norah was a dork! Ha! I knew back then she was awesome.
Favorite recording group: Selena, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Michael Buble and Adele, just to name a few. There are too many amazing artists that I love!
Day job: I work at Starbucks, and host karaoke at the Round-Up Saloon on Mojito Mondays.
Qualified at: Sue Ellen’s on the first night of preliminaries. My strategy was to get into the competitionas soon as I could.
Relationship status: I have anamazing boyfriend, Kayle. We met in January. I think because he believes in and supports me, he gives me the confidence and hope that I need for myself. I love him with all my heart.
Last album: The Jason Mraz album, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. I love his music.
WhatÂ¹s on your mp3 player or in your CD player? Everything from Mozart to Lil’ Wayne. I love all types of music and I really do think that music fills your soul.
What did you learn this time around? I learned that song selection is definitely the key for this competition! Before I chose songs that didn’t quite make a connection to the judges or audience.
Your singing indulgence: I love singing songs from the musical Dreamgirls. I was in that musical in high school and I always wanted to be Deena Jones.
Singing influences? Selena. I know she is a female singer, but being Latino, she has always beenmy Latina goddess!
How does singing figure into your future? I see myself singing for the community, the Turtle Creek Chorale, maybe backup for one of my many talented friends before pursuing a solo career.
Play any instruments? Unfortunately no. But my church has free guitar lessons on Wednesdays, so hopefully I can start attending a lesson or two.
Last concert attended and what was your experience? The last concert I attended was Adele at the Granada. Her voice is so full and yet so crisp!! If you like hearing her on the album she sounds even better live.
How do you celebrate Pride? Jell-O shots! I celebrate Pride with amazing friends andfamilyas we come together every yearto celebrate Gay Pride.Gay Pride, forever!
Michael Gasparro wasn’t new to Voice of Pride. He had made the cut to compete in last year’s finals but did not break the top five. After two stunning performances, he came all the way back to take top honors.
However, mere weeks after his victory, he opted to pull out of his commitments as the winner due to personal issues.
The Dallas Tavern Guild, which produced the event, issued a statement mentioning Gasparro’s resignation was "through no fault of his own." However, despite Gasparro’s absence from Pride, the Guild will continue to recognize him as the winner of Voice of Pride ’09.
As far as getting to the top spot, Gasparro said, "I did my best to showcase my strengths while still trying to pick songs that would work well for this particular competition and also I just tried to have a great time."
When asked how he’ll be celebrating Pride, he seemed to have no idea after his latest turn of events. "I live my life everyday trying to treat everyone with the love, dignity and respect that we all deserve as human beings. And I guess this year I will be riding in the parade as well."
When you make your way to the Festival at Lee Park on Sunday — before or after the parade — don’t forget to make a pit stop at the Dallas Voice booth. We will be so hurt if you don’t. And besides, we’ll have a bunch of swag for you. Who doesn’t love that?
Stop by and say hello and you can walk away with some fun goodies for your Pride pleasure. We’ll be giving away memorabilia from the upcoming movie, Fame — T-shirts, Frisbees, mirrors, posters. Now you can dance and sing in the street the right way. Plus, we’ll be giving away a buttload of Trojan condoms. What? It’s like 2,000!
It doesn’t end there. Enter the raffle to win a Weekend Getaway package that includes boxer shorts and a cap by Trojan, a Mischieve Hornitos tequila gift set and tickets and parking pass to the State Fair of Texas. The money you save on admission can go toward one more corny dog.
Don’t say we never do anything for ya.
— Rich Lopez
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.