I recently caught up with one of the newly departed contestants from The Voice, the lovely and talented Monique Benabou, who was unjustly eliminated in this week’s Battle Rounds. Check out the exclusive one-on-one telephone interview that is transcribed below:
Awardscircuit.com: Monique Beneabou, thank you for talking to us today at The Awards Circuit. I have to say, this interview is a little bittersweet because as much as I love talking with you and interviewing you, you were one of my favorites and I was rooting for you to go all the way! Let’s go back to that moment at the Battle Rounds when Christina Aguilera made the decision to let you go. How did you feel about the decision when it happened, and reflecting back now, how do you feel about it post-elimination?
Monique Benabou: You know I’ve tried to stay pretty level with everything each step of the way and after it all happened, it hurt – I will not lie, it hurt – and I did feel like I won that battle. In my heart, I felt like I won the battle, but at the same time I understand [Christina Aguilera’s] decision and I respect it. You know, maybe if I’m lucky enough and America is really that upset about me going home, maybe they’ll bring me back. Maybe they’ll change the rules up this year or something and bring a Wild Card into the mix. I mean, it was nothing but a great experience at The Voice, and I would love nothing more for them to have me back, but if they don’t, it is what it is, and I’m so lucky to have even been a part of [The Voice]. Up till that point I’ve reached almost 5,000 people [on Twitter], and have been able to connect with them, and they’ve all been so supportive. [The Voice] was an amazing, amazing experience and opportunity.
Awardscircuit.com: Awesome! I also agree you won your battle. There’s been a lot of controversy about this week’s Battle Rounds episode. The internet went ablaze with a lot of people saying there were many unjust eliminations and wrongful Battle Round winners. Many people felt that the winners were preselected by their coach before the Battle Rounds actually took place. Is this just a case of talent overload this year on The Voice, or do you think that the judges had already made up their minds before the Battle Rounds began?
Monique Benabou: You know I’m not really sure. It could have been a cocktail of things. It could have been so many different things in one. I will tell you though, if I would have sung a different song for my battle, I think [the judges] would have known what to expect from me. I feel like everyone was surprised about what I brought to the table on the second part of the show. I’m not saying that [the Battle Round winner] was [preselected], but if it was preselected, then the blind auditions would have been something that hit on that. If I had a better [blind audition], I think I would have maybe not been paired with someone like Chris Mann.
Awardcircuit.com: Yeah, I thought that pairing was a little strange. I mean, you guys both have huge voices, but it was a weird pairing. I think what they were going for was professionally trained vs. raw talent.
Monique Benabou: Yeah, I get that, but it’s sad because both of us are so different. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, and I feel like when you have two challengers like that, you don’t put them up together. You keep them both in the competition. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to be Christina in that situation having to pick.
Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, I think you and Chris Mann are both outstanding, and I think you both should have made it through, and it’s just unfortunate that you were the sacrificial lamb this time. Going back to Christina, last year she really had a lot of big voices on her team, and I know she was talking this year about finding a diverse group of singers. I consider you one of the big voices in this competition, so do you think maybe if you were on Christina’s team last season, you may have gone through or may have won the Battle Rounds? How do you feel about that?
Monique Benabou: Maybe! I guess if going by last year’s strategy of the contestants that were on her team, I probably would’ve had a bit better of a chance, but you know again, I don’t really know. It is what it is, and at the end of the day it’s a TV show as well. It’s not just a reality competition; it’s a television show, and ratings are important. There are a lot of things that are involved, and I understand it – it sucks of course – and I got the short end, but it was still fun. I’m just trying to stay positive about it all and not feel any anger, because I can’t complain – I got an amazing opportunity. I wanted to stay for sure, but I guess life goes that way.
Awardscircuit.com: Speaking of Team Christina, I noticed she was the only person who turned her chair around at the Blind Auditions, and was wondering if she was your first choice or did you have another coach in mind to be your mentor? I know Blake Shelton really championed for you at the Battle Rounds.
Monique Benabou: Yeah, you know [The Voice contestants] went through this whole [process] like, “I want this coach; I want that coach” and it changed every single day, and all of us were thinking of our strategy if we were lucky enough to have more than one chair turn around for us. Christina was not my first choice at the beginning, but I came around to thinking that maybe because we do have similar colors in our voices, that she might favor me or like me or understand my voice, and be able to really help me out and coach me along to get far in the competition. That wasn’t the case, but I did actually want Blake. Going in on my final day [of auditioning] I wanted them all – I wanted a spot, and I got a spot, quite honestly, but I really do like Blake, his song choices, and I like his coaching. I think my original music also would have made a fan out of him with my original songs.
Awardscircuit.com: I understand and agree. Excellent! Well, talk to me about the guest-mentor process. I personally feel Jewel makes a terrific mentor seeing how she was excellent in the little-seen show, Platinum Hit. Was it a surreal experience for you, and a dream come true working with Jewel?
Monique Benabou: Oh my god, it was a complete dream come true working with Jewel! She is just incredible! I mean, I grew up on both Christina and Jewel. Jewel was obviously first because she came out before Christina, but [Jewel] was one of my first cassettes purchased, so I love Jewel. I love her vulnerability, I love the emotion she evokes from her lyrics and her music, and she gives it all with her music, and I relate to that. I have so much respect for Jewel, and it would be amazing one day – god willing – if she’d want to work with me and write a song with me. That would be just over-the-top incredible.
Awardscircuit.com: Awesome! So going back to the Battle Rounds, were you at all intimidated going against opera singer Chris Mann, who obviously has a lot of professional training under his belt? Or did you just bank on having that raw vocal ability as an advantage going into the Battle Rounds?
Monique Benabou: I was definitely intimidated. There were a lot of reasons quite frankly, if we’re going to speak [honestly]. I felt like from the second that [Chris Mann and I] were notified we were going up against each other, I was going, “Oh no” before we did our auditions [in front of the mentors]. After that pairing, I was crying, not because Chris was so much better than me, but because of the demographics. He was so unique on [The Voice] this year, that I did not see him leaving this competition. And then it showed once we went into the practice room and gathered around the piano, I kind of regained my confidence and thought, “Hey, I have a shot at this…I’m sounding pretty good.” And then I kind of drowned out any feeling of intimidation or worry once we got closer to the battle, because if I went in like that, I knew I was going to fail, and I had to go in thinking I had to be the best for my own self so I could perform with that kind of confidence. Nonetheless, regardless of whatever happened, or who the victor was in that battle, I was very, very proud of myself.
Awardscircuit.com: You should be, definitely.
Monique Benabou: Thank you. And like I keep saying, I wasn’t competing against [Chris Mann], I was competing against myself, because I wasn’t happy with my Blind Audition performance. I knew I could have done much better, and I just could not get a hold of my nerves. That’s the truth of it all. I learned from it, and I really worked hard on controlling my nerves that day at the Battle Rounds. [My voice] was a little shaky at the beginning, but nonetheless I came through, and I was proud of [my performance].
Awardscircuit.com: I noticed that, besides your great voice, I was really taken aback with how well your acting abilities were in that Battle Round performance. Is acting a field you are interested in at all, because you blew me away and made it seem like you were in love with Chris Mann?
Monique Benabou: Aww. You know, it’s the performance. I did musical theater growing up, and I really appreciated it. My whole thing is I’m a storyteller — that’s what I do, my lyrics through someone else’s lyrics. It’s my job, if I’m going to take on a song, to completely become that song, and I was blessed enough to have that ability to do it kind of effortlessly. It doesn’t take much for me. I have an intimate connection if I like that song, if I understand the song, and especially if I felt that before. It’s kind of like it’s on tap for me, so I tap into that branch and I go for it. Thank you for the compliment. Yes, to give an answer to your question, I would definitely consider an acting career along with my music career. [Acting] is not my first love, but it’s something I would like to dabble in, for sure.
Awardscircuit.com: I know it’s a bummer not to be competing anymore on The Voice, but I’m just curious: what fellow Voice contestants are you rooting for to make it to the end, and which ones do you think are the frontrunners?
Monique Benabou: Man, I’m really rooting for Jamar [Rogers].
Awardscircuit.com: I love Jamar — he’s my favorite!
Monique Benabou: Yes, I just think he’s raw as well. He has such unbridled passion and devotion to music aside from his story. I don’t know how many of us knew about that story prior to watching. But myself, I did not know that about Jamar, I did not know he battles HIV and has these monumental, heartfelt stories. Prior to seeing that, he was one of my frontrunners and one of my favorites. He’s just all-around a great, great guy. I’m also really rooting for Lindsey Pavao. I think she’s a really sweet girl, and I think she has a lot of uniqueness and something really cool to bring to the table. You know, I appreciate voices who are not loud as well, and who are different than mine, but that can still give me that type of emotion that has that color in their voice. I really like her.
Awardscircuit.com: Who do you think are the frontrunners right now that are definitely going to make it far?
Monique Benabou: Oh man! I definitely see Jesse [Campbell] being Top 8. Jesse Campbell and Sera Hill for sure — Lindsey as well. As far as the other teams, I’m trying to think about all the people on there. I think Erin Martin will go far, as far as the popular vote goes. She’s a beautiful girl and very unique. Tony Lucca for sure [is a frontrunner].
Awardscircuit.com: Thanks for your input! My final question is a pretty obvious one: what happens now in a post-Voice world? How are you going to use The Voice’s platform to elevate your music career, and do you have any projects already in the pipeline?
Monique Benabou: Absolutely! I am right now just building up my followers, and am doing contests here and there to get them involved, and I put up YouTube videos for them while I’m finishing up my album which will be released July 2012. I’m working really hard, and am actually on my way to the studio right now. We’re working really hard on [the album.] It’s going to be great. It’s a collaboration from my mentor, Dan Peyton, a good friend, Charlie Lin, and a few others that are involved.
Awardscircuit.com: Excellent! Well thank you so much for talking with us at The Awards Circuit, and we really appreciate you sharing your experiences on The Voice.
Monique: Absolutely, thank you…
-End of Interview-
Thoughts or opinions? Post below in the comments section!