mother of Elliott Yamin
Monday, April 24, 2006
Claudette Yamin (left) is the mother of "American Idol" finalist Elliott Yamin
What goes through your mind when Elliott performs each Tuesday?
A tremendous amount of joy and pleasure. I think the talents are a given, but he comes across as so gentle and so nice and so sincere. People will stop me and say that Elliott is such a nice guy and, boy, can he sing. So they always talk about what a nice person he is and of course that makes me very proud.
What has been your favorite performance of Elliott's?
I loved when he did 'Moody's Mood for Love.' I thought that was the best. Vocally, I think he's done well on all of them. But I loved that song. The song he sang last [Tuesday] night ('It Had to be You') was kind of a signature song I sang two or three times a week when I used to sing with bands in Richmond. So it was another one of my favorites.
Was there a moment in Elliott's childhood when you could foresee a future in singing or entertaining?
Hell no. He'd be walking out the door singing. But he'd be moving and walking when he was singing. He used to carry a boom-box years ago when they first came out and they were really big and he was little. I knew he had an appreciation for music. When rap first came out, he did some rapping. I told him, 'if you can't hum it, it's not music.'
How do you feel about Elliott's new "look," courtesy of "American Idol?"
Actually, I think he looks great. I always thought he had a bowl over his head when he got a haircut and he used to go every week, and I didn't particularly care for it. And I love the new style. A couple of weeks ago I was looking for him in a crowd of people and I actually didn't recognize him from the side, so I like the new look a lot. I also like the fact that the camera's not down in his throat looking at his teeth. He needs some dental work done, and he will have it done. But at least they're photographing him different, and I think his looks are just great now. He's almost handsome.
What is the most exciting thing that's happened to you in L.A. since Elliott became an "Idol" finalist?
I'm living vicariously through him. One of the exciting things is that I'm noticed and I'm enjoying every minute of it. People will stop and whisper to each other and I'll go nod my head yes. That's exciting for me. It's made me feel kind of popular and special.
What did you say to Elliott before he went to Boston to audition?
I was sick for the last three years, so I was in the hospital when he did go. Before he went, he brought me the contractual agreements for auditioning. They were pages and pages. I thought 'Oh my Lord.' I never anticipated this at all. The first time he called me in the hospital from Boston [was] to say he made it to the next round, which was the second round. Of course, I told people around me and everyone screamed and hollered. The second time he went to Boston, his younger brother and I went with him. It was a long, long day, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. at night. He was the next to last to be seen by the three judges. We could not go into the audition with him. We stood by a closed door with our ear to the door. Elliott sang a couple of notes and he stopped, and I said to myself, 'Oh my God they don't like him.' Then I heard him sing again, also just a couple of notes, and then I go, 'Oh my God, they really don't like him.' Of course, I heard him scream, because at that point, they said, 'Welcome to Hollywood.' And he's met some great people. He was at the Lakers game and he got invited to sit in the Skybox. He was talking to someone and someone gave him a throat-choke and said 'you got more soul than my entire family.' He didn't say it that way but I can't quote what he said, it's a little risqué. But he turned around and it was Cuba Gooding Jr.
What is Elliott's greatest asset on the show?
His heart. The first time he sang he said to me, 'I can't tell you the feeling I get, there's nothing like it.' And I said, being the salty woman I am, 'it's better than the best orgasm you'll ever have.' It's something really deep inside you that you feel. You feel it when you're doing the song and the reaction from the public is hard to put into words.
And you once sang professionally?
I sang at the John Marshall, the Jefferson and Johnny Steakhouse and some of the other nightclubs we had at the time. Richmond was a dry city when I first started singing.
What kind of music did you sing?
Blues and jazz.
Did Elliott get his singing talent from you?
He's far better than I ever was. He gets his musical ear from me. You know, he's hard of hearing in one ear, but when he hears, he hears well. His father, which we don?t speak about too much, played a halil, which is like an Israeli kazoo. He could hear a song once and be able to finger it out on the piano. So he had a good ear for music as well. So I guess he had some of that ingrained in him.
Do you read any of the blogs or fan sites devoted to Elliott?
I've heard about them. I think people that like good music like him very much. I don't think he's getting that 13-16 [year-old] vote. If you look at a group picture, you never see Elliott in front. He's just not a pushy type guy.
Elliott lists you as one of his heroes. How does that make you feel?
Wonderful. We're a very close-knit family. I speak to his brother every day. His brother's in pharmacy school working on a master's degree in North Carolina. He's not crazy about the song he's singing next week. We're real honest to each other. We're going to say what we feel.
Does Elliott have any passions besides music?
Loves basketball. But, of course, he's short.
Did you and Elliott ever sing together?
As I got older and moved from California to Richmond, I did some retirement homes and things of that nature. And they would come and listen to me. But mothers don?t do anything right when kids are teenagers.
Before Elliott auditioned, were you a fan of "American Idol?"
I had watched it, but I never watched it through its entirety. I used to watch the last three or four shows to see who won. I'm not sure I'll ever watch it again through its entirety. It's been a long haul. A lot of these young people are extremely talented, but a lot of them are not. And you often wonder, how did they get to be where they are? It's a hard show. I admire these young people. They're told they didn't win, and they actually get up there and sing a song.
Would you have done well on "American Idol" in your youth?
I did sing professionally on the March of Dimes show with Sheila Graham. I sang with some big bands and had an opportunity to travel, but I was 13 years old and my parents were in business and I couldn't do that. I think I would've done fairly good, because I had no professional training and also sang with my heart. And it's very interesting, Elliott was not a scholar, nor was his mother, but if I had to learn the lyrics to a song I could nail them in an hour or so.
Did Elliott ever take singing lessons?
No, he has never had any formal training. He sang a couple of times with a band in Richmond. He was a disc jockey, and he worked from 4 to 6 in the morning.
What three words would you use to describe Elliott?
Genuine, humble and compassionate.
What was the most rebellious stunt Elliott ever pulled?
He wasn't a bad kid ever. Elliott dropped out of school in the 10th grade. I allowed him to drop out so I would not be arrested for allowing him to be truant. But the deal was, you drop out of school, you go work at McDonald's because that's the best place you'll ever work without an education. So he did. And one night, Elliott didn't come home, so I locked him out of the apartment. He actually slept on top of the washing machines.
Elliott seems like a very well-grounded, humble guy. What do you attribute that to?
I think for the longest time Elliott didn't audition for the show because of his fear of rejection. They're a lot of talented people out there and I think he felt like he wasn't good enough. I don't know if it was his age - he'll be 28 in July. I think he thought that it was either now or never. In a manner, I think this is so new to him and he's so in awe, that's what makes him humble. When he comes down the red carpet at the end of the show, and people stop him for autographs and photographs, he's as thrilled as they are. Every week I stand at the red carpet like all the other fans, so he gets to me after he's seen everyone else. I look over and go, 'this is my kid?'