Ashley Ferl, “American Idol’s” uberfan, doesn’t use many words, but she doesn’t need to, not when talking about her Sanjaya Malakar, the surprise survivor of the ‘Idol’ competition.
“I just think he’s so phenomenal,” Ashley told Meredith Vieira on TODAY. “I just can’t believe I saw him live. It was like a dream come true.”
Sports fans get noticed by painting their bodies in team colors, holding up clever signs or dressing in outlandish costumes. Ashley Ferl got noticed by crying. The difference is that the former are trying to get on TV and Ashley wasn’t trying to do anything other than see her idol.
Vieira let Ashley know that the TODAY host knows what it’s like. When she was a girl, she confessed, she cried while watching the Beatles — especially Paul McCartney.
More from TODAY.com
At Home with TODAY: Sheinelle Jones is inviting you for the holidays
Sheinelle Jones may be the newest kid on the TODAY block, but she’s already inviting you over for the holidays. As part of...
- Flight MH370 passenger's girlfriend still 'not ready to say goodbye'
- Packaged caramel apples linked to 5 deaths, CDC says
- Football coach takes player into his home after death of his parents
- Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld laugh it up in ‘Coffee’ season finale
- At Home with TODAY: Sheinelle Jones is inviting you for the holidays
“Crying,” though, is hardly an adequate explanation for the Ferl phenomenon, because, while tears do appear on Ashley’s cheeks, it’s no more crying than Michelangelo’s David is a rock carving.
In the TODAY studio Thursday, Ashley looked like what she is — a shy 13-year-old girl from Riverside, Calif., who’s enjoying her moment in the sun but seems somewhat embarrassed by it.
Dressed in an “American Idol” t-shirt and well-stressed jeans splitting at the knees, she clasped her hands tightly against her knees as she talked about her passion for the popular Fox show and her transcendent joy at being able to attend Tuesday night’s show.
She had gotten tickets after attending a dress rehearsal and being moved to tears at meeting her favorite performer, Sanjaya Malakar, who has been critically abused but has survived on youthful good looks and androgynous charisma.
At Tuesday’s show, Sanjaya (last names are superfluous on ‘Idol’) showed his appreciation for Ashley’s emotional support by wading into the audience after his performance and hugging his No. 1 fan.
“It was the best thing ever,” Ashley said.
Asked whether she felt her tears had helped Sanjaya survive, she replied, “I have no idea.”
Her mom, Stacy, had no fewer reservations, saying, “I think it may have had something to do with it.”
Winning the hearts — and votes — of little girls
Stacy Ferl says her daughter is a typical American girl, and it is true that the core audience for ‘Idol’ is kids at the cusp of pubescence. “I would say her room is half ‘SpongeBob’ and half ‘American Idol,’ ” Stacy said.
Ashley votes often for her favorite Idol, but she said she also votes for “Melinda [Doolittle], Gina [Glocksen] and Jordin [Sparks].”
Though she would love to be on the show herself some day, her mother says Ashley isn’t a singer, and, the girl admitted, “I probably wouldn’t make it far.”
Her dream is to score tickets for the show’s finale, and while she said she has no idea if that will happen, Vieira was pretty sure it would.
Asked what she would tell Sanjaya if she had the chance, Ashley said: “Good luck Sanjaya. I’m voting for you.”
© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints