By Michele Stevens Bernard, TSB Entertainment Writer
“I’m so nervous for tonight!” says McKinney’s Kaycee Short. As one might imagine, the heavy course load Kaycee carries as a pre-med student at Texas Tech University is enough to make anyone bite their fingernails. But, in fact, classes are going well. What has Kaycee’s stomach in knots on this particular Thursday afternoon is the soon-to-be-learned fate of her dear friend and fellow McKinney Boyd alum, Hollie Cavanagh, a final 7 contestant on Fox Network’s American Idol.
“Hollie and I met our freshman year and have been the best of friends ever since,” says Kaycee of her former soccer teammate, “Here at Tech, every week, I have the entire floor of my dorm having watch parties. They’re fun. They can get pretty loud! Afterwards, I’m Facebooking and telling everyone to vote. I’m even doing a persuasive speech for one of my classes on why America needs to vote for Hollie.”
While Kaycee rallies the troops at Tech, at Texas A&M, brother Luke leads the charge. As a senior communications major, Luke has been actively putting his skills to work to rock the vote for his little sister, as does fellow communications major Bianca DiPasquale, and her little sister Courtney, also a student at College Station.
“Bianca and Courtney are away at college but they try to keep up with supporting Hollie on American Idol as best as they can,” says the girls’ mother Tammy DiPasquale, “Hollie and my daughter Courtney have been the best of friends since they were third graders at Glen Oaks [Elementary].
Even a recent hospitalization didn’t keep Courtney from doing what she could to support her friend. “Right before spring break, Courtney was hospitalized for three days with mono, tonsillitis and strep. On Wednesday night, during and after American Idol, she was dragging the nurses into her room to vote!”
Days after being released from the hospital, Courtney was actually able to pay her friend a visit and be a part of the American Idol audience.
“Hollie called and invited Courtney to come out over spring break,” says Tammy, “My husband and I said yes. I mean, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
To make it even more special, Hollie’s brothers were able to make the trip as well.
“We flew out on Tuesday of spring break, and had dinner with Hollie, and some of her fellow finalists. Of course, Courtney was thrilled,” says Tammy, “And Hollie was thrilled too. She and Josh (Ledet), Skylar (Laine) and Deandre (Brackensick) have become a tight group of friends through this experience, but it was nice to have someone from home there too.”
The week Courtney and Tammy visited was the week Hollie learned she had advanced to the top 10, which meant she would be able to go on tour with American Idol this summer.
“Hollie was so excited,” says Tammy, “She was just elated. Both girls were crying tears of happiness.”
The experience of watching American Idol live is an experience Tammy and Courtney won’t soon forget.
“It’s interesting to me how much more tense it is in person during Thursday night’s elimination round. Even though I was 100 percent sure Hollie wouldn’t be sent home when I was there, I was still nervous because of the live atmosphere.”
Back home, former classmates and parents alike, as well as fans from all corners of the city continue to gather weekly at Jack’s Pub to root for Hollie. Silky Hart and her husband, Tom Michero, are two such fans.
“Hollie has such a pure and genuine spirit about her,” says Silky, “My husband and I have been going to her watch parties. It has been lots of fun to root for her with friends. The first time I voted for her via texting, my husband had to change my phone plan to accommodate my text votes!”
Meanwhile, back home, Tammy continues to support Hollie by power voting as well, “As soon as 9 p.m. hits, my husband I literally vote for the entire two hours,” says Tammy, “Between the two of us, we manage about 6,000 votes.”
In addition to voting for Hollie based on her performances, many of Hollie’s friends vote in order to send her a message about how much they support her, even and especially in light of the controversial negative treatment she has received from the judges over the past few weeks.
“I have two little sisters, 7 and 9,” says Kaycee, “They cry every time the judges are mean to Hollie, and I don’t get it. It’s hard not to like Hollie. She is so likable and her talent — it’s huge.”
Despite the celebrity judges’ harsh criticisms, according to friends, Hollie is holding up well.
“With all the huge things going on, it can get very stressful,” says Tammy, “but Hollie is handling it so well. She is such a classy girl, and given the pressure, she still remains the same sweet and humble girl who carries herself well. She’s a tough kid, who shows nothing but grace under pressure.”
“She called a couple of nights ago,” says Kaycee, “She and Skylar were at Target buying birthday gifts for Joshua. She says she is never going to give up and will just keep on doing her best for us.”
Photos courtesy of Kaycee Short and Tammy DiPasquale