Australian Idol recruits Ricki-Lee

By David Knox

Aug 19, 2008

When Ricki-Lee Coulter takes on a dual role as backstage host and part-time mentor to the contestants of Australian Idol, she will be perfectly placed to empathize.

Ricki-Lee was famously turfed from the show weeks before the 2004 final, against all expectations.

This year she will be waiting in the wings to hear more from the contestants for better or worse.

"I know exactly what they're going through," she said. "I know those highs and lows. I know how amazing it feels to walk on that stage and perform in front of that crowd.

"I can also relate to them when they get kicked out."

In joining with Andrew G and James Mathison, Coulter's role is part of a "refreshing" of the show that will see live semifinals, celebrity guest judges, London "expat" Aussie contestants, no Mark Holden, and maybe even a tougher Marcia Hines.

Ricki-Lee's interview packages will also bring back elements that haven't been seen since TEN stopped airing Inside Idol.

"They've missed out on really getting to know the contestants and what they're getting up to during the week and how things are affecting them," she explained.

"After they perform they talk for 30 seconds with Andrew and James, but you really don't get to talk about how much it affected them, what the judges said, what their performances were like, how did they feel, what were the dramas leading up to it.

"I guess I'm there to help Australia see all of that. That's what helps people find out who they want to love and who to vote for."

Ricki-Lee has already been spending time with the contestants, joining the audition tour and getting to know the top 100. She's been bonding with them both on and off camera in order to build up a level of trust. As well as getting vox pops on the live performance nights, she'll be shadowing their every move.

"I will be spending all day Sunday with them when they're getting ready, and on the Mondays. I'll be with them on the Tuesdays when they're doing their song selection workshop with [music director] John Foreman and [vocal coach] Erina. Any really exciting events that they go to during the week I'll be with them too."

As Coulter knows all too well, winning Idol isn't everything. Some winners have had mixed fortunes with their post-Idol careers, while others who finished in the finals have managed to carve out ongoing success.

"I'm proof to the contestants that whether you win or not you can be successful, but it's really up to you. You've got to know what you want to do and you've got to work hard."

Ricki-Lee says she will happily share her experience about facing life after Idol.

"That's when it becomes important. You know, when Idol finishes and it's not on TV anymore. You don't have a TV show every Sunday night to put yourself out there. You've got to get out there and work your butt off.

"The hard work begins when the show ends."

And as she adds "TV presenter" to her CV, Coulter says she won't be pushing singers for reality-TV reactions.

"From the very beginning I said to them, 'I'm not going to make people cry. I'm not going to push people over the edge.' Because I know what that feels like.

"I had producers when I was on the show interview me so hard that I was bawling. I just said to them, straight up, 'I'm not going to do that, I'm not forcing people to cry.' If people are emotional I'll be there for them. If they don't want to talk, they don't have to talk."

It's a bit of a tall order, given sections of it will be live to air. "I'm probably as nervous as the contestants because this is my first time as a TV presenter. I'm a bit scared to see what I'm going to look like and sound like."

"I'm nervous but excited!" she laughed.

Australian Idol premieres 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 24 on TEN.

  • Comments (4)
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  • scotchex2 Sep 12, 2008

    How many Idols are there now? Amazing.

  • LAURAMARIE63 Aug 21, 2008

    This isn't news.

  • ali_tv_fan Aug 20, 2008

    Yeah - and she didn't even win.

  • steph3099 Aug 20, 2008

    she's the only ex-idol contestant that's got a good career if you ask me,