Mainers should watch “American Idol” with twice as much interest this season.

Two Maine residents have now been confirmed as participants on the hit FOX Network talent show.

Jessica Cunningham of Portland, who was on the show last year, was confirmed Tuesday by the show’s publicists as a contestant on the new season of “American Idol,” which began airing Jan. 19.

Last week, publicists confirmed that Danielle Pease, a 15-year-old high school student from Winthrop, has made it onto the show.

Cunningham, 24, auditioned for this season’s show in East Rutherford, N.J., in August, and impressed the judges enough to be sent on to the show’s Hollywood rounds of competition, which will air Feb. 16 and 17.

During those rounds, an estimated 200 people, including Pease and Cunningham, will be seen competing to be among the 20 semifinalists. The semifinalists are the performers who get to sing weekly for the judges.

Cunningham has auditioned for the show seven times. Last year, she was seen performing during the Hollywood episodes but was cut just before the last 24 contestants were announced.

Her friends threw her a party at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland to watch the last episode in which she appeared. She told people at the party that judge Simon Cowell — a meany on the show — was “a really cool guy.”

She said last year that getting on the show was probably her “last shot” before she settles down and gets married. Her fiance was with her at the party in February.

Cunningham, a Bridgton native, has worked as a waitress, a bartender and a hair stylist while singing. She said at the viewing party last year that she was looking to hook up with a band and that her taste of Hollywood from “Idol” had piqued her interest in pursuing movie or television opportunities.

What changed her mind about trying “American Idol” again is hard to say. Contestants are prohibited from talking about their experience on the show until the airing of the episode in which they are voted off.

It’s also hard to say how much Mainers will see Cunningham or Pease on the show. Usually, the Hollywood episodes are snippets of people rehearsing and performing; not every contestant gets on camera until the semifinalists are picked.

This year, the 20 semifinalists are scheduled to be announced on Feb. 24. “American Idol” airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. on FOX, locally on WPFO (Channel 23).

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]