The Mirror

The public stage is humanity’s most unforgiving and surprising venue. We fear dancing on it ourselves, yet quickly pan performers who don’t meet expectations.

In local and informal settings, however, audiences seem much more forgiving toward the unpolished. A kid delivering a slightly off-key national anthem at a Little League game still sparks polite applause, and most mayors aren’t expected to speak like a senator.

But plop a shy amateur singer in front of a national TV audience, and couch potato critics fire at will.

Consider former “American Idol” contestant Sanjaya Malakar, the Federal Way teen whose name became synonymous with the popular TV talent show’s sixth season.

Aside from smacking viewers into a star-struck state, Sanjaya opened the gate to his own little world and invited anyone who wanted to visit.

His kind presence and eccentric hairstyles generated a mixed national buzz. A soft voice paired with a happy-go-lucky attitude endeared him to millions, but also attracted ample ridicule in the media.

Federal Way itself recently caught heat from hardcore fans nationwide. Some said the city missed an opportunity for positive public exposure by not officially honoring Sanjaya’s accomplishments. After all, current “Idol” contender Blake Lewis’ hometown of Bothell proclaimed a special day for him last month.

Redemption for the city may have arrived May 9. Hundreds of screaming fans of all ages flocked to The Commons mall to see Sanjaya flash that contagious smile.

Regardless of who finally wins on “Idol,” Sanjaya’s voyage through the cut-throat world of entertainment will carve the deepest impression.

He stood in the spotlight while the rest of us idled on the sidelines, ready to cheer or jeer an aspiring singer who had the courage to try.

Contact Andy Hobbs: or (253) 925-5565.

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