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Choosing Taylor Hicks over Katharine McPhee might just be the biggest mistake that America has ever made. The prematurely gray dude may’ve won season five of “American Idol,” but the raven-haired runner-up should give even the staunchest Soul Patroler a bad case of McPheever with her poppy self-titled debut album, which is in stores now. We spoke to the 22-year-old knockout about her highly publicized weight struggles, her bad breakups and her long history with homos.
Are you getting into the new season of “American Idol”?
Katharine McPhee: Actually, I prefer to watch closer to the top 24 when the competition really starts. Before that, honestly, I get kind of bored. I’d rather just see the good stuff. But I’m definitely looking forward to tuning in as much as I can, especially now knowing what those poor kids are going through.
Were you prepared for the media scrutiny that’s come with your new fame?
KM: I don’t think you’re ever prepared for that. Luckily for me I live in the Valley, so it’s not really paparazzi-ridden. Recently I’ve started to get people following me, but I just give ’em what they want and walk off. If they catch me with no makeup, whatever, that’s what I’m like in real life. More people should get to know the real me anyway.
But you’re shaping up to be quite the fashionista.
KM: I’ve always loved fashion, but I was never really in the body that I felt comfortable in, so I always got stuck wearing big sweatshirts and jeans because I was really self-conscious. I still don’t have the best body image, but I feel better about myself, so I now really embrace fashion. I love Vivienne Westwood and everything from little T-shirts from James Pierce to Juicy to Dolce & Gabbana. Stores like Forever 21 are really fun, too.
What do you hope people take away from your debut?
KM: I just hope that people get to see a little bit more of my fun, young spirit than they did on “Idol.” I put on a stern face to deal with getting negative feedback in front of millions of people. That was my business Katharine. But the people who really know me know how silly I am.
After the huge success of your single “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” last year, many of your fans might be expecting a more traditional album of standards.
KM: On “Idol” you’re just trying to make it week by week. You don’t think, “OK, this song is going to affect the way people perceive (how) my record should be.” Yes, I do love Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, but if you asked me since I was 10 years old what kind of record I wanted to make, it was always rhythmic pop or R&B-pop. Thankfully, I got to make the record I wanted to make.
The lead single, “Over It,” deals with a breakup. How do you get over a man?
KM: I should have a song on my next album about being a cold-hearted woman. (Laughs) Fortunately, I’ve been able to move on very quickly from my relationships. Except for one or two. And when I’m singing that song, I’ll definitely be thinking about them. Sometimes people say, “Ugh, I’m so over him” when they’re really not.
Do your gay fans make themselves known?
KM: Yay! Gay Pride! (Laughs) I’d love them to make themselves more known! I went to musical theater school, so my gay boys and I go way back. One of my best friends is totally gay and we have so much fun together. Every girl needs a good gay man by her side. I love that I have somewhat of a gay following, and hopefully I can get more because they’re such great supporters of the arts.
Which songs are your gay boys going to go crazy for?
KM: The boys are going to just love “Open Toes.” I have this feeling it’s going to make them want to put on their little open-toe shoes and walk around West Hollywood. And “Dangerous,” which is another breakup song about how you should never let your guard down — like, “I’m warning you, this guy is going to do you wrong!” I’m hoping we can remix them with some techno vibes so we can all get on the dance floor. I’m definitely planning to visit the gay clubs in New York at some point.
Do you party hard and panty-less like Paris and pre-rehab Lindsay?
KM: Uh, no, not quite like that. But I’ve met all those girls, and they’re actually very nice. I only like to go out every once in a while because it makes it that much more of an exciting event. I don’t like to drink too much. … I like to get dressed up, look cute and dance. I can dance forever! When I went to Boston Conservatory, we used to go out to the gay clubs in Boston and dance for hours. Me and my girlfriends would also crash big gay parties at these mansions — we were totally not supposed to be there! Of course, they always embraced us and we had a lot of fun.
What should a Katharine McPhee drag queen always remember?
KM: It’s all about the hair and brows.
What’s the secret to that fab ‘do.
KM: Well, sometimes I add those little clip-in extensions. If you’re looking to go out, the clip-ins are great because they’re really convenient and they don’t damage your hair.
You definitely sound ready to be a gay icon.
KM: Totally! Madonna, here I come!