The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Tuesday, October 21, 2003

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By Kristen Garrett
Herald Staff Writer

Normally, Thiel College freshman Asia Ross would be catching some extra beauty sleep at 8:30 on a Monday morning, but not this Monday.

She was interviewing for a new student job on campus, or so she thought.

During her interview in the college cafeteria, Miss Ross was surprised by a camera crew from NBC's "Today" show along with Laurie Lehosky from WFMJ, Youngstown, who had big news. Miss Ross was selected as one of eight finalists in the search for "Today's Superstar," the morning news show's version of "American Idol."

Before she knew it, Miss Ross was on camera and being congratulated by "Today's" co-host Matt Lauer.

"All I can say is, wow," Miss Ross said.

Kaye Lenkner, food services director at Thiel, gave Miss Ross a mobile phone to call her mother.

"Ma, I thought I was coming down for a job interview, and they surprised me," she said.

"My mother made me all emotional," Miss Ross said with tears in her eyes after she hung up the phone.

For the 18-year-old from Bedford, Ohio, music is the most important thing in the world.

"That's my life. It's all I think about ... I am music. When you say Asia, you say music," Miss Ross said.

But she's also practical. Miss Ross said she's majoring in pre-law since a career in music isn't a guarantee and wants something to fall back on.

Miss Ross said she sent a tape to "Today" on Sept. 23. She sang "My Funny Valentine," her favorite song, and "Hero," a song made popular by Mariah Carey.

Ms. Lenkner said it took a phony job interview and four wake-up calls Monday morning to get Miss Ross to the cafeteria in time for the surprise.

Miss Ross said she knew it was the day the finalists would be selected, but figured if she made it her name would be announced on air and she would get a phone call. She wanted to watch the show.

"She kept telling me she needed to go watch the 'Today' show," Ms. Lenkner said.

After the announcement, Miss Ross said she still had a big day ahead of her. In addition to taking a test, giving a speech and doing math homework, Miss Ross set aside time to visit with friends from her high school who made the trip to Greenville for her big day.

Miss Ross will get to celebrate her 19th birthday on Oct. 30 in New York City.

She will go to New York and appear on "Today" Friday and learn what song she will have to perform on the Oct. 28 show. Fans and viewers can vote for the contestants on-line, and contestants will be eliminated through Nov. 20 when the winner will be selected.

A number of Thiel administrators were on hand to congratulate Miss Ross and watch as she made her television debut.

The winner of the contest gets to perform his or her own "Today" show concert live on the plaza and wins a recording session with Warner Brothers Records.


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