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Ciara-Camile Roque Velasco (born September 1, 1985) known by her stage name Eli-Mac is a Filipino American singer and came in ninth place on the third season of the reality/talent-search television series, American Idol. She is one-quarter Irish, one-quarter Spanish, and half Filipino.
Born in Makati City, Philippines, Camile Velasco's family later moved to Haiku, Maui—located in the islands of Hawaii. Prior to American Idol, Velasco was a struggling songwriter/composer who worked at her parents' IHOP Restaurant in Kahului. She has since released a single with Universal/Motown, headlined events in California, Hawaii, and elsewhere.
American Idol 3 contestant
In 2003, Velasco auditioned for American Idol in Honolulu, Oahu and was unanimously accepted by the judges for her rendition of the chorus and bridge of Ready or Not—a Delfonics-sampled classic by the Fugees. Simon Cowell remarked that "you're actually very good," assuring Velasco that she had "no need to be nervous." Randy Jackson added that, "I love the sound of your voice. I love the kind of dark kinda quality of it." Finally, Paula Abdul stated that "you have a real interesting tone. You're a beautiful, beautiful girl." She encouraged Velasco not to be afraid to "let go" and to "know and own the fact that you're really good."
In the Hollywood round, Velasco sang several songs solo and performed "You Can't Hurry Love" in a group. She was eventually advanced to the Top 32, in the second group of semifinalists. After her stirring performance of Brian McKnight's "One Last Cry," Simon Cowell stated that "you are probably the best out of the group tonight." Before she left the stage, Randy Jackson requested that she infuse more of her hip-hop style into her next performance, and Velasco jovially replied, "I'll do it, baby."
At the results show, Velasco emerged as the top vote-getter in her group, just as Cowell had predicted, and she shed actual tears as she performed a reprise of "One Last Cry." Velasco quickly became the pride of Hawaii, and small-town Maui in particular, causing the islands to vote exponentially more than in previous years. Her return home before the finals was deeply emotional, as she was showered with support and physically covered with colorful leis.
On American Idol, Velasco's trademark was a red, yellow and green Rasta wristband, which she continually wore on her left wrist as a good luck charm and as a homage to the reggae movement (and her idols, Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley, in particular). According to her, the three colors represented peace, happiness, and unity, respectively. Velasco also wore the 3rd Eye Vision logo of the Hieroglyphics, a San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop crew, on several occasions, reflecting her love of the music and culture. In the media, Velasco became known for wearing self-designed apparel, and for being consistently unafraid to express her unique interests, conscious outlook, and sensitive ideology.
Vocally, Velasco was quickly classified as being hip-hop—a culture and style she certainly identified with (but was not limited to). In the competition, she was even likened to her inspiration, Lauryn Hill, one of the most influential women in hip-hop—a comparison that nearly brought Velasco to tears. In the Top 12 finals, however, she sang Son of a Preacher Man, Desperado, For Once in My Life, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in her own personal style, without consciously applying a particular genre to her performances.
Leaving American Idol
On April 7, 2004, however, Camile Velasco was eliminated from American Idol. She, Diana DeGarmo and Jasmine Trias, a fellow Filipino-American from Hawaii, had received the fewest votes during Elton John week. However, DeGarmo was saved first and the remaining 2 Hawaiian girls were asked to perform one last time before Ryan Seacrest revealed the night's results. Mostly due to increasingly harsh criticisms from the judges, Velasco seemed to anticipate her departure. As a result, she became the first contestant to alter the lyrics of her song impromptu, substituting "the blues" with "I love you," as she pointed to her fans in the audience and her fellow contestants, and replacing "back to the howling old owl in the woods" with "back to the island of Maui, at home." Velasco kept her composure as her name was announced, but began to cry during her dedication video. As the show ended, the remaining finalists were quick to encircle her in a tight embrace.
Despite her departure from the show, Velasco's fan base continued to support her. She was inundated by gifts and letters, even months after leaving the show. Since Idol, Velasco has gained a reputation for engaging her fans, and patiently meeting with crowds of people, to the occasional dismay of the employees and management at certain venues. Velasco's motto, however is "love life" and she has consistently taken an appreciative, laid-back approach to each public event.
Although she received criticism from the judges during the show's finals, Velasco's track on the American Idol Season 3 CD, Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do), was praised by music reviewers in New York and LA, and identified as the best track on the album by several major publications. It seemed to highlight her potential as a recording artist.
When Velasco's friend, Fantasia Barrino, won the competition, the Top 10 of American Idol 3 began to prepare for a US tour, sponsored by Pop Tarts, which would consist of more than fifty shows across the country, and a few overseas. On the tour, Velasco sang Ex Factor, partially as a tribute to Lauryn Hill, and inserted a self-written verse called Destiny in her performances at later shows. She also sang solo during group covers of "When Doves Cry", "Heartburn", "Crazy in Love", and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". Velasco later reflected that the tour was an amazing experience, and it had raised her confidence immensely.
After American Idol, Velasco went to the Philippines to perform at a Christmas concert with Martin Nievera. She also made numerous television appearances, and performed with South Border, Billy Crawford, and several other local and international stars. Back in the US, Velasco settled in Los Angeles, California, and began to work in the studio, and study music and writing at the Musician's Institute in Hollywood.
In 2005, Velasco headlined a variety of gigs after signing with Universal/Motown Records. In the first half of the year, she performed at the Pro Bowl Concert in Hawaii; the Yeah Baby! Expo in Anaheim; a two-day concert for the 50th State Fair in Oahu; and in Phoenix and San Diego, where she sang the national anthem. Velasco also made appearances on American Idol and at the Gen Ex LA Fashion Week. When her first single, "Hangin' On," was released, her demand increased, especially in the Filipino-American music scene. This led to several headlining concerts, including the two-day Fil-Am Unity Jam (A Night with Camile Velasco) 3-Style Attractions, Jam Sessions, and Lumpiapalooza 2 in California, as well as a concert with Gary Valenciano and IBU in Chicago. One of Velasco's more notable television appearances was a live performance on the TFC series World Musikahan with host, Ryan Cayabyab, which aired in October. In 2005, she also got her first spot on a magazine cover for the Arizona Republic's Yes magazine.
In 2006, Velasco parted with Motown Records, but continued to perform around the US. In January, she made a rare East Coast appearance in New York, and made an announcement at a press conference that she would be joining the Filipino band, Aegis, for a US tour, with stops in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and New Jersey. Throughout the year, Velasco made appearances on American Idol and the Idol Tonight segment. She also performed enthusiastically in Hawaii, almost once a month. On her MySpace page, Velasco chose to release a new song-in-the-making, entitled "Da Da Da," that was met with a positive response from fans. In July, she took part in the filming of The Black Eyed Peas' "Bebot" video. Also, in September alone, Velasco performed at a two-day concert and birthday celebration for her and her manager, she was a featured act at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture in San Pedro, California, she was interviewed on LA TV, and she performed with fellow Idol alumnus, Jasmine Trias, in Maui. Before the close of 2006, she performed with IBU in Las Vegas, and briefly returned to the Philippines for a concert with apl.de.ap.
In the first week of February 2007, Velasco had the honor of opening for her idol, Lauryn Hill, at the Bob Marley Fest in Kapolei, HI.
Camile took an extended break from performing in June 2007 after the Fiesta Filipinas in Oxnard, California, to further concentrate on songwriting and finishing her debut album.
As of April 2008, Camile premiered a weekly show on Youtube.com entitled CamileTV, with a new episode every Friday. Shows are usually 2 to 3 minutes and include personal moments, performing live, playing instruments, and singing covers of pop, rock, jazz, and soul acts such as Alicia Keys, Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, The Doors, Amy Winehouse, Estelle, India.Arie, Beck, and Bad Company.
Once CamileTV was launched, she began to perform once again. Her most notable appearance was at the APIA Vote seminar in May 2008 featuring Asian American Rapper KeyKool of the Visionaries.
In the fourth quarter of 2008, she appeared on American Idol Rewind, which re-runs episodes from the third season of the television series with recent interviews of past contestants.
Her single "Guava Jelly" was produced by Stephen Marley and released onto iTunes in October 14, 2008. It received the Hawaii Music Awards' Single of the Year in April 2009. It was to be her first single off her debut album titled Koy, which was originally scheduled to be released in 2009 but has yet to be released. Her next single "Super Star" was released in Japan in 2010.
In 2013, she appeared on the track "All My Time" on Cheesa's debut album, Naked. In 2014, she officially announced that she will be performing professionally under the stage name, Eli-Mac. In October 2014, she released her Dubstop EP.
Songs performed on American Idol (televised)
"Ready or Not" - The Fugees Audition
"One Last Cry" - Brian McKnight Semifinals, 2nd Group
"Son of a Preacher Man" - Dusty Springfield Soul Week
"Desperado" - Eagles Country Week
"For Once in My Life" - Stevie Wonder Motown Week
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" - Elton John Elton John Week