Louisville is so proud of local girl Brandy Neelly as we watched her compete on American Idol this season. This is her fourth season and it has been amazing to watch her grow and mature over the past few years. This songbird is going to be music’s “it” girl someday and I’m here to lay all my money on her. I caught up with Brandy and asked her about her style for the show. I noticed this season how her hair and makeup were flawless. I also noticed a distinct difference between the other contestants and her. She dressed intentionally from the first audition all the way through. Her style was modern, feminine and appropriate for whatever the event entailed. Here’s our interview: (All pictures courtesy of American Idol unless otherwise indicated.)
I noticed a big change in you this season compared to the last seasons. What were some changes you made?
I felt so much more mature this season. I wanted to go in more confident than I ever have been … I was debating not going, but with my family’s support, I dedicated myself to giving it another try. I’ve changed because I know who I am, which is important. You have to stay true to yourself, and I guess you could say I learned that from being on American Idol.
Did you have a certain look for the show?
Yes. I wanted to have a sassy, classic, country look! Something fun and young but that also had an old flair to it. People tell me all the time that I have my own style. I love clothes more than anything. I’m always on Pinterest, shopping and putting together outfits.
Where did you buy your clothes?
I really shop anywhere that catches my eye. Forever 21 is somewhere I like to go for basic pieces. I love shopping in cool places downtown for signature pieces, then I put it all together. I’m a sucker for anything girly, bright and sparkly.
You did your own makeup and hair, which amazes me because it looked so professional. How did you learn how to do both so well?
Well, my hair used to be longer, then I got a new hairdo and fell in love with it. It takes time to learn how to fix your hair, but with help from my hairdresser, and YouTube, I learned. Makeup is something I’ve always loved, even since I was little. I used to watch What Not to Wear for tips about makeup. Also, my mom would always tell me if I was wearing too much or too little.
What products do you use for makeup and hair? I especially want to know the lipstick shade and the cheek highlighter.
I use many different products. Some are more expensive than others, but it’s worth it. For on-camera appearances, you want to stay away from mineral makeup and makeup with sunscreen in it. It gives you too much shine. I use a light matte foundation and a light translucent powder from Laura Mercier. I use any bronzer (something from Walmart would work) to add some color to my face then a light blush. The essential part of this is to put a lighter foundation under the eyes above the eyebrows and nose. I use a highlighter from the Bare Escentuals. I use mascara from Loreal. My two favorite lipsticks are Maybelline Color Sensationals 860 Pink Pop (#860) and Fire Red (#895).
What lessons did you learn from previous seasons about what NOT to wear?
I learned that you want to wear something you’re comfortable in. Other lessons I learned this year: no stripes or colors that match your skin tone too much.
How did you know what to pack when you went out to Hollywood?
Well, they [American Idol] told me to pack two huge bags with everything from pajamas to a formal dress in it. I had to sit on both bags to get them to close!!
Did you get to shop in Hollywood while you were there?
Yes, I did! I’m a shopaholic! I bought a couple cute, simple pieces but, I didn’t wear anything I bought there on television.
Do you think that having a “look” matters for American Idol? Meaning, do you think that you need to be intentional with your dress? Is that as important as your talent?
I think having a “look” is important no matter what you do. With American Idol, I think it’s very important. You have to sell yourself and that means your voice AND your look. It stinks but that’s how it is. But, I think no matter what “look” sells you as a person, it’s important to always be sure of yourself and then sell who you are with your appearance. Doesn’t mean you have to be super girly or artificial. If you wear sweatpants because that’s who you are, that’s fine. Wear them with pride and self confidence.
Do you dress the same off Idol as on Idol?
I’m not a creature of habit and I dress different day to day. One day I want to look like a hippie, and the next I want to look like I stepped out of a 1950’s movie. But, I think a lot of the things I wore on Idol are a good representation of what I wear on an everyday basis.
How many pairs of boots do you own?
I own eight pairs. They are my babies. Boots never go out of style. That’s why I have so many, because I will never NOT be able to wear them!
How long did it take you to get ready for each appearance on Idol?
It takes me about a hour. My hair dries so fast, so I spend more time on my makeup and deciding what I want to wear.
Can you walk me through your outfits for each of your appearances on this season of Idol:
My first audition I wanted to keep it casual and comfy. I wasn’t too happy with how it looked on television, but that day I loved it.
My second audition, I wanted to make a cool statement and loved the dress I wore. It a had a hip, angled hem at the bottom and was made from a really unique fabric. I wore a little darker lipstick to bring out the colors in the dress and my favorite cowboy boots.
My group day outfit was amazing. I wanted a comfy outfit where I could move around. I found an amazing sequined shirt that was in a babydoll style and paired it with blue jeans from American Eagle. I wore red lipstick to match the shirt. Of course, I wore my cowboy boots.
My solos outfit was my favorite. I wanted to show a different side to my style. I wore a jumpsuit from TJ Maxx and paired it with a little sparkly belt from Macy’s I put my hair in an upsweep with bright pink lipstick and simple black heels.
The outfit I was going to wear for the live shows had a very flirty 1950’s style to it. It was very shiny with so many amazing colors in it. I paired it with black fringe boots, simple stud earrings and then a light lipgloss.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m thinking about so many things. I think a move to Nashville might be a option, and I want to keep pursuing a career in music. I also want to finish school.
Will you show me how to do my makeup?
Best of luck to you, Brandy!