WESTERLEIGH, Staten Island (WABC) -- Julia Gargano fell short of being named the next "American Idol" last spring, but that hasn't slowed her progress.
The singer from Staten Island, who just turned 23 this month, has signed a record deal, and her first single is out now.
She will soon be on her way to Los Angeles, but she hasn't gone Hollywood, and that's just on reason why her neighbors in the Westerleigh section of of the borough are so proud of her.
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Her first single, "You Don't Get To," is a classic he-done-her-wrong song. She followed the traditional advice given to young writers to write about what you know, and as a result, the song is very personal.
"A real vulnerable moment for me, you know?" she said. "I was scared about the guy that I wrote the song about being like, what the heck?"
Still, she didn't let that fear stop her.
"The more specific and vulnerable you get, the better it does, the more people can connect with it," she said. "But that's a scary thing to do, obviously, because you're really letting it all out there. But it's worth it."
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Worth it, yes, but what did her ex thing?
"Oh, he did not like it," she said.
His loss is her win, less than a year after she reached the Top 7 on "Idol" -- a journey during which she won the hearts of so many. And in the time since, she's learned a lot about the music business that she didn't know when she was a contestant.
"I think the biggest lesson that I've learned is the more you are yourself, the less competition you'll have," she said.
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She has learned not to spend time comparing herself to other, and staying authentic helps make her a great role model.
"That's my favorite part about it, just, you know, people seeing me do something cool that might spark them to try and do something as well," she said. "And it seems more attainable when somebody in your hometown is like the person you recognize."
Not everyone who goes as far as she did on "American Idol" gets to have a long career, but I predict Gargano will enjoy years of success. Partly, that's because she writes her own great songs. But also, she works so hard at her craft and has such a great attitude about her good fortune.
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