Leslie Hunt was perhaps the least conventional contestant of the Top 24 of 2007's American Idol. In a land of Celine Dion-worshipping wannabe divas, she was an indie rocker who loved jazz and came across a bit like a funky hippie -- a combination that made her distinctive, but it didn't win her enough votes to last past the first two weeks of the semi-finals.
A native of Chicago, IL, Hunt had been singing since she was a child. Supporting herself as a dogwalker in Chicago, she worked steadily at music while in her early twenties, including collaborating with Jim Peterik -- best known for writing hits for the Ides of March, .38 Special, and Survivor -- in a few projects. After a health scare -- she suffers from lupus and nearly died due to an adverse reaction to a yellow fever vaccination when visiting Brazil -- she decided to audition for American Idol at the age of 24. She first auditioned for Idol in Seattle, WA, and made it through to Hollywood, where she then made the final cut to the Top 24. In her first week of competition she sang Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." In the second, she sang Nina Simone's "Feeling Good," scatting the middle of the song -- to the lukewarm praise of Randy and derision of Simon. The scatting did not win the hearts of America as Hunt referenced in her final sing-out, when she scatted "Why did I decide to scat? America don't care for jazz" over the credits, earning her some measure of Idol immortality for her guts and good humor. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine