JUDD-MENT DAY

Star Search judge Naomi Judd reveals the behind-the-scenes scoop on the show, the contestants and her fellow celebrities

It takes talent to know talent. So it's no surprise that TV's wildly popular talent-search competition, Star Search, tapped Naomi Judd to be a judge. Her credentials are unimpeachable -- she dominated the charts with daughter Wynonna, she's mom to another superstar (movie star Ashley) and she's Country Weekly's advice columnist. Between passing judgment on contestants, she shared some behind-the-scenes stories about one of TV's hottest shows.

When I was asked to be a judge, it made me chortle because I've always said, "My name is Judd, not Judge." Also, I value honesty -- we don't have enough in our culture, and as a judge I would have to be candid.

After considering that young people were auditioning, I accepted. I would rather be the one giving constructive criticism than have a Simon [American Idol's hypercritical judge] type breaking someone's spirit. After all, I've raised two dream chasers, Ashley and Wy.

It's been a privilege to watch these youngsters. Most people their age are afraid to jump off the high dive. Yet somehow they subject themselves to the judges, taking the plunge before a live, prime-time TV audience!

This show is different from the early Ed McMahon Star Search. Host Arsenio Hall is a gregarious, spontaneous, stand-up comedian. When Wynonna and I were on his talk show years ago, I liked him immensely. My fellow judge, Ben Stein, is an odd, eccentric, hilarious, Yale-schooled lawyer and former professor [also the host of a brainy-cool TV game show, Win Ben Stein's Money]. And I'm still waiting for his voice to modulate.

I nicknamed judge Ahmet Zappa, of the notoriously wacky Zappa family, "Ahmet the Comet" -- he's so quick and bright! He told me, "I mean this with the utmost respect, ma'am: You're so out there you remind me of my own family!"

It's also been special meeting the surprise celebrity guest judges -- Magic Johnson, Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, Jessica Simpson and Lance Bass, just to name a few.

From the start, I was uncomfortable with the model category since I feel this culture is so obsessed with youth, beauty and sex. I tried to be fair but I'm a proponent of women being defined from within.

I'm happy that the dance category is being so well received, though I've been disappointed with the comedians – -- gave one just one star. Hey, I calls 'em like I sees 'em!

After the shows, I meet with those who don't make it to the semifinals in my dressing room. I refuse to use the term "loser." To me, all contestants are dream chasers.

What a gig I have: I sit on a couch and get entertained. I'm having such a blast. I just wish there were more country singers!

-- Naomi Judd

Comments