By Sophia A. Niarchos
OYSTER BAY, N.Y. — Kalomira Sarantis is missing the second semester of her first year in college. She is pursuing her lifetime dream – a career as a professional singer – in a very unorthodox way, as a contestant on the Antenna TV program “Fame Story” in Greece. The 19-year-old competitor from West Hempstead (the youngest of those on the show) registered at Adelphi University last fall as a music major; but after being one of two singers selected from a group of 200 talented performers at the first auditions ever held in New York City for “Fame Story”‘s second season, she knew she was doing the right thing to postpone her classes for a short time.
On March 14, the three-month-long show began and, along with it, the seclusion from media the network requires to stave off accusations of favoritism. Although we couldn’t speak directly with Kalomira, known in New York as Carol, her proud parents were happy to tell us about their daughter’s lifelong dream and the journey she has taken to pursue it.
“She has wanted to be a singer so badly, ever since she was a young girl. Since she was 13, she would come to help us at our restaurant (Eleni’s in Centereach), after school, and she would sing for everybody. They all love her,” her father Nick said.
As do singer Dantis, Heaven Music CEO George Leventis, music producer Nikos Mouratidis, and songwriter Eva Droutsa, the judges for “Fame Story,” which is viewed by 7 million people in Greece, Australia, Canada and the U.S. In Greece, the show, which is scheduled to end for the season in mid-to-late June, commands 30% of market share.
And five weeks into the season, Kalomira, who also became Miss West Hempstead in 2002 and was recognized by Adelphi for being an excellent first-semester student there, is still holding on to her place in the competition, though the last victory was a narrow one.
“I am so proud of her,” said Eleni, Kalomira’s mother. “She loves to sing and dance; and whatever she does, she does with all her heart. Even as a young girl she used to watch entertainers dancing and singing and her eyes would tear. ‘I can’t do what they are doing,’ she would tell me.”
Although she has only had a few voice lessons, Kalomira had enough experience practicing in her home and at her parents’ restaurant to be in a position to compete for the title of “Island Idol” on radio station WBAI in the summer of 2003. She began her series of four auditions (you can still hear them at www.wbli.com/contests/islandidol_2_carol.html) by singing “I Will Survive” in a soulful a cappella style at Sunrise Mall and three more songs for each new audition at the WBAI studios, leading to a second place award.
Being selected to advance in the WBAI competition depended on people casting votes on the station’s Web site; so Kalomira’s cousin Eleni, who lives in the Virginia area and at whose wedding Kalomira recently sang, took it upon herself to campaign for her, making an appeal for votes on the DCGreeks.com Web site:
“For many of you who know her, I really don’t have to say much about her– she is pretty amazing — but for those that don’t, she has a personality of no other. She is the sweetest girl and can definitely brighten up a room. She is constantly performing to others or just to herself, and can dance you the moves of just about any music video. Singing is her passion, and I know as well as our family does that she won’t give up until she makes it! I think this could be her big break!” Eleni wrote.
Placing 2nd in an Island-wide competition wasn’t a bad place to start, but having the opportunity to be in the first group of auditions for “Fame Story” to take place outside Greece led to her biggest break… and a father’s slightly broken heart, when his daughter was quickly taken away from the family.
“It happened so fast. In one week, they flew her to Greece. I didn’t want to stop her; but we’re so close, and I miss her a lot. She usually tells me everything, but now, we are not allowed to speak to her unless it’s an emergency.”
Sarantis also hopes that his daughter won’t lose her positive attitude. “She’s always very happy. I hope she stays that way.”
And to be happy is Kalomira’s most important “Goal in Life,” which she describes on the WBAI Web site this way:
“[I want] to be a famous singer who gets to go on tour!!! But most importantly [I want] to be happy with myself and enjoy life. You live once, so enjoy yourself!”