Reality Patsy

She's talented. She's hopeful. She's from Phoenix. And she might very well be the next voice you hear in country music, if the USA Network has anything to say about it. Tasha Valentine, Phoenix's very own honky-tonk gal, has landed a role on Nashville Star, the latest in the parade of reality TV shows clogging the airwaves. Tasha beat out 8,000 contenders to become one of 12 contestants locked up in a house in Nashville and competing (onstage at the Grand Ole Opry!) for a shot at country stardom. Trailed by cameramen, Tasha sneaked a phone interview, during which she tried to convince me to record a Dolly Parton song.

New Times: So you're on this show that's sort of a combination of American Idol and The Real World. Are you going to win?

Tasha Valentine: No! You've got to see the other contestants here. There's no way I can win, because these people rock. I'm here for a reason, but these other 11 are, too. And they're awesome.

NT: How has life changed since the first episode aired on March 8?

Valentine: It's been nutty. They keep us pretty busy with interviews, radio shows, stuff like that. And of course there are live cameras following us around day and night. Which is fabulous; I couldn't ask for anything better. I love the loss of privacy. So few people get to experience this.

NT: I'd be worried if I were you: Members of the viewing audience will be voting each week on your performance.

Valentine: Well, it's a combination of two votes: The audience gets to eliminate one contestant each week, and the judges get to ax one. The performing part of the show is live, but we film the stuff in the house in advance.

NT: Hey, your bio mentions that you work as a Patsy Cline impersonator. Why?

Valentine: I was asked to do her by this Dean Martin impersonator I met. I was singing at a casino, and he said, "Would you like to audition as Patsy?" I like to work, so I said yes.

NT: And where does one work as a Patsy impersonator?

Valentine: All over the place! I just did a gig in South Padre Island. I've done her in Myrtle Beach, just anywhere. Anywhere that's hiring me. I seem to do Patsy a lot in New Mexico.

NT: You wear vintage clothing a lot.

Valentine: What about it?

NT: Your media kit makes a big deal about how you only wear vintage clothing. It says that wearing old clothes is one of your trademarks.

Valentine: My trademark? It's just clothes. It just is. I don't have a trademark.

NT: It says here that you have a fresh new look. And that your other trademark is a huge flower above your right ear. Like Billie Holiday?

Valentine: Again, the flower is something that just is. Now that I'm on TV, it's trademark this and trademark that. I was born in Hawaii, and over there wearing a flower in your hair means you're a lady. So I've always worn one there. And now all the writers are making jokes about how I stole the idea from Kelly Osbourne. They're all, "Kelly wants her flower back!"

NT: You've been called "the previously undiscovered love child of Patsy Cline and James Brown."

Valentine: I love that! And it's true, I am! That's one quote that I actually said; that's straight from my mouth. I've always done Patsy; I'm not too into pop country. I don't really care for Shania Twain or Faith Hill; they don't make me proud to sing country. Blues has been a big thing for me. I was in an all-girl blues band for four years. The blues is what makes my heart beat.

NT: Does Prentiss Varnon, your housemate on Nashville Star, make your heart beat?

Valentine: He's pretty cute, yeah. Kind of a doll face. He's got that country charm, if you're into that.

NT: You're not?

Valentine: I'm into... I can't even think of what I'm into right now. There's not room in my psyche for that now.

NT: Speaking of housemates, that Amy Chappell looks like a bitch!

Valentine: You think? I'm surprised that, of all of them, you'd say that about her. She's so, like, quiet. We all went out to a bar and some of us were drinking, her especially. You know, you go into a bar and your true colors come out. Um, she's actually a really sweet girl.

NT: So, are you being filmed right now?

Valentine: No. But there's almost no time alone. They don't tell you that coming in, of course. We had to sign a disclaimer saying they can film us naked. Like, why? They don't want a scandal any more than we do.

NT: So, let's say you win. Are you going to sell out and do a Britney? Will we see you on VH1 in a tube top and too much eye makeup?

Valentine: Only if they pay me enough! Actually, you're more likely to see me in a nun's habit. And I guarantee you, the American public doesn't want to see what I look like in a tube top!

NT: I'm terrified that you're going to succumb to industry pressure and cover a Dolly Parton song.

Valentine: Oh, no! How can you not love Dolly? I have friends writing me, "Please meet Dolly and ask her if they're real!" Hey, I'd cover a Dolly song in a heartbeat. Wouldn't you?

NT: Well, actually...

Valentine: I think you should do it. But don't record "I Will Always Love You," please. Do that song she sang in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. You know that song?

NT: Uh, I'm kind of not up on my Dolly.

Valentine: I don't know the name of it. But you go rent the movie, and you listen for that song, and I want you to learn it and then you record it. Then call me back and tell me you did it.

NT: I promise. Now you promise me something: No duets with Kenny Rogers!

Valentine: Oh, I don't know. I have a velvet painting of him above my bed. I really do. But, okay. I promise you I won't record a duet with him. I already know who I do want to record a duet with, though: either Lyle Lovett or k.d. lang.

NT: Wow. You have really good taste. Here's some advice: Marry your producer! Look at what it did for Shania Twain and Mariah Carey.

Valentine: I know. And my producer is single, too. I'll tell him you said that.

NT: The promos for the show say that if you win Nashville Star, one of the prizes is your first album will be produced by "country music legend Clint Black." When did Clint Black become a legend?

Valentine: I don't know. Uh, I... no comment.

NT: Hey, for someone who just started doing interviews, you're pretty good at it.

Valentine: Are you gonna be good to me? Because I read New Times, and if you're mean to me I'm gonna come out there and I'm so gonna bust you.

NT: I'll consider myself forewarned.

Valentine: Good. Now get busy on that Dolly number.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela