When you're competing on a show called "The Voice," the last thing you expect is to be sent home for having too good of one.
But that's what happened to 36-year-old Miami singer Karina Iglesias, who got the boot from NBC's national singing competition last week after celebrity coach Shakira saved contestant Garrett Gardner—whom she believed needed more coaching than Iglesias—to advance to the show's top 12 round, after results revealed that neither contestant had received the public votes necessary to advance.
"Karina, you have such a monster voice," Shakira told Iglesias. "You really have an amazing voice and you're so good already. But Garrett, I think I can make improve a lot more, so I’m going to save him."
And just like that, Iglesias had her shot at a recording contract and her taste of stardom cut short. She returned home to South Florida on Wednesday.
"It was one of those moments where so many things go through your mind," said Iglesias Thursday night at her Miramar home. "I hugged [Shakira] really hard, she hugged me hard and told me she was sorry. I just remember her walking up to me and me being completely heartbroken."
Iglesias's family was shocked.
"We didn’t speak a word,” said Adelina Iglesias, who is married to Karina's father Jose. "Nobody called each other—nothing. Except for a co-worker who texted me: 'Sin palabras [no words].' I sent back: 'Muda [speechless].'"
The singer's partner Jacquie stayed up consoling her on the phone until 7 a.m. the next morning. The two have been together for four years and married ceremonially in 2011 in Florida, where same-sex marriage is not legal.
"We're all very proud," Jacquie said. "This is just the beginning."
Iglesias's father is also optimistic about his daughter’s future.
"She has the talent," said the elder Iglesias, who owns a convenience store named Tiny's Food Store in Hialeah. "I hope she makes it higher and starts making a lot of money, so I can quit making colados."
Check out our Q&A with the singer, who dishes about life behind the cameras, coming out to her family and maybe a duet with Pitbull.
Was this your first time auditioning for a national singing competition?
Oh, no. I had auditioned for American Idol and X Factor, and this was my third time auditioning for The Voice. It was interesting how it happened. I emailed them my links and, within a week, I was in Los Angeles. I didn’t have to attend the auditions they have in cities. They automatically flew me over based on my YouTube videos and [in L.A.] I executive auditioned for the producers.
What went through your head when you knew you were being sent home?
I was sad because I felt I did more than enough to stay and be top 12. And I felt that I really deserved for her to save me. But I was blessed in the experience because I’ve been watched by 15 million people every Monday and got to experience what the television show was like.
Who knows what was going through [Shakira's] mind? I'm pretty sure that it was a tough decision to make because I know that Garrett was her little baby the whole time. I thought maybe she’d want to save the person who’s worked their butt off their entire career to get there, but maybe she perceived it differently. And I respect that. People have to go home on the show. That’s the reality of it. I left a little too early but I’m still blessed to have made it that far.
What did Shakira say to you that night after elimination?
It was a big blur. It was one of those moments where so many things go through your mind. I hugged her really hard, she hugged me hard and told me she was sorry. I just remember her walking up to me and me being completely heartbroken. And then they had that moment where they say 'We're saying goodbye to Karina' and they walk me off. I thought, 'Wow, I’m leaving this stage for good.' It was a very bitter pill to swallow. But I'm happy that I did it and would do it again if I had the chance.
Well, Jennifer Hudson was also kicked off shockingly early from her season of 'American Idol' and now she has an Oscar and a Grammy.
Of course. You just don't know what doors are going to open. I’m definitely going to go back to L.A. and have some meetings, reconnect with people from the show. I know good things can come out of it if you continue to hustle and work hard.
Can we expect a new single on the radio any time soon?
We can't release any new stuff until the show is over on June 18. But one thing is getting the funds to do this record. People are telling me I just got out of The Voice and I'm going to be rich, but it doesn’t work that way. A lot of people are famous and broke.
Well, you recently received a tweet from Mr. 305 Records, "a record label focusing on the development and success of the next superstar" that’s tied to superstar Pitbull. Any chance they’d want to release your work?
I’m interested to see what their interest is. Maybe there's a little duet with Pitbull. Who knows?
Tell me about your grandmother, whom you’ve said before was your inspiration to start singing.
I grew up going to church with Abuela Olimpia, like, Tuesday through Sunday. She was very involved in the church and would always sing and call me up to harmonize with her. Then I started singing in school choir, but my mom couldn’t afford to keep me in choir so I didn’t pursue music until college.
Grandma went to the blind auditions and she went to the battle rounds too.
Shakira just announced she won’t be a coach for next season, and Christina Aguilera will be reclaiming her seat as a coach on the show’s next season. How do you feel about that?
The people that are in this room [Iglesias’s family] are probably really excited. But I think I was part of a special season because she was in it. I don’t know if Cee-Lo’s confirmed that he’s coming back but it’s possible. I’ve heard through the grapevine that those chairs are [Cee-Lo’s and Christina Aguilera’s] for good.
How was it different having her as a coach than Adam Levine?
I thought Shakira was a better coach for me. She was very hands-on and involved with everything, from our song selections to wardrobe and hair. She was more invested than Adam. But, then again, she’s a woman and Adam’s a guy, so I don’t see him getting much involved with people’s wardrobes. It’s just one of those things. Adam was a good coach too. He’s a very talented pop star and I would have done well with either of them.
The cool thing is that you get to perform in front of these mega superstars. I got four opportunities to sing in front of them and I performed with Rod Stewart too. There were so many things amazing things that happened. That battle with Judith Hill, everybody loved it. We had fun with that, too. We made a spoof.
What was your favorite song that you performed on The Voice?
It would have to be my last one, "Let’s Stay Together." It’s one of my favorite songs and I felt I was ready for it. I was just there having the time of my life and giving it all that I had. I didn't want to be nervous because I had prepared for that moment. I just wanted to enjoy it in front of the world. I will always be proud of myself because I know I did everything I could, and I had fun up there.
Have you thought about the role your sexuality will play in your career?
[Karina]: I've been pretty open about [my sexuality] for a long time. It doesn’t really matter in this day and age. We’re at a stage where everyone knows that people are people and love is love.
[Maritza Funes, her mother]: I did not expect it [when Iglesias came out as lesbian as a teenager]. It was hard in the beginning because of the way we were raised. But now, her friends come up to her and say, "I wish my mom was like yours."
[Karina]: Yeah, Mom went out with me to a few gay bars. She's doing better.
Anything you want to say to your South Florida supporters and your fans out there?
Thank you for the love and support. I was very happy to represent you.