Years before her father was selected as a United States Senator for Massachusetts, Ayla Brown was the family member stealing all the headlines. For those who may not know, Ayla Brown started her sports & entertainment career during the fifth season of American Idol. Ayla made it to the top 16 before being eliminated at lucky 13 before she was sent home. What America did not know, was how motivated and driven this young lady was. During her time on American Idol, it was only briefly mentioned that she was going to be starting a college basketball career at Boston College, a feat that many people do not understand.
Being a college athlete is hard enough. You give up your life for a complete new one. This was a fear of the Boston College coaching staff prior to Brown’s arrival. They even offered to red shirt her for a season so that she could take some time to adjust from Hollywood to the Heights. Brown’s motivation and hard work wouldn’t allow that to happen. She gave the Eagle’s coaches her word that she would be ready to compete at the highest level and take on the challenges that the talented ACC would bring her way.
Throughout Brown’s college career, she was a consistent performer for the Eagles. She never let American Idol and her entertainment career overcome her focus on the court. When asked about how her opponents treated her, she said that she was never asked about American Idol, however she was asked by the Maryland program to sing the national anthem before a game in College Park. This was one of Brown’s favorite memories of her time with the Eagles.
For Boston sports fans out there, you know that the media in Boston is very tough. When asked how her interaction with the Boston media was, Brown was very humble. “For awhile they talked about American Idol during my freshman year at BC, but as time went on and basketball became my only focus, they stuck to that.” It is key to note that during Brown’s basketball career she was also trying to continue to build her musical brand. This was very tough for her. Any college basketball fan knows that being a college athlete comes with a number of restrictions and rules. Ayla was no exception. She credits her father for always being there to make sure she was in compliance.
Scott Brown’s ability to monitor his daughter’s dual-career in one of the most scrutinized divisions in sports (NCAA Compliance) is pretty remarkable. Ayla had to make a number of sacrifices to make sure that she did not put herself, but more important the Boston College program at risk. Ayla also credits the amazing relationship she had and keeps with her father. Many people do not know that even though he had a very busy schedule, he never missed a Boston College game. Ayla also shared with us that her father has some game as well, and states that the two would even challenge President Obama and Miss Maya Moore in a game of 2 on 2. Through it all, everybody that has followed the Brown family must look at them now and say Wow!
Scott Brown has recently started his first term as United States Senator for Massachusetts while Ayla is focusing on her music career. Looking Up Court had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Ayla last month regarding all of her success, from American Idol to BC and everything in between. It was a pleasure talking to Ayla about her story, a story that began when she was 17 and looks like it will have many more chapters.
Looking Up Court: When did you know you wanted to tryout for American Idol?
Ayla: I knew I wanted to try out for American idol about a month before. My mom came home with a bunch of information printed out about auditions and really encouraged me to try out. It never even crossed my mind to go through the process.
Looking Up Court: Who was your biggest supporter when you started the journey?
Ayla: My mother was my biggest supporter. She stood with me in the pouring rain for 18 hours at Gillette Stadium to try out. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have even considered trying out.
Looking Up Court: What was your best memory from the competition?
Ayla: My best memory from the competition was the first performance on national television. I was singing my favorite song of all time; “Reflections” by Christina Aguilera and it was also my first time singing to a large crowd. I was nervous and excited at the same time. The most exciting part was when Ryan Seacrest called my name out on stage and the band started playing. It was my first time performing with a band… and there’s no better feeling than that!
Looking Up Court: Outside of basketball, how was college life after being on TV and competing college basketball?
Ayla: If you take basketball and American idol out of my college experience, I would have to say it was pretty anti-climatic. There’s nothing like putting on a uniform and playing on your home court, and there’s nothing like singing in front of thousands of people. Of course I learned a lot in class, but I really believe that most of my learning came from real life experiences. I was blessed to have the opportunity to live two dreams while at Boston College. Basketball, and singing, and I have to thank my coaches for allowing me to express myself and achieve both.
Looking Up Court: Do you think your basketball experience was different because of AI?
Ayla: In a way I do believe my basketball experience was a bit different because of American Idol. First of all, I made the mistake of not playing basketball when I was competing on American idol. When I was on the show, they kept us so busy that I never picked up a basketball. And the free time we did have, the bodyguards would not allow me to go alone to the court. Because of this, I was very far behind when I entered summer school at Boston College my freshman year. I regret not dribbling when I was out in CA because it put me at an extreme disadvantage. As a result, I wasn’t good enough to be a guard (which BC recruited me to be) and I ended up playing a power forward. I made the best of the situation, and still made All-ACC honorable mention, but if I could do it all over again I would have done some things differently.
The second way American Idol changed my life was the taunting aspect when we played at away games. It makes me laugh to think about it now, but opposing fans tried everything to get me off my game from making signs, saying, “Simon hates you,” to singing my audition song, “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough.” When we played Duke my freshman year the entire student section started singing that song. I’m pretty sure though that their taunting didn’t mean much, as I still scored 14 pts.
Looking Up Court: If you had competed in AI before your senior year, do you think it would have had an effect on recruiting?
Ayla: If I competed in American Idol before my senior year it wouldn’t have effected my recruiting. I committed to Boston College at the age of 15; therefore no matter what I did I was still going to Boston College. Of course the coach could have taken away my scholarship, as coaches can do for any reason, but I am very happy with the timing of everything. In fact, Cathy Inglese, called me while I was competing on Idol and said that they may red shirt me my freshman year. However, I ensured her that I would be ready to compete.
Looking Up Court: Do you think you will ever reenter the college basketball world (coaching, broadcasting, etc.)?
Ayla: At this point in my life, I don’t think I would re-enter the college basketball world, unless it was through broadcasting. Currently, I work as a Special Contributor for The Early Show on CBS so I could see the next step as a commentator or reporter for Women’s or Men’s Basketball. But right now, I am very happy with my career and am not looking to re-enter to basketball world. However, if the opportunity presented itself, I would definitely consider it. I still love the game.
Looking Up Court: Do you have any upcoming plans for your personal music (another album, a tour, etc.)?
Ayla: I just got back from an Afghanistan tour performing for our troops. It was an incredible experience that has given me a lot of stage practice. Currently, I am working on a country album. I just recorded four songs at Reba’s studio in Nashville and will be signing a recording contract in the next couple of months. I am blessed to have the opportunity to write songs with the best writers in the country and I am so excited about what the future holds for my band and myself. We have worked so hard since I graduated, and all the stars are aligning.
Looking Up Court: What is your take on the new judges for AI?
Ayla: I haven’t really thought about the judges on American idol to tell you the truth. I think the show is rapidly declining and it was smart that Simon left when he did. I will be surprised if idol has another extremely successful year in the ratings.
Looking Up Court: If you could play any AI judge 1 on 1, who would it be and why?
Ayla: Honestly, this might sound mean, but I wouldn’t even waste my time playing any of the judges. I would rather play someone who knows about basketball and has basketball experience. My dad challenged the President, so I am still waiting on an offer. Until then, I will wait for the next taker…
Looking Up Court: What are you stronger at, singing or basketball?
Ayla: At one point I would have said basketball, but those days are over. Singing has taken the lead!! But give me a little time to practice on the court and it could be a tie again. But honestly, I don’t care what I am stronger at. I played basketball for the love of the game, and I sing because I want my lyrics to resonate with listeners. If I have successfully done that, then I am truly happy.