By Amy & Nancy Harrington, Pop Culture Passionistas
A reality judge opens her heart, a TV icon is honored by the Queen and a news anchor shares extraordinary advice. Here are this week’s most inspirational pop culture moments.
“American Idol”: The Reality Competition Show with a Heart
Last night proved once and for all that this is not your big sister’s “American Idol” any more. Where once Simon Cowell sat and snarled at young, singing hopefuls and Paula Abdul tossed in a kooky comment, now sits a trio of compassionate judges.
When producers announced that Stephen Tyler and Jennifer Lopez would be the latest panel on “AI” alongside veteran Randy Jackson, everyone thought the show had jumped the shark and was on its last legs. Last night proved that the signing competition’s heart is still beating strong.
The pivotal moment came when it was time to tell contestant Chris Medina whether or not he’d made the final 24. The 26-year-old Illinois barista won over the trio and the audience during his audition for the show. His story was an ultimate “Idol” tearjerker. Just two weeks before his wedding to Juliana Ramos, she got in a car accident and suffered brain damage. He has remained by her side and even brought her along to meet Tyler, Lopez and Jackson.
On Wednesday’s show, Lopez was given the unfortunate task of telling Medina that his journey was to end that night. He was gracious in the face of the bad news. She broke down in tears, saying, “I just don’t want to tell him no… I guess I just don’t feel like I told him in the right way.” Her co-stars, who were equally moved, comforted her and reassured her that she handled it perfectly.
While J-Lo wept, Medina left with a smile on his face saying, “I’m gonna go home and keep writing music… take care of my fiancée and make a miracle happen.”
The Fonz Is Honored by the Queen
Henry Winkler, best known as The Fonz from “Happy Days” and currently a recurring character on USA’s “Royal Pains,” is getting a royal distinction. It was announced last week that Winkler is being awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, for his untiring work on behalf of with children with learning challenges. We spoke with the actor, author and humanitarian a few days ago about the honor.
Winkler, a gracious man deserving of all honors, simply remarked, “Amazing. Isn’t that amazing?”
He continued, “I got a letter that said, ‘You must keep this a secret. If the Queen decides to give you an award, would you accept it?’ I said, ‘Yes, I would. I would be okay with that.’ And then six weeks later I get a letter saying, ‘The Queen of England has graciously agreed to confer on Henry Winkler the Order of the British Empire.'”
He explained that it is for his work in England “with children who learn differently.” He continued, “My books, ‘Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever’ that I co-write with Lynne Oliver, are also popular in the U.K., and I go over there to tour for the books and I’ve spoken to, oh, I want to say a hundred thousand students over there also. And so my work with children who learn differently is what got me to this wonderful honor. The Queen.”
Winkler’s “Hank Zipzer” series of 17 books is about a young boy with dyslexia, a condition Winkler himself has but was not diagnosed with until he was 31 years old. Winkler works tirelessly for children with SEN (Special Educational Needs). He launched a campaign in England last February called the My Way! Campaign to encourage awareness in kids, schools, parents and teachers and to help children navigate the world of learning disabilities. He stated, “No matter how a child learns, their brilliance has nothing to do with that. Because it is difficult for them, it does not mean that they are not brilliant.”
Katie Couric Inspires Extraordinary Lives
Katie Couric’s come a long way from perky morning show host to respected nightly news anchor. And she’s using that clout to inspire people with her upcoming book “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives.”
In the inspirational work due out on April 12, Couric features the stories of some pretty incredible people. She talks to successful people from a variety of disciplines like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “Modern Family’s” Emmy-winning actor Eric Stonestreet, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. The rich, famous and powerful will share some words of wisdom and a bit of their journeys. And Couric also shares a bit of the knowledge she picked up on her own path from an assistant at ABC to CBS news anchor.
As if that weren’t enough, Couric is donating her profits from the book to Scholarship America. According to the organizations’ site, the group “mobilizes support for students getting into and graduating from college.”
Sounds like Couric will help foster a few more extraordinary lives before she’s done.