American Idol's Karen Rodriguez Wants to Be 'Beyoncé in Spanish'
"I see messages from people all over the world saying, 'Thank you for keeping her memory alive after 16 years,' " says Rodriguez, 21. "She jumpstarted Jennifer's career as well. When [Lopez] got the part [in Selena], she was the highest paid Latina for a film and broke so many barriers."
Now Lopez has become one of Rodriguez's mentors. "Jennifer has been a fan of mine from the beginning," Rodriguez says. "She wanted to save me, she told me. But she said, 'Someone has to go and it is your time.' "
Another supporter of Rodriguez is fellow contestant Jacob Lusk, one of her best buddies in the top 12.
"There was a time when he was a feeling a little down," Rodriguez says, "and he would always come up to me and have me snap him out of that attitude. He said, 'I think I'm going home, but you better go out and win this and be the next Latina Idol!' I said, 'You're not going anywhere!' But that's what made our bond so strong."
Praised for singing in both English and Spanish, Rodriguez wants to continue that mix in her first album – and has her sights set on big goals.
"I've always envisioned myself as a Beyoncé in Spanish," she admits. "I've always had a love for salsa music and meringue. But at the same time, I want to do the tours and dance and really be Beyoncé. It will be an album where you don't know what's coming up next! I can't wait."