Consider 19-year-old Shyamali Malakar as one of the people who is surprised her brother Sanjaya has made it this far in American Idol's sixth season.
"I did not expect him to get as far as he did, and I did not expect him to be such a phenomenon, but he could get as far as [the top] four or five," Shyamali recently told TV Guide. "I did not think Stephanie [Edwards] or Sabrina [Sloan] would get cut out so early, and I did not see Gina [Glocksen] going before Haley [Scarnato]. It is hard to predict."
"I thought from the beginning that [Sanjaya] would make it through, but I was definitely surprised [that I didn't], since on a professional level I have more experience and am much more able to deal with the pressure," she said. "I was not angry but disappointed in the process. I am not resentful. It is definitely a high-pressure thing. The closer I am to it, the happier I am [not to be] the one [enduring it]."
Other than their blood relation and vocal abilities, Sanjaya and Shyamali share something else in common: criticism from Simon Cowell.
"I believed Simon more [when he was criticizing me] than Sanjaya believes him [now]," Shyamali said. "I admire Simon for being honest, but I do not know that he is right in everything he says. He tries too hard to be mean, and I tried to change [his opinion of me]. If you can't sell yourself, it is hard for other people to accept you in the end."
While Sanjaya might be none-the-wiser of what critics are saying about him because he's living in the Idol bubble, Shyamali said she knows how he would handle it.
"He is thin-skinned as far as being empathetic and having concern for friends and family, but he does not worry about criticism. He has no trouble changing his style and crazy hairdo, he does not care what people say. He says, 'I am confident,'" Shyamali said. "I am proud of Sanjaya and how he handles the controversy. He doesn't read the blogs and doesn't watch TV - he's isolated in the environment - so he doesn't have to be as exposed to it as I am. But it doesn't seem to be getting him down."
She added her family is also dealing with Sanjaya competing all the attention that comes with it.
"It has been both a learning experience and a dream come true. I never would have expected to get the exposure and recognition and popularity that Sanjaya has gotten, because there is no other way to achieve it," she said. "It is a whirlwind of craziness, random people prying into your personal life. It is hard to prepare for, it all happens so fast. It has definitely changed everybody's lives, for all of my family."
Shyamali said she was studying at Evergreen St. College but is currently preparing to move to Los Angeles and pursue a music career. While she didn't expect her baby brother to make it as far as he has, she hinted it wouldn't surprise her if he made it farther.
"I could see Sanjaya and Melinda Doolittle in the end, which would be crazy. It all depends on who is more popular," Shyamali surmised.
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