Out singer/songwriter Dani Shay is competing on The Glee Project‘s second season, which premieres on Oxygen tonight. But if the singer looks familiar to you, it may be from last year’s America’s Got Talent, where she made it through to the finals after singing a parody of a Justin Bieber song. The judges appreciated her likeness to the pop star, but also her voice, and that is what she’ll be betting on to win this reality competition.
Dani talked with us about why she decided to try another reality show, what kind of role she’d want to play on Glee and why she didn’t sing Bieber for this audition.
AfterEllen.com: How excited are you about the Glee Project premiere?
Dani Shay: I’m stoked, completely stoked. I can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve been working on.
AE: With your experience before on the other reality show, I’m just wondering if you were hesitant? Were you portrayed exactly as you wanted to be? I wanted to see how your experience on America’s Got Talent fit in with your experience on The Glee Project.
DS: On America’s Got Talent — obviously they can’t fit everything into an episode so you kind of have to take it with a grain of salt knowing they obviously can’t include everything that happens so I kind of had to suck it up and accept how it was edited. Of course when entering another reality show situation I had a minor worry about that but really I just trust the people at The Glee Project a lot. I feel like they want to tell good stories and they have everyone’s best interests at heart so no I’m not too worried about it.
AE: As far as auditions prior to this, have you ever auditioned for anything like The Voice or American Idol or any other similar shows?
DS: No, actually, and I never really thought I’d be doing reality TV. I kind of had a negative view point on reality TV for a while and when the opportunity came up with America’s Got Talent my two videos kind of went viral, once that opportunity kind of came up I thought “why have I been so against this kind of thing?” I kept thinking “real artists” quote unquote wouldn’t do TV like that or do shows like that and I realized that in the end I want to reach as many people as I can and gain fans however possible. Luckily people have really connected to my music by doing those kinds of things.
AE: Why did you chose not to go with a Justin Bieber song for your Glee Project audition?
DS: When Bieber came around I didn’t know who he was but people kept telling me that I looked like this person. It wasn’t until I looked him up so I was doing my own music for five years prior to that moment happening so I never really wanted to be a look-a-like or be famous for looking like someone else so this whole thing is kind of weird to begin with. On the show’s website they gave a list of songs to chose from and, from what I learned from America’s Got Talent about maintaining your integrity about doing covers and making it your own and giving it your own spin, I decided to take on the challenge and do a song that they recommended. So I did “The Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga instead.
AE: Yeah, and it was great. I really enjoyed that.
DS: Oh, thank you very much. Hopefully in the end I won’t be known for that girl who looks like Justin Bieber. I hope to create a name for myself being Dani Shay and my music and people will be able to distinguish the difference.
AE: I was reading a little bit about your proposed storyline if you were to be a character on Glee and I was wondering if you could elaborate on it or just share what your idea is if you were able to join the show.
DS: Sure. If I was on Glee I’d really love to play an androgynous character — one that identifies with both genders. Obviously I’m biologically female but I feel like I identify with both genders and I wouldn’t want it to necessarily be like a transgender character it would be more of someone who is learning to accept all the sides of themselves.
Also I was raised in a Mormon background so I kind of had to decide for myself whether or not to continue down that path so I think it would be a really great dynamic to include in the story because I feel like so many kids have to decide if they can or should follow their heart and I chose to follow my heart. I really would like to push the boundaries of what people think is normal for “boys” and “girls.” I kind of want to push the gender norms and get people to see that it’s not just male or female, it’s not just black and white. There are so many shades of grey and all the different colors, too.
AE: A lot of the show’s fans enjoy the relationships on the show. Can you see yourself as your character in a relationship with an existing character on the show? And if so, who do you think it would be with?
DS: [Laughs] I don’t know. I thought about that. I’m not sure. A lot of people have made the comment that it would be interesting if I came in and had Santana maybe make fun of me at first but underneath she has some hidden attraction to me or curiosity I mean, that sounded pretty interesting when I heard that.
AE: Have you watched the show since the beginning?
DS: I didn’t watch it when it first came out. I didn’t really know about it. And then a good friend of mine said, “Have you ever seen Glee? I really think you would love it.” I feel like two years after it first started airing I started to watch it on Hulu and since then i’ve kind of caught myself up so I know what it’s like from the beginning but I didn’t start watching it until a couple years later.
AE: What was your relationship like with the other contestants? Was there any drama? What can you tell us?
DS: I can say that plenty of drama unfolds but I’d say, for the most part, we really do care about each other.
AE: Is there anything else you can tell us about it? I’m sure it’s difficult for you since the viewers haven’t really seen anything yet. Can you give us any songs that you’re going to sing or give us any guest stars that you’re allowed to tell us about?
DS: Well in our first episode, and I can say this because it was released, Lea Michele was our very first guest mentor so that was very exciting. From the very start they set the bar high.
The Glee Project airs tonight on Oxygen.