Originally created 05/11/05

Solomon goes from delivering mail to delivering on 'Idol'



When Vonzell Solomon sings, people cry.

"When my oldest brother was leaving to go to college in Tennessee she sang at his going away party," says Solomon's brother, Gabriel. "She sang him a song and had everybody at the party about to cry."

And Nancy Graham, Solomon's former principal, said when she sang at an awards ceremony, most of the people in the auditorium were in tears.

Before making it to the finals of "American Idol," Solomon worked as a letter carrier in Fort Myers, Fla., where she lived with her parents, Larry and Alice Goethie. She took a leave of absence from the post office to appear on the show.

When Solomon turned 21 in March, she told her parents she wanted to change her stage name from their nickname for her, Baby V, to the more sophisticated Lady V, which other American Idol contestants began calling her.

"Her mama had a fit," said Carol Sears, who heads the Baby V Fan Club.

Solomon's mother wanted to keep the old name because so many songs have the word "Baby" in them. So Solomon stuck with her family's endearment for their youngest child.

"There are very close ties in the family," Sears said. "She is dedicated to her daddy."

Solomon's father, a martial arts instructor, pushed her to pursue singing at the age of 10. In school, Solomon excelled in sports and karate, earning a black belt. She also loves to shop and often goes over her weekly clothing allowance given to her by the show's executives.

"She's not the type of person up in the clubs," Gabriel said. "Her friends will come over and shop. They shop a lot."

Sears said friends from the post office make up the core of Solomon's fan base. Every Tuesday, about 100 people gather in a banquet room Hurricane Harry's restaurant in Fort Myers. They watch the show, cheer and then furiously dial in votes on their cell phones.

On Wednesdays, they go to Florida Gulf Coast University's 4,500-seat arena, where they watch the results on a movie screen.

Locals also congregate in other bars around town on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to cheer for her. This week, Sears has also planned a phone bank at a car dealership where people can go to call and vote on land telephone lines.

Sears also sells T-shirts at these gatherings to raise money so that at least two family members can visit Solomon each week in California.

Nancy Koerner, a window clerk at the post office, said Solomon is just a nice girl.

"She always did a good job. She was one of the first ones to get there to make sure mail would get there," Koerner said. "People say no way, she can't be that nice, but she is real down-to-earth."

Solomon graduated with honors, but did not go to college.

"I was surprised. I know she's a real practical, pragmatic kid. Knowing Vonzell, she had a plan," Graham said.

In April 2004 Solomon released her first CD, "My Struggle."

"She wrote every song on there... My father pushed that," Gabriel said.

While working at the post office, Solomon also had singing gigs in varied places from Naples and Miami to Georgia. She also tried out once before for "Idol," but was rejected.

"She was planning on going to college, but she was doing her singing thing. She was so booked up, she didn't have time for school," Gabriel said.

It seems she was far too busy for a boyfriend, with whom she parted ways before joining the show.

Will she go from prom queen to idol?

"She is just one of these all-American kids," said Shelly Thimlar, assistant principal at Solomon's high school. "She would certainly personify the 'American Idol' dream."