(Provided by Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau):
Anoop Desai (born December 20, 1986) was a contestant on the eighth season of American Idol, placing 6th. Desai has credited his decision to audition for American Idol to the death of a friend, Eve Carson, who was murdered. During the broadcast of the wild card round on March 5, 2009, he gave a “shout out” to his alma mater—University North Carolina– and mentioned Eve, as it was the one-year anniversary of her death. Desai is the second Indian American to advance to the final stage of the popular reality show.
Desai, an only child, grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His parents both work in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Desai’s father was born in India, and his mother, also of Indian descent, was born in South Africa.
In the 1990s, Desai appeared on the WRAL-TV (NC Triangle) television children’s show, “CentralXpress.com”, and played the character “Raj”. The show won multiple awards, including seven regional Emmys, two national Iris awards, and a national Gabriel Award.
Desai attended Phillips Middle School then later went on to attend East Chapel Hill High School, graduating in 2004. He was awarded a four year academic merit scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was the Haywood W. Hinkle Carolina scholar from 2004 to 2008.
After being accepted and planning to attend college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Desai auditioned for and was accepted as a member of the UNC Clef Hangers, a long-standing male a capella group founded in 1977. He was accepted in the group as a senior in high school with the understanding that he would begin attending the University in the fall of 2004. Desai served as the group’s Music Director during his junior year and as the group’s president his senior year.
Desai graduated from UNC in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double majoring in Political Science and American Studies. He was awarded the 2008 Peter C. Baxter Memorial Prize in American Studies, as one who exemplified “intellectual excellence, personal warmth and creativity.”
Desai rose to national fame with his participation and sixth place finish in the eighth season of American Idol. He auditioned for the show on August 8, 2008 in Kansas City, Missouri, and was selected as a semifinalist following his “Hollywood Week” performances. Anoop Desai became the farthest an Indian-American has made it on American Idol.