Feb. 21, 2015
By: Katie Egan


Local Veterans of CBS’s ‘Survivor,’ FOX’s ‘Idol’ and NBC’S ‘The Voice’ Talk About Post-TV Life


Southwest Florida has talent to rival major metropolitan rivals. From powerhouse vocalists to “Survivor” alums, Naples, Cape Coral and Estero have yielded competitors on shows including “The Voice,” “American Idol” and “Survivor.”

The Daily News caught up with Casey Weston, Ricky Manning, Lazaro Arbos and Alec Christy to find out what life has been like after the cameras stopped rolling for these local Naples, FL reality TV veterans. Paige Miles, the 11th-place finalist from the 10th season of “American Idol,” was not available for an interview.

Grammy Aspirations

You might remember 22-year-old Casey Weston from the 2011 inaugural season of NBC’s hit reality show “The Voice.” Weston was one of the top two finalists on Adam Levine’s team. She was already a star in Naples, where she grew up singing at local events.

Since the show wrapped up, Weston moved to Nashville, Tennessee. She released “Casey Weston” in 2011, followed by “Find the Moon” in 2013. Her latest album, “Young Heart,” debuted this year on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s all about different kinds of love,” she told the Daily News. “It’s about young love, new love, heartbreak and situations that aren’t great when you’re in love.”

Weston’s sound is still evolving, but she always knew she wanted to be a singer.

“When I was in first grade, we had to make these dream bubbles and we had to draw a picture and say my dream is to be whatever. And I drew a picture of me in this blue gown on this big stage,” she said in a phone interview. “So I think I’ve always kind of known.”

Being on “The Voice” gave Weston a platform, she said.

When asked what kept her spirits up on the high-pressure reality show, she said: “I think it’s the love of it. You’ve got to love what you do. There will always be struggles and you’ve always got to look on the bright side, the silver lining. There’s a new song coming tomorrow.”

Weston hopes one of those songs will help her win a Grammy — her ultimate goal.

Singer First

Former Cape Coral resident Ricky Manning, 20, moved to New Jersey to pursue a singing career after he graduated high school in 2013.

In September, the former contestant on “The Voice” told himself he’d give it a year to make it in the Big Apple.

But when open call auditions for the NBC reality show were announced in January 2014, he asked himself, “Why not give it a try?” What did he have to lose?

After waiting in line for up to eight hours and singing the Beatles’ “Come Together,” Manning was asked to come back the next day. On the show, he reached the Top 20 before being cut.

“Now I know that I’m good enough to do this as a career,” he told the Daily News in a phone interview. “It gave me a lot of confidence that I was probably lacking before the show.”

He said his coach, Pharrell Williams, singer of the megahit “Happy,” taught him that stars don’t stand still. They twinkle.

“You have to love what you’re doing a lot more than you’re afraid of it,” Manning explained. “So your love for what you want to do or what you do has to outweigh your fear.”

After recently moving to California, Manning said he’s open to pursue any opportunity that comes his way.

“I’m just trying to make a career as a performer/entertainer,” he said. “As an artist, I want to be happy and content with the music I’m making. As a performer I want to be someone who’s happy and love what I’m doing.”

“But I’m a singer before an actor and a singer before a model,” he said.

Stuttering To Voice Of Gold

Lazaro Arbos came in sixth on the 2013 season of FOX’s “American Idol.”

The 24-year-old went from singing in his car to singing on the “American Idol” stage.

He often stutters when he speaks, but the speech impediment disappears when he sings. Singing has been an outlet for Arbos since he was young, he said. He started seriously pursuing his talent in high school.

The Naples resident and Gulf Coast High School grad cites rap artist Nicki Minaj, one of the show’s judges while he was on it, as the most influential on his career.

“She does know what she is talking about. She’s very wise about the music business. She kind of like influenced me to stand up for myself,” he said.

Being on the show gave Arbos the confidence to pursue his singing career.

He is currently working with songwriters to hone his signature sound, but since he is not signed to a record label, creating his album is a slow, but steady, process. He hopes to release the album’s first song in July.

On his record, Arbos said he wants to channel Maroon 5 and powerhouse vocalist Adele while also being a source of inspiration for his fans.

“I kind of wanted to reach out to the people who have gone through love stuff. It’s going to be sad, but also very eye-opening. It’s cool. I like it,” he said.

Surviving ‘Survivor’

Florida Gulf Coast University senior Alec Christy said last year’s season of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” was an experience he’ll never forget.

“Most people don’t realize that they’re (the contestants) only getting about 100 calories from the rice a day. There are more calories in a can of Sprite,” he said and laughed. While Christy was on the CBS reality show, he lost 27 pounds.

His brother, Drew, was selected to be on “Survivor,” but since the show’s theme involved competing with and against a loved one, Drew Christy asked his younger brother to come along for the ride.

During his time in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, Christy said he learned a lot about himself — “What my limits are and what limits I can surpass,” he said.

He realized how lucky he was to call himself an American. He said he’ll never take running water, a refrigerator or a toilet for granted again.

Some people treat him differently after seeing him on the show. Christy doesn’t love it, but he doesn’t hate it.

“I’m indifferent. I have to tell the same story. They’re all good people. It’s just starting to get old,” he said.

Christy is glad he had the opportunity, but at the end of the day, he said he’s just the same guy. He will graduate from FGCU this summer with a bachelors in communication.

Click here for more by Katie Egan