All her world is a stage
Ayla Brown cannot escape the spotlight
Last Wednesday, Ayla Brown was on the cover of the Herald, touted as “Daddy’s Pit Bull,’’ in the wake of a press conference in which she and her sister defended their father against what they believed were unfair accusations by his political opponent.
On Sunday, she played 17 minutes and scored 6 points against 21st-ranked Georgia Tech in an upset victory for the Boston College women’s basketball team. When the game ended, she changed into grown-up clothes (no time for a shower) and hopped into a car waiting near the Doug Flutie statue outside Conte Forum. She applied her makeup en route to Worcester and got to the rally with four minutes to spare. Standing next to the real-life Doug Flutie, she introduced her father, state senator Scott Brown.
On Tuesday, her dad was elected to the United States Senate, succeeding the late Ted Kennedy. Waiting for the final tally, Ayla went to the Park Plaza after practice and belted out some tunes for enthusiastic supporters. Then she stood behind her senator-elect dad and cringed when he announced, on national television, that she and her sister were “still available.’’ She signed copies of her 2006 CD, “Forward,’’ until midnight (proceeds going to the Bush-Clinton Haitian Fund), stayed over at the Plaza with her family, then returned to campus Wednesday morning to resume classes and get ready for No. 25 Virginia.
Last night she scored 9 points in 23 minutes of a 70-68 loss to the Cavaliers. Her parents watched from their usual seats in a back row of Section K.
On Sunday, she’ll be in Tallahassee when the Eagles take on Florida State. On Tuesday, she’ll appear on the “
Clearly, there are not enough hours in the day to be Ayla Brown. And it’s only going to get worse. Or better. Depends on how you look at it.
No complaints from Ayla.
“I like the spotlight,’’ she said in an interview on campus Wednesday. “Tuesday night, it was all about my dad. I didn’t feel like it was on me, for a change. In 2006, I went through the exact same thing he did, where people would wait in line for hours for an autograph or to get a picture with me, and now he gets to go through it and it’s so cool to see someone else in the family have that spotlight.’’
The spring of 2006 was when high school senior Ayla Brown went national, standing in front of Simon, Randy, and Paula, week after week, advancing deep into the tournament we know as “American Idol.’’
Before “Idol,’’ she was just a wildly talented 6-foot girl who sang “America the Beautiful’’ at Mitt Romney’s inauguration when she was 14 and scored a whopping 2,358 points in a four-year basketball career at Noble & Greenough. Local sports fans knew her as the tall teen who would sing the anthem, a cappella, at Fenway or the Garden.
“Idol’’ changed everything. It made her a celebrity. More than that, it made her the most famous person in her family, no small achievement when your mother (Gail Huff) is a local television reporter and your father is a state senator.
Scott Brown vaulted into the national spotlight Tuesday. At this hour, he is a political rock star and there is wildfire whispering about presidential possibilities.
“He’s definitely more famous than me,’’ said Ayla, smiling.
True. But the already ubiquitous Ayla is only going to become more visible in the aftermath of the Scott Brown tidal wave.
“Because of this incredible attention my dad has put on the family, my website hits have gone through the roof, and it’s the same with plays on iTunes,’’ she said. “We were going to release the new CD in April, but if people are going to ask for new music, we might as well take advantage.
“We’ve been getting some incredible opportunities for interviews from TV shows and that’s awesome. I never really had that opportunity after ‘Idol’ because I wasn’t a top finalist, so now it’s all coming around again.’’
And then there’s the basketball career . . .
Brown is not a hardcourt star at BC. A role-playing starter for most of her career, lately she has been first off the bench. She averages 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. She fills her lanes, dives on the floor, sets screens, plays cornerback defense, and makes the other players better. Always in the correct spot, she is the female Luke Walton. If you had five of her, you would not lose many games.
All in all, it’s a remarkable achievement for a local girl who spent her high school years scoring 25 points nightly against friendly competitors from Groton School and Milton Academy. The Atlantic Coast Conference is another game entirely, and Brown has worked to make the grade.
“I kind of adapted and realized I had to do things differently with my game,’’ she said. “I had to be a little quicker, better on ball defense, and have a better driving game.’’
She knows her competitive hoop days are drawing to a close. Female basketball players have few options after college.
“There’s times I wish I was singing more, especially across the country,’’ she said. “I sometimes look at all the opportunities I could have had, but when I’m singing a lot, I miss games.
“It’s been a nice four years, but it will be nice to get a break, physically and mentally, when this is all over in the spring. Honestly, I’d love to give the singing thing a try.’’
Ayla has performed the anthem for all four Boston sports teams and sang on that frigid Friday night at Fenway when BC played Boston University in the NCAA hockey Winter Classic. She was the Celtics’ lucky charm in the championship spring of 2007, drawing anthem assignments before the Game 7’s against the Hawks and Cavaliers. Sadly, the green phone hasn’t rung since Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca ran for the Senate.
“It seems that way, which is unfortunate,’’ she said. “I love the Celtics, and not having the opportunity to sing like I had for the past three years is kind of disheartening. I hope they have me back.’’
The political landscape is peppered with landmines, including the ever-expanding subculture of anonymous Internet cretins, but BC’s singing senior forward regrets nothing.
“I tried to stay back from it [the campaign],’’ she said. “Usually I don’t like to be politically involved. But when Martha Coakley started running the negative ads and they were so false, my sister and I were like, ‘We have to put a stop to this.’
“That’s when we expressed interest to the campaign staff. We wanted to do something. After that, I was so wrapped in, there was no turning back. And I loved every minute of it.’’
Even the “pit bull’’ characterization?
“My mom didn’t like that, but I didn’t mind it,’’ she said. “I thought it was a good, fitting title. I had a lot of things to say and I made it very clear. Try not to believe the lies. I think people saw through to that.’’
Before the question is asked, she talks about the awkward “still available’’ moment.
“My dad told the whole country I’m single, and I’ve gotten bombarded with messages and requests from random men and I have no idea who they are,’’ she said with a chuckle. “I must have gotten 20 business cards from men [on election night]. No. No. That’s unacceptable.’’
She graduates May 24. Meanwhile, there are games to be played and songs to be sung, and the senator’s daughter will somehow find time for all of it.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.