American woman becomes finalist on 'Arabs Got Talent'

By Meredith Blake

Los Angeles Times

Jennifer Grout is a 23-year-old blond from Boston with a lovely singing voice and dreams of stardom who, like many an aspiring superstar before her, has turned to a reality TV in a bid for fame.

But Grout is not competing on "The Voice" or "American Idol," but rather "Arabs Got Talent," the Middle Eastern version of the talent show franchise created by Simon Cowell and produced in Lebanon.

Grout, who was profiled by both the Guardian and ABC News this week, developed an interest in Arab music as a university student in 2010. After graduation she moved to Morocco to pursue her passion but still speaks little Arabic. That was evident in her first appearance on "Arabs Got Talent" in September, when she prompted giggles from the audience by failing to comprehend the rather simple question, posed in Arabic, "What's your name?"

Despite the language barrier, Grout won over a skeptical panel of judges with her rendition of the song "Baeed Anak" by the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum; she even played the accompanying music on the oud, a lute-like instrument. (As any experienced reality TV viewer and/or Susan Boyle can tell you, the most jaw-dropping moments always happen when the audience is primed for disaster.)

Though some have wondered whether Grout might be an impostor, her performance on the show has so far won praise from Arab media. "America couldn’t have wished for a better ambassador to the Arab world," declared the Morocco World News.

Grout will next compete in the competition finals on Dec. 7.