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Two local residents featured on reality TV

SARASOTA — Chris Eisenberg hopes to win over America tonight.

The 12-year-old Sarasota resident is one of 48 finalists hoping to make it through the next round of the NBC show “America’s Got Talent.”

Eisenberg — known as “Lil Chris” to the show’s celebrity judges Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan — will use his energetic singing prowess to wow the nation when the show airs at 9 p.m. today.

The plan is to perform Ne-Yo’s “Closer,” said Nate Jacobs, whose served as Eisenberg’s mentor during his reality TV experience.

Jacobs is rallying for local residents to vote. It could eventually help Eisenberg win the show’s $1 million prize.

“I hope that Sarasota/Bradenton supports him,” said Jacobs, artistic director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, where Eisenberg is an active member. “He’s one of our own and we’re very proud of how he is handing this. It’s a lot of pressure.”

There are long days of rehearsals and working with vocal coaches, but Jacobs said Eisenberg is very focused. Jacobs’ advice to the young star in the making: Don’t just sing a song — sell it to the audience by making it his own.

Local theater-goers may already be familiar with Eisenberg’s performance skills. He recently appeared in Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s “The Motown 60s Revue.” There, he won audience’s attention by performing spirted renditions from Michael Jackson’s youth.

Eisenberg hopes to appear in the troupe’s summer reprise of “The Motown 60s Revue,” which opens Thursday. He’ll be in the weekend performances.

“He looks at it as a high privilege for him,” Jacobs said. “He’s calling from Hollywood concerned about being missed, being left out of things with us and what we’re doing here. It’s just a really nice thing to see that kind of excitement.”

Jacobs has been working with Eisenberg for two seasons in the theater troupe. He also prepared him for his “America’s Got Talent” audition with the Stevie Wonder hit “Uptight” about two months ago.

Santiago back on TV

Returning to reality TV is Bradenton’s Jessica Santiago. The former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant will be featured on Si TV’s “Model Latina: NYC.”

The show, in its third season, premieres 9 p.m. Aug. 2. Santiago is one of 15 Hispanic contestants modeling for a variety of runway and photo assignments while promoting their heritage.

The Caguas, Puerto Rico native said there will be lots of interesting surprises in store.

“Everybody in Bradenton should tune in and watch it,” said Santiago, 20.

The group will compete for a modeling contract and $25,000.

After being voted off early in Cycle 12’s “ANTM” last year, Santiago said she took what she learned from show host Tyra Banks into “Model Latina.” Those lessons included how to work her eyes and expression for the camera.

“I was awfully confident, just like on ‘ANTM’,” Santiago, who signed with Ford Models last year, said during a phone interview from Puerto Rico.

“I think everybody should have a high self-esteem. With a high self-esteem, you can go a long way.”

Going far in life is what Santiago has in mind.

The Manatee Technical Institute nursing student also will be filmed for another reality TV show documenting her experience as a beauty pageant contestant for Miss Puerto Rico.

If she wins the Nov. 4 pageant, she will compete in Miss Universe.

As far as school, Santiago plans to return next year — that is, if she doesn’t win Miss Puerto Rico, which requires a year’s commitment.

“I’m very pro-education,” Santiago said. “You have to have a plan B in life. Modeling is great while it lasts, but it doesn’t last forever.”

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