POINT PLEASANT, N.J. - A close friend of "American Idol" semi-finalist Antonella Barba says that the aspiring singer is not the subject of some graphically sexual pictures purported to be of her that were posted on the Internet last week.
The pictures include one of four women posing topless at the beach, their hands covering their breasts, and others of a woman engaged in a sexual act. The postings were anonymous.
Barba's best friend, Amanda Coluccio of Holmdel, with whom she auditioned and won a trip to Hollywood for the second round before being eliminated, told The Star-Ledger of Newark that the less graphic photos are of Barba, but denied she is pictured in the pornographic ones.
"The really bad ones aren't her. I've studied them," Coluccio told The Star-Ledger for Monday's newspapers. "It's not her nose. She's never had (acrylic nail) tips (like the woman in the photo) in her life. She's the least slutty person I know."
Coluccio did not return phone messages from The Associated Press left at her home.
Meanwhile, here in the 20-year-old's hometown, where signs abound wishing her good luck, friends and strangers alike are supporting Barba, saving their condemnation for whomever posted the pictures online.
The fallout has many young people here thinking twice about posing for photos they thought were just to be shared among friends.
"It's the way this town is: Everybody knows everything about their friends," said Mark Dillon, 17. "At least half the people in this town have pictures of their friends on the toilet. I've personally seen at least 20. It's only because she's on TV that they're online."
Adam Bobertz, also 17, said what happened to Barba could happen to anyone.
"Everyone in this town has done something stupid at one time or another," he said.
Throughout Point Pleasant, a Jersey shore town of 18,177 about 60 miles north of Atlantic City, signs supporting Barba are many. They went up before the photos surfaced, and remain there, a symbol of her hometown's disdain for the commotion surrounding her.
Jacqui Reid, a florist whose daughter took violin lessons from Barba, said making the photos public was a gross invasion of privacy, but one that has become a fact of life in the digital age.
"Everyone has incriminating photos of one sort or another, and you never know when it's going to turn around and bite you on the you-know-what," she said. "It's a shame you can't just live your life and not have to worry about something like this becoming public.
"She's this attractive, talented girl who's also intelligent and knows where she wants to go," Reid said. "I consider her a role model for my daughter."
Even votefortheworst.com, a Web site that picks what it considers the worst American Idol contestants, said the Barba saga is sobering for young people.
"It's a real wake-up call for a lot of people," said Dave Della Terza of Chicago, who runs the site. "With the advent of MySpace and Facebook, people put photos up on the Internet and have to realize that someone you don't even know can grab these photos that you think are only going to be seen by your friends, and have them on every Web site in the world within 10 minutes."
Della Terza's site posted photos Monday that he claims confirms the woman in the sex photo is not Barba. Close-ups of the right ear of the woman in the sex photo, and a photo known to be of Barba, show differently shaped ears.
Her parents, Vincenzo and Valerie Barba, did not immediately respond to messages left on their answering machine and a letter left at their front door. A Fox publicist said the network would have no comment on the situation, and would not make any of the contestants available for interviews.
The photos capped a stressful week for Barba, who until recently had been studying architecture at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Her first performance on which viewers could vote, a rendition of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," was roundly panned by the judges.
Yet she made it through to the second round, and is due to perform Wednesday night with the nine other remaining female contestants.