The latest eliminated contestant, L.A. transplant Didi Benami, made the press rounds this morning and sounded surprisingly upbeat for someone who'd gotten little sleep and was still coming to terms with her "Idol" ouster.
Interestingly enough, Didi said the tough times she's weathered trying to make it in our fair city helped prepare her for this sort of rejection. "Like a lot of my L.A. experience, you get kicked down and you gotta get back up and start over," she said. "It's not anything I haven't dealt with before."
Didi, who moved West from her native Knoxville in 2005, said there were times when she would live out of her car to try to make ends meet. "It's been rough," she began. "I didn't really know what I was doing, I faced a lot of ridiculous hardships, I was waiting tables and switched jobs many times …. There were points when I didn't have a place to live, so I was living out of my car. It's never been a stable environment for me living out here until recently."
It was only when Didi started writing songs and taught herself to play guitar that she was able to find her way. "I met people who wanted to co-write and from there just started working on my skills and training myself to write," she said. "I took voice lessons, I worked really hard to get to where I am."
With Did more confident than ever in her musical identity, it's ironic that judge Kara Dioguardi, of all people, who signed songwriter Jason Reeves, one of the L.A. artists who worked with Didi pre-"Idol," would tell Didi she'd "lost her way." "I appreciate Kara," Didi defended. "I think she was trying to be helpful." In interpreting the judges' comments, Didi's take was fairly straightforward. "I don't feel like I lost my way," she said. "I feel like they wanted me to do
something specific every week and I kind of went out on a limb for
several weeks. I did different things that they weren't expecting
and they were kind of surprised …. It probably wasn't necessarily the side they wanted to see, but I was
just being me."
And like many who are marked for elimination, Didi confessed she did sense that it could be her time. "I kind of felt like I was going home," she said when the judges' save option was brought up. "I wanted to come back on for Beatles
week and be freed, but I'm not at all distraught about anything. I'm OK with it." Didi was considering singing "Blackbird" or "Across the Universe" for next week's Lennon-McCartney theme.
As for the tears, Didi acknowledged that she is an emotional person but insisted that she doesn't cry all that much. "I've actually been pretty strong through this whole thing," she said. "I'm not always emotional, but the camera always seemed to catch me when I was." Still, she added. "Music is definitely therapy for me. I do it as a release
and it's who I am."
Asked whether any part of her was relieved to be going home, she answered with a sigh: "I am relieved. I get to go on tour, I don't have to work as a
waitress anymore, I get to do what I love. it's amazing the fans that are
already reaching out and supporting me. It's a relief to know that I'll
be able to make a living doing what I love to do over the summer."
With the competition behind her, there's only one thing left to look forward to: "I can't wait to sleep!" Didi said with a laugh. "I'm exhausted but really grateful and glad I had the chance to do it."
— Shirley Halperin
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Photo: Didi Benami plays around during the Top 12 photo portrait shoot. Credit: Michael Becker / PictureGroup