I recently participated in a conference call interview with Didi Benami, the most recent person voted off of American Idol. Here's what she had to say about her experience:
Were you at all prepared for the scrutiny you faced while you were on the show, and how did you deal with it all?
No, actually I wasnít prepared for that. I was not an avid American Idol watcher, so I didnít really know what to expect. Honestly, I was just being myself, and I did stuff that meant something to me, and I also had a good time. So, I wasnít expecting that, no, but I am okay. I dealt with it, and itís actually interesting because it was a lot like my Los Angeles experience. You get kicked down; you got to get back up again and start over. Itís not anything I havenít dealt with before. So, no big deal.
So how do all the contestants get along with one another this season?
Everyone seems to get along pretty well. I think everyoneís doing their own thing and everybody respects that and itís kind of like separate little families in all of our apartments and everything. It was really nice. Actually, I really enjoyed spending time with some of them. I think that they are really, really great people, so I am really happy and really enjoyed meeting all of them. And yes, it was really nice.
Didi tell us a little more about that Los Angeles experience because youíve been there for four years now. Tell us first of all, what is your day job when youíre there? And, have you made some kind of inroads in either music or modeling or acting? Describe the experience in general.
Oh boy! Itís crazy. I moved out here when I was 19, and Iíve had crazy roommates and all sorts of ridiculous experiences where I moved around a lot. There were points where I didnít even have a place to live, and I was living out of my car, and itís been rough. I wanted to do some entertainment, and I wanted to sing and do Rebeccaís songs, and I somehow managed to find my way along the way because I didnít really know what I was doing, other than I moved out to LA and was trying to pursue what I loved.
And, I just faced a lot of ridiculous hardships. I was waiting tables and itís never predictable. I switched jobs many times. Itís never really been a stable environment for me, ever, living out here until just recently, and then my life got uplifted again. And, itís a crazy experience in LA, and you get kicked down a lot. I taught myself how to play guitar and write out everything that was bothering me or anything that I had on my mind and couldnít say in reality to somebody because I wanted to be nice. And, I was able to start writing songs and meet people that wanted to co-write and from there, just really started honing (I canít find the words I am so tired) and just started working on my skills and trained myself to write and took voice lessons. I worked really, really hard to get where I am, so I am just really grateful that I had the opportunity to be on American Idol in the first place because itís a great platform for me to be able to get my music out there and to continue my song writing and my love and my passion and what I was put here to do. So, itís really amazing.
Can you speak about any relief and acceptance you felt by making the Top 10 and anything else you felt about it?
Yes. I am relieved. I get to go on tour. I donít have to work as a waitress anymore, which is nice. I get to do what I love more than anything, and itís just amazing, like the fans that are already reaching out and supporting. Itís amazing. Itís a blessing and yes, it is a relief. Itís a relief to know that I will be able to make a living at what I love to do over the summer, and hopefully, for the rest of my life. So, yes, itís been a really, really awesome experience, and I am relieved, yes.
Itís been a real emotional time for you during the last several weeks. Youíve cried a lot. Youíve cried during your singing. People have been talking a lot about that. Is this emotion, has this been a release for you emotionally, or is this just the way you are ordinarily?
Music is definitely therapy for me. Itís therapeutic and I do it as a release, and itís who I am. And itís funny because the cameras always catch me whenever I am emotional, which sucks because I am not always emotional. Iíve actually been pretty strong through this whole thing. Itís just whenever something happens or I break down, itís unfortunately right when thereís a camera in my face. But, itís been an amazing ride, and of course, itís been emotional because this is something that Iíve always wanted to do and reaching that place that I got to on the show was a really amazing thing for me, and it was a really big accomplishment. That was emotional for me because you work so hard, and you just try to believe and keep the faith and imagine and just know that good things will come, and when they finally do, itís like almost in disbelief, and itís a really amazing opportunity, and it brought me to tears, so Ö.
And just quickly, how long ago was it that you were living in your car?
Oh God! Well there are several different occasions. Probably within the first year that I was here I would say, it was, letís see, because I moved five or six different times when I first moved out here in 2006, so it was between 2006 and 2007.
When Ryan was dogging on you about revealing what the song was about, do you think that hurt you that you didnít say anything, or you donít really?
I donít know. Thereís no way to tell what the, it was kind of a weird situation. It was kind of awkward for me, and I wasnít trying to get any sort of, thereís a time and place for, I was trying to convey a message through the song, not by somebody asking me why I was singing it. I think it was pretty obvious to people why I was singing it. And I donít think that anybody hasnít had that emotion, and I sang the song because I love the song, so Ö.Yes, and it was kind of an uncomfortable situation for me because I didnít want to answer the question, but ultimately, I think I did what I thought was in my best interest, and itís all good.
I was wondering , next week is Beatlesí week. What songs were you thinking of singing next week?
Dude, I am so bummed. I totally wanted to, I was going to come back next week. I wanted to do ďBlackbird.Ē That was my first choice. I love that song. It was either going to be ďBlackbirdĒ or maybe ďAcross the Universe.Ē I was kind of going back and forth with several, so I hadnít really started to really delve into that though because I wasnít really sure what was going to happen. So, and you always have to try and stay present, so Ö.
I wanted to ask you about something Kara said to you during the judging. She said that she felt like you had lost your way. What was your reaction to her saying that? Did you understand what she was saying? Did you agree? What was your opinion on that?
I donít feel like I lost my way. I feel like they wanted me to do something specific every week and I kind of went out on a limb several different weeks and I did different things and they werenít expecting it, and it was kind of a surprise. Just to show that I can do other things. I am a singer/songwriter and I have that, but I also tap into every single emotion that I have and that I do very well. Thatís something that is artistry. Through these songs I was just showing a different side to myself. It probably wasnít necessarily the side that they wanted to see, but I have them and I think everybody does. So, I was just being me and thatís really all I can say.
I appreciate Kara, though. I think she was trying to, I think that they were all trying to be really helpful and I was just doing my thing and it wasnít exactly what they had kind of planned out for me, I guess. But I just wanted to show a different side of myself. Itís not every day you get to sing in front of 30 million people and I just wanted to do different things and not do the same thing every week, to show that I can do other things and I am diverse.
I was just wondering what kind of music do you hope to be making in the future? What sort of an artist do you see yourself being?
Didi music. Iím going to do my thing. Iím going to do singer/songwriter type of, like acoustic, low key, chill, relaxing music. Iím going to put my heart into what I do, like I do every time. Itís me and I can, itís like acoustic, I guess, all acoustic kind of fusion stuff. A little jazz, a hint of bluegrass, a little bit of everything that Iíve experienced in my life.
What was it like working with Usher and Miley Cyrus?
It was pretty cool. I realized finally where I was, actually. Like being there with Miley Cyrus and Usher, it was like, oh, Iím on American Idol, Iím in the top 10. I was just kind of riding the wave, you know? Like, honestly, I got further than I ever thought that I would and it was a really cool experience. Iím just grateful to have had the fans and supporters that I did that got me to that point where I got to meet them. They were really cool. They were nice and it was very cool to meet them. Iím very grateful I had that opportunity.
So you had a moment on stage with Siobhan, Siobhan was distraught when they announced, I mean, she was like in tears and you had a real moment with her on stage. I was just wondering, what did you guys, I know youíre not going to give away everything, but what did they say to you?[/b]
Siobhanís a really, really unique, amazing person. I love her very, very much. Sheís a total sweetheart. Itís interesting because you never would have thought upon meeting her that, or anybody here that youíre going to form such a close friendship with them and she ended up being my roommate the first week. I actually met her the very first day of Hollywood Week and I was just like, ďOh, who is this girl?Ē She was just herself and she was never anybody else but herself. And she doesnít care, and neither does Crystal, and thatís what I really love about the both of them is that theyíre just themselves. Theyíre very unique and theyíre very different, and I just really respect them. And Siobhan is one of my best friends and I think that weíre going to be friends for a long time and I think that girlís great. Theyíre both going to go really far and I do love that girl. Sheís worked really hard to be where she is and she deserves it and so does Crystal. I think that theyíre both really, really amazing.
Itís tough to leave and leave your friends. Itís like leaving summer camp. But Iím going to see them again soon. Itís just you make really good friends along the way and you build relationships with people and then all of a sudden itís like, you know, it sucks.
Your sister, Maya, lives in Israel. Apparently you said she invented your nickname.
Yes, she did.
I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about your family there. How often do you, do you keep in contact, do you go there and why did she move to Israel? Can you talk about that?
I can talk a little bit about it. My sister went to go get her Masterís Degree in Israel. Sheís been fascinated with the culture and she learned Hebrew. I have some family over in Israel, like aunts and my dad was just here in L.A., but I have some Israeli background and, yes, my sister made up the nickname Didi, because when she was really young she couldnít say Verid, so she just nicknamed me Didi.
You have a lot of fan base in Myspace and you used to have like an unofficial Myspace page, then you have another Myspace page because youíve been on the show. Will you come back to your first Myspace page and how does a fan keep in contact with you?
I have no idea. Iíll be completely honest with you, I donít even know, I havenít checked my Myspace in such a long time. But I think itís amazing and all the fans are phenomenal and I really appreciate them so much, and I canít say thank you enough for putting me where I am now. Iím really excited to meet them all on tour. Iíll see what I can do, Iíll figure out as much as I can. Iíve been writing as many people back as possible, but itís like we would hardly have any time to sleep. I will definitely figure that out when I have a moment, but theyíve been really, really amazing and supportive and I canít say I appreciate them enough.
You just said that you hardly have any time to sleep. Tell me a little bit about the pace that you keep when youíre performing on Idol and how it compares to what youíve been doing otherwise to forward your music career?
Wow, itís like insane, intense; like boot camp for singers kind of thing. It was definitely intense. Itís like here, get a song, learn it in like very, very little time, sing it on stage in front of everybody. Itís just very like, I donít know, itís a lot of pressure and itís an amazing experience at the same time, so you want to take full advantage of it and you donít want to mess up. And you want to do everything you can to give them everything you have. So, itís definitely an interesting experience. They definitely always keep you busy with like four shoots and photo shoots, thereís always something.
Itís really amazing and valuable experience. Iíve learned a lot and I canít wait to sleep. Never thought Iíd say that, but yeah, Iím exhausted. But Iím really, really grateful and glad that I got the chance to do it.
There were some episodes this year where it seemed like Randy, Ellen, Kara and Simon didnít have much good to say about any of you. What does that do for the collective confidence of the group and the performances that you can do after that?
Itís tough, but you got to get back up and do your think regardless of what anybody says, I think, regardless of whether itís the judges or America or anybody. Itís about your music and your passion and what you do and not what anybody else thinks. Thatís, I think a real artist is somebody that just does it. Itís tough, but thatís part of everything, you just got to hang in there and be resilient. Itís tough on everybody Ė on the contestants and it brings the morale down, but you have to pick yourself back up. And it can be confusing, but you just got to do your thing and stay true to yourself.
Do you think itís a pretty strong group of singers?
I do. I do think itís a group, yes, I do. And Iím excited to see what happens for the rest of the season. I canít wait to watch it. Iím really, really looking forward to it.
After last week when Paige was pulled ahead of them that the judges save was not going to be an option before she sang her final song. Last night they had a lot of hesitation and it seemed like they were seriously considering it. What was it like waiting to hear whether you were going to be saved?
It was tough. You know, the whole crowd was chanting and that was pretty cool, but ultimately, regardless, I kind of felt like I was going home. I thought it would be cool if they exercised the option to let me stay and I wanted to come back next week in Beatles week and be great. But regardless of what happened, I was kind of in the head space like I was okay either way. Iím not really worried, Iíve had amazing support from everybody and itís just been a really crazy, cool ride. Iím happy because Iím going on tour and I have a lot to look forward to, so Iím not at all distraught about anything. I want to put a record together and I want to get my music out there, too. Iím okay with it.
You were talking about how hectic and crazy itís been up till now. What do you do now going forward? Youíll be on the Letterman Show next week for starters?
Yes, apparently Iím doing all sorts of things. Iím doing David Letterman next week. Iím not sure when, I think Monday, but itís crazy. Then Iím not sure of the, they just have me going every day. Iím just doing what they tell me to do.
When do you rejoin the group for rehearsal for the tour?
That, I believe, is later, after the finale. But I do get to see them all again on Saturday.
You seemed to have a really long moment with Crystal afterwards. You guys were hugging for like the longest time. What did she say to you?
Crystal and Siobhan and I are very close and Crystal actually came down and stayed with me last night. It was nice. Theyíre really amazing, wonderful people and I really enjoyed getting to meet them and getting to know them both, both Siobhan and Crystal. Itís hard when you meet other artists that you really connect with and you want to work with and youíre put in a position to compete against each other, when really when youíre singing itís not a competition, itís you showing the artist in you. It shouldnít be a competition. Weíre all very different and unique in our own ways and all have something different to bring to the table. Weíre all aware of that and we go through this and just do it like we do it. We do what we do best and love each other along the way. Iím really, really happy to see that theyíre going forward and I wish them the best of luck and I will see them again and Iím excited for them, too. Iím happy for them.
Didi, do you have any closing remarks?
I just wanted to say, thank you all so much for taking the time to hear me out and ask me questions and I appreciate it, and I appreciate all the support and the fans. You all are just amazing. Thank you so much. It really makes a world of difference to me. My life has changed so much and itís amazing. So thank you so much.
My thanks to Didi for doing the interview and to the people at FOX for setting it up.