Ousted 'American Idol' finalist Didi Benami: I haven't lost my way
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/01/2010
Didi Benami disagrees with American Idol's judges that she lost her way during the show's ninth-season competition. According to the ousted Idol finalist, she simply wanted to prove she is more "diverse" than the singer-songwriter artist they feel she is.
"I don't 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 weeks and I did things and they weren't expecting -- it was kind of surprise -- just to show I can do other things," Benami told reporters during a Thursday conference call.
"I am a singer-songwriter, and I have that, but I also tap into every single emotion that I have. That I do very well. Through these songs I was just showing a different side to myself. It probably wasn't necessarily the side they wanted to see."
However even though she battled against the judge's attempts to position her as a singer-songwriter artist during American Idol, Benami now says she does see herself making that kind of music, which she jokingly called "Didi music."
"I think I'm going to do singer-songwriter -- like acoustic, low-key, chill relaxing music. I'm going to put my heart into what I do like I do every time. It's me," said Benami, a 23-year-old from Knoxville, TN who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Benami told reporters that she feels everything happens for a reason and she was "not distraught" that the judges decided against using "The Judges' Save" on her after she received the fewest home viewer votes following Tuesday night's live performance show that saw the Top 10 finalists perform R&B songs.
"That was tough. The whole crowd was chanting, and that was pretty cool. But ultimately, I kind of felt like I was going home. I thought it would be cool if they exercised the option to let me stay -- I wanted to come back next week for Beatles' week and be great," she explained.
"But regardless of what happened I was okay either way. I'm not really worried. I've had amazing support from everybody. It's been a crazy cool ride."
Benami's elimination came after her song choices had prompted several weeks of criticism from American Idol's judges.
"I wasn't prepared for that. I was not an avid American Idol watcher, so I didn't really know what to expect," said Benami, who had moved to Los Angeles to pursue an entertainment career in 2006.
"Honestly, I was just being myself and I did stuff that meant something to me and I also had a good time. I wasn't expecting that. But I'm okay. I dealt with it and it's actually interesting because it's a lot like my Los Angeles experience -- you get kicked down you've got to get back up again and start over. It's not anything I haven't dealt with before."
Benami's had performed Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" during Tuesday night's live broadcast but dodged Idol host Ryan Seacrest's attempts to ask her why she picked it afterwards.
Benami told reporters "there's no way to tell" if the exchange played a role in her elimination and hinted she had sung it as a tribute to the same deceased friend whom she previously mentioned during the competition.
"It was kind of a weird situation for me. It was a little awkward," she told reporters about Seacrest's questioning.
"I was trying to convey a message through the song -- not by somebody asking me. I think it was pretty obvious to people why I was singing it. I sing the song because I love the song. It was kind of an uncomfortable situation for me because I didn't want to answer the question. But ultimately I felt like I did what was in my best interest."
Benami moved to L.A. when she was 19 and said it has "been rough" because she "faced a lot of ridiculous hardships" -- including when she lived out of her car on "several different occasions" between 2006 and 2007.
However she added that the experience was also beneficial.
"I taught myself how to play guitar and write out everything that was bothering me or anything that I had on my mind that I couldn't say in reality to somebody because I wanted to be nice," she explained.
"I was able to start writing songs and meet people that wanted to co-write, and from there just started working on my skills and trained myself to write."
Benami added that singing and songwriting is "therapeutic" for her, which is why she was often emotional on American Idol.
"I do it as a relief. It's who I am," she said.
"It's funny because the cameras always catch me when I am emotional, which sucks because I'm not always emotional -- I've actually been pretty strong throughout this whole thing."
Despite having lived in L.A. for a few years, Benami described America Idol as an "insane, intense, boot camp for singers" in which producers "always keep you busy."
"It was definitely intense. Like, 'Here's a song, learn it in very, very little time and sing it on stage in front of everybody.' It's a lot of pressure," she said.
"It's an amazing experience at the same time, so you want to take full advantage of it and you don't want to mess up."
Benami said she was "just kind of riding the wave" until she was mentored by Miley Cyrus and Usher, who helped her realize where she was.
"Honestly I got further than I ever thought I would and it was a really cool experience," she said. "I'm just grateful to have had the fans and supporters that I did to get me to that point."
In addition, Benami called making the Top 10 a "really big accomplishment" that also made her "relieved" because it means she can now go on tour.
"I don't have to work as a waitress anymore, which is nice. I get to do what I love more than anything and it's just amazing," she said.
"It's 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."
Benami said she's looking forward to the tour because it will reunite her with fellow finalists Crystal Bowersox and Siobhan Magnus -- whom she said she's "very close" to.
"They're really amazing, wonderful people. I really enjoyed getting to meet them and getting to know them -- both Siobhan and Crystal," said Benami.
"It's hard when you meet other artists that you really connect with and you want to work with and you're put in a position where you compete against each other when really, when you're singing, it's not a competition. You should be showing the artist in you. It shouldn't be a competition."
Benami said both Bowersox and Magnus are "unique" and is excited that they're still in the competition.
"We go through this and just do it like we do it and do what we do best and love each other along the way," she said. "I'm really, really happy to see that they're going forward and I wish them the best of luck."
"I'm just really grateful that I had the opportunity to be on American Idol in the first place. It's a great platform for me to be able to get my music out there and to continue my songwriting -- my love and my passion."