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Interview: Didi Benami from American Idol

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Didi Benami from the ninth season of American Idol back stage at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA.

She and I talked about the comparisons to Idol season seven’s Brooke White, her thoughts on why a positive voice is needed on the judges panel and what’s next for her after the American Idol Live tour.

How’s the tour been?

It’s been really amazing, this is a dream come true, and I don’t want it to end, but you know it could be a really good thing. We’re all going to go our own ways and do our own thing. It’s exciting, but it’s kind of sad.

What are you going to take from this and remember the most about the Didi Benami performing in Sacramento, CA.tour?

Wow, what am I not going to take from this? I’ve gained so much experience just through the show and through touring and confidence and strength and courage. Everything.

How to stay sane on the road. I’ve learned how to do hair and make-up. I’ve learned so much, it’s hard to even sum it up into one thing, I feel like I’ve totally, well not totally, but I’ve transformed a lot as a human being, as we do everyday in life, but through this whirlwind, it’s been even faster. I’ve just developed so much more over the past seven months or however long it’s been since this all started.

You were compared a little to Brooke White while you were on the show.

A little?

Okay, a lot, but how did that make you feel? Did it help you feel more confident, because Brooke had a pretty good fan following while she was on the show.

It did, I met Brooke at the finale and I think that she’s a total sweetheart and I love her to pieces. She’s adorable and I would love to work with her in the future. It’s hard being an artist though, and being compared to somebody else in general. I get compared a lot to Taylor Swift, too. It’s like I’m my own person, and I love both of those people and I respect them very much as artists, don’t get me wrong, but I’m Didi Benami. I’m not Brooke White, I’m not Taylor Swift.

I was going to do “Let It Be,” but I couldn’t do “Let It Be,” because Brooke did it. And I couldn’t do “Jolene,” because Brooke did it. And I knew that I was going to get compared. I was trying to prove to people that I was my own person, I wasn’t Brooke White and I wasn’t Taylor Swift and I’m not an exact replica of anybody else. I’m Didi Benami, I’m myself. And I think when the judges were like, “Oh, we got confused.” I was like, well I’m trying to do things that people haven’t done before, so I’m trying to show you that I can do all this things and I have all these aspects to myself, and I am my own person.

Speaking of working with other people, Blake Lewis from season six mentioned that he would like to collaborate with you in the future, what do you think about that? And other than Brooke, which other artist staying within the Idol family would you like to work with?

Well, I would love to work with Brooke and with Blake. Blake’s great, he’s a really, really nice guy, too. I’d like to work with Elliott Yamin as well, cause I know he’s really good. Honestly, I did not watch that much of the prior seasons. Those are the people to me that stick out in my mind. I did meet Kris Allen, and he’s really nice, but I don’t feel like that we have the same styles at all.

In the Idol bubble, those are the people that I would pick, because that’s all I can think of right now. It would really be cool to work with Carrie [Underwood], although I don’t do country, I don’t mind doing some harmonies with her or writing with her or something. She’s a really beautiful human being, inside and outside.

The night before you got eliminated, Ryan kind of badgered you a little bit onstage. I was really happy that you stood your ground and didn’t give him the sound bite he was looking for, because it kind of bothers me that he baits contestants a little bit. What advice do you have for future contestants for when they’re asked the tough questions that they don’t want to answer onstage?

Honestly, I think you should do whatever feels right to you in that specific situation, and because I can’t say what’s going to happen in the future and what’s going to be asked. I think now that I look back at it, Ryan was actually trying to help. I had told him prior that I didn’t want to talk about it, and maybe if I did it would have helped.

That song [“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”] means a whole lot to me and I didn’t really talk about why, because I didn’t want to get emotional onscreen again, because everyone already thought that I was this emotional, crazy person. That song to me was really to the fans, it was kind of to the people who are auditioning next year, it was what becomes of the broken hearted. Well, you make it onto a TV show and you make tour, and you do really good things for yourself when you work really hard, you know? And that was kind of the point of that. It was yes, I’ve been hurt . Yes, I’ve been broken hearted and kicked around and whatever. But, in the end you gotta pick yourself back up and show everyone who you really are.

And that song touched me to the point of tears. I was like, I have to pick this song, because it means so much to me and I think that it could help other people. I didn’t say it that onstage, you know. Maybe, it would have been better if I did, there’s nothing I can do about it now. Whoever it is, just stand your ground and be true to yourself. Do whatever you feel comfortable with.

What are your thoughts on Ellen deciding to leave the show?

I kind of got a little bit of a vibe that it was tough for her to judge us. It is a tough job, and she’s such a nice person, that she was never really mean to any of us. It was nice for us, because it’s a little breather from the negativity. But, I really enjoyed having her as a judge, and I think that is kind of sad for the next season, because she really was good. I enjoyed having her there, she just emits really kind energy.

Do you think that’s important for you guys, because you have Randy who kind of hits the point, then you have Kara who will shoot different comments for different reasons and then you have Simon who just says whatever comes to mind. Do you think it’s important to have that person that’s very much down the middle, and lets you know that you did good, that you got up there and did your job?

I think that that’s really important. And I think too, that it sends a good message to the watchers, the people who are actually watching the show, which are a lot of younger girls who are impressionable. They think it’s funny to be mean and it’s not. It’s hurtful. They grow up thinking that it’s funny and it’s not. I think that there’s a need for an evolution and the way people treat people, especially like in high school and the younger generations. They need good role models. They need people that can stand up for themselves, but I don’t think all the harsh judging is necessary.

I think it’s good to show people that you can in a positive way influence people. I just think that would be a great thing for the show if they have more of a positive outlook, because all of us, all the contestants are pretty positive thinkers. It’s kind of sending a message that it’s funny to be negative and it’s not. A lot of people are hurt by it. That would be my take on the situation. Some of the things that Kara said would be harsh, but she was very honest. Don’t get me wrong, I think honesty is very important. I appreciate honesty more than anything. If it sucked, it sucked, but there are ways you can say it to not really hurt people’s feelings.

What is next for you following tour?

Following tour, I would love to get into some acting. I do want to finish the album I started working on before tour, and I would also like to do a dedication album for my friend Rebecca, who is why I am here in the first place.

Very cool. Thank you, Didi. Have a great show tonight!

Thank you so much.

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.