'American Idol' contestant, Knoxville's Didi Benami, says: 'I want to win this'

Didi Benami

Photo by Michael Becker

Didi Benami

'American Idol' contestants Didi Benami, right, and Lilly Scott are seen backstage at the Season 9 top 10 girls performance show, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, in Los Angeles. Scott was eliminated from the competition last week.

Photo by AP Photo / PictureGroup, Michael Becker

"American Idol" contestants Didi Benami, right, and Lilly Scott are seen backstage at the Season 9 top 10 girls performance show, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, in Los Angeles. Scott was eliminated from the competition last week.

Didi Benami’s stomach is in knots every week right before she performs for the judges on “American Idol.”

But the 23-year-old former Knoxvillian said in an exclusive interview that she lets her fears go once she actually starts to sing. “It’s like, ‘This is what I am here to do,’ and a peacefulness comes over me,” she said Monday afternoon.

Benami advanced to the top 12 on “Idol” a week ago. On the show’s next installment (8 Tuesday, WTNZ, Channel 43), she’ll be part of the Rolling Stones theme night. She could not reveal Monday what song she chose to sing. Likewise, she would not comment on the other contestants.

Her journey to the top 12 has not been easy. She faced elimination, landing near the bottom two, in back-to-back weeks. Even she admits she was a little surprised that she was spared a second time.

“I was ready to go home that second time,” she said. “I already knew what I was going to say and thank everyone. So, yes, I was a little surprised that I didn’t go home that night.”

“Idol” is part music competition and part popularity contest. Benami is hoping viewers are keeping her in the game because they like what they hear.

“I want to inspire people, and I hope people feel inspired. I hope they are voting for me because they like what I do,” she said. “Week after week is a difficult journey for me. Los Angeles is not an easy place to be, especially for someone who came from Knoxville, Tennessee.”

The pace of “Idol” can be stressful for her. “You’re always on the go,” she said. “It seems like you never have a moment of free time. You just kind of have to roll with it. It’s tough.

“This is a great opportunity, and I don’t want to miss out on it because I’m stressed out.”

Lately, she’s been fighting off a bug that has hit many of her fellow performers. She’s determined not to let that put her down for the count. If she can face four highly opinionated judges, she can certainly handle germs.

“I want to win this,” she said. “I want to go all the way. At the same time, I am grateful for where I am at. Regardless of what happens, I think there is a purpose for everything in life. It’s a cool journey to be on.”

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