HOLLYWOOD — This past spring Didi Benami, the Knoxville native who was a finalist on the ninth season of "American Idol," literally hit a brick wall.
"I passed out in my apartment, downstairs," she confided over a lunch.
"I felt so weird that day. I figured out I probably hadn't eaten that day because I was so busy."
Since "Idol" two years ago when she was a top-10 finalist, Benami says she has been trying to catch up in her career, compensating for not winning the popular singing contest. Her dream of being a major recording artist couldn't pass her by now.
The price she paid was bouts of sheer exhaustion, the culmination of not getting enough rest and having too much stress.
She smashed her face against a wall but was able to call for help. Afterward her face was badly bruised. She applied heavy makeup to conceal the marks.
Benami was in the hospital for a week, but even then she didn't stop working. She tied up loose ends for her new single, and was writing about "Idol" for the Hollywood Reporter.
With a new single out titled "Gasoline," Benami is re-establishing herself. She's trying to finance an EP of originals. For the first time since "Idol," Benami feels she's entering a stage where she can leave it behind.
However, it is not that easy.
"There's kind of this thing (producers and labels) have for people who were on 'Idol,'" she says. "They don't take you as seriously."
And that would be only one of the minuses about being on "Idol" these days. During the season Benami was on "Idol," most of the media attention strayed from the contest to whether Judge Simon Cowell would leave the show.
Since that season, more drama has come from the judges' table. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler entered and now are leaving. Train-wreck celebrity Charlie Sheen says she wants to be a judge. Now, Mariah Carey will be joining the show.
Will "Idol" ever regain its focus on the singers?
"I don't think so," Benami says.
Meanwhile, Benami says she isn't bitter about "Idol." She's still close to many of the other finalists, and she learned a lot about the business.
Benami is taking acting classes and concentrating on songwriting and finding money for her EP project. She recently starred in Theory of a Dead Man's latest music video, "Hurricane," in which she spoofed life after "Idol."
Though she says she loved the experience, she was not expecting to be asked to kiss two girls. She braced herself and did it anyway.
After all, it doesn't compare to picking herself up again.
"This year has put a lot of things in perspective," Benami says.
nProps. Superstar Jamie Foxx is giving Knoxville native Quentin Tarantino his due for the new western, "Django Unchained" (out in December).
"All I can say is, thank you to Quentin Tarantino," Fox told craveonline.com about director/writer/actor Tarantino.
"I told him if he gets married, I'll sing at the wedding. I'll DJ his bedroom if I need to. 'What'ch y'all wanna hear?' It really does come down to in this business moments like this that change your career.
"Now I don't know what I would do if I wasn't in this movie, but this movie is, I think, one of the ones that may change the trajectory of where I was going, so just thanks to him."
Reportedly, Tarantino personally scouted the Knoxville area a year ago for the movie. The report could not be verified, and Tarantino didn't shoot around here.
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or email@example.com.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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