Vered “Didi” Benami (Hebrew ורד “דידי” בן עמי) was born in New York City on October 25, 1986, and relocated to my mothertown Knoxville, Tennessee, at the age of 7. She is the daughter of Jewish parents, with her father being Israeli, and her first name Vered is Hebrew for “rose.” She spent most of her childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Benami graduated from West High School of Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2005. She began to sing at the age of 11. In school, she claimed the role of Marty in the musical show called “Grease”, and often performed the U.S. national anthem (Star Spangled Banner) in front of many crowds. During the broadcast of American Idol season 9, she mentioned that she was a cheerleader and mascot at Bearden Middle School.
Before relocating to Hollywood, California, she attended Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. This relocation was tainted by the death of her best friend and roommate, recording artist Rebecca Joy Lear, in an automobile accident driving from Nashville to Lear’s Kansas home during the Christmas holiday of her freshman year. They shared writing sessions mainly on Lear’s album. Recently, Benami stated that she would cover Lear’s song catalog and upload her version of the Lear’s songs.
Benami auditioned for American Idol season 9 in Los Angeles, California, where she has lived there since 2006. She credited her best friend Rebecca Joy Lear, whose career she would pick up after, as one of the reasons why she auditioned for the show. She auditioned with The Beatles’ song “Hey Jude.” The judges, including guest judge Avril Lavigne, well praised the audition. She became an early favorite in the competition following her critically acclaimed performance of “Terrified” by Katharine McPhee, the runner-up of American Idol season 5 in the first Hollywood round, where Simon Cowell said “she was good.” The song was co-written by then American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, who left the judges’ panel after season 9 alongside Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. During group night, Benami’s group performed “No One” by Alicia Keys. In the third Hollywood round, she performed “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan.
On top 24 week, Benami performed “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson, where she failed to impress the judges, with the judges stating that she has a good voice but was rather “sound-alike.” On top 20 week, she performed “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers, where she once again failed to impress the judges, with Randy Jackson saying that it was pitchy and Simon Cowell said that it was like a “screaching cat.” However, on top 16 week, she went from zero to hero with the song “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac, with Kara DioGuardi adding that the performance has the “singer-songwriter” vibe and swagger that DioGuardi loves on Benami’s Hollywood round performance of “Terrified” which she would later sing on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2010. On top 12 week, Benami performed “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones. On top 11 week, she performed “You’re No Good” by Betty Everett. On top 10 week, after performing “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin, she was eliminated from the competition finishing in 10th place. Despite an encore of her top 16 performance for the judges’ save, the judges elected not to save her, but the decision was not unanimous. However, Simon Cowell consoled her stating that it was “a million times better” than her performance the night before her elimination.
Next up is my number 113 finalist, a country star born exactly two years before I was born and has an identical twin.