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A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love, and American Idol

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DioGuardi describes her struggles to fit into a judging panel that had seven years of experience working together. Through her retellings, Cowell comes across as every bit the prima donna the public suspected he was. In addition to giving her the cold shoulder, Cowell often criticized DioGuardi both on camera and off, making a challenging situation nearly unbearable for the new judge. Although she was a successful music publisher in her own right, she recounts her desperate attempts to gain Cowell’s approval, stating that, “the key to gelling with the panel was Simon.” DioGuardi believes that it wasn’t until the finale of Season 8 that she gained that approval.

In that show, DioGuardi took to the stage to outsing and ultimately upstage Katrina Darrell, better known as “Bikini Girl,” by flashing her own bikini body. Though DioGuardi says that everyone outside the show urged her not to perform the skit, fearing it would damage her credibility, she eventually acquiesced after continuous pressure from Cowell and the producers. DioGuardi looks back on her performance in the finale fondly, calling it “a good thing” because it had shown America that she had a sense of humor and earned her a second chance. She writes, “Simon Cowell and the show’s executives had been right!”

DioGuardi, though stating that she believes a woman needs to use her talent rather than her body to get ahead, seems genuinely unaware that her attainment of a “second chance” and Cowell’s approval came at the cost of her own integrity. But as the memoir shows, this was not the first time that DioGuardi compromised herself with men in an effort to gain acceptance and success.

As a child, DioGuardi’s domineering father would force her to sing at a variety of family dinners and functions. Afraid to put more strain on an already frail parental relationship, DioGuardi would oblige, despite her anxiety and stage fright. Later in life, she quietly endured sexual harassment and misconduct by a famous performer, as well as date rape by a producer. In both cases she made the decision not to report the incident for fear of being ostracized in the business.

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