I’M MARKED FOR LIFE WITH TWO SPECIAL TATTOOS. The newer one is a small cross on my wrist that I got during my second concert tour. I got the other one, a Japanese character that means „blessed,” the year before I auditioned for American Idol. It’s beautiful-and a permanent reminder of the most disastrous week of my life.
The truth is, I’m an accident magnet. It’s like a black cloud follows me around! So the fact that I’ve survived it all proves I really am blessed.
When I was little, my family’s home in Burleson, Texas, was the only one in town hit by a tornado. I’ve been in more car crashes than I can remember, including one multi-car crash where I nearly plunged to my death over the side of a steep bridge. My life has flashed before my eyes more than once! But instead of asking, Why me, God?” it’s more my style to turn to the angel sitting on my shoulder and say, „Another fine mess you’ve gotten me out of! Thanks for working overtime.”
Probably the worst period of my life, though, was when I first moved from Texas to pursue singing in Los Angeles. I was hit by three different
disasters-in one week.
After I graduated from high school in Texas, I was doing pretty well.
I worked as a waitress, and I even had my own apartment. But I wasn’t happy. I’d always wanted a singing career, so I felt stuck in a dead-end job. Then one day at work I overheard another employee complaining that she couldn’t afford to move to L.A. because her roomate bailed on her. I held my breath and said, „I’ll go.” Just like that. I didn’t even know this girl, but something told me that this was my escape. My opportunity to chase my dreams.
So I packed and moved to L.A. with a complete stranger. Everything was so expensive that I had to get four different jobs, even though the two of us were sharing a tiny room in a house. We had no kitchen. We had nothing. When I didn’t have regular work as a waitress or background singer, my roomate, who was an aspiring actress, would say, „You can come with me and do extra work. It’s better than sitting here waiting for the phone to ring!” The $54 a day I earned as an extra for shows like Will &Grace, Bernie Mac, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch kept me from going broke.
I sent out a million demo tapes and knocked on a million doors. I kept at it because I knew someone would eventually notice. Then, a miracle happened. I answered a classified ad and got work as a demo girl, cutting new songs by Gerry Goffin-one of the best songwriters ever. You know the song „(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”? That’s just one of his masterpieces. Still, even with that great job I couldn’t pay bills. So I sang backup vocals and I waitressed. Finally, my roomate and I saved up enough to move into our own place. We put everything we had into a deposit on a small apartment, and we packed to move.
That’s when everything fell apart. I got ripped off by someone I was singing backups for, and I found out the restaurant where I worked was fixing to close. Worse, Gerry got really, really ill, so I had to stop working for him. It was a big blow, and it all happened that same week that we moved.
Still, my roommate and I were excited about setting up our own place. The night we finished moving in, we went to get some carryout from Chili’s so we could celebrate with our first meal in our new home-sweet-home. We were gone less than an hour, and when we got back we couldn’t believe what we saw.
The building was on fire!
TV news crews were swarming, and my roomate started bawling. Me? I was on the evening news laughing hysterically about it. I guess I was just stunned. Everything we owned was inside, and it either burned up or was destroyed by water and smoke. Everything, that is, except for one box that I had been too lazy to take upstairs earlier. It happened to be the box that had my pictures of family and friends. How amazing is that? All my belongings may have gone up in smoke, but not my memories or my dreams.
Couting my Blessings
On the night of the fire, I called a friend of mine. Earlier that week I’d promised her that I’d drive her to get this tatoo she’d been wanting forever. „Let’s go,” I shrugged after the last of the flames were out. „After all, where else do I have to go?”
When we walked into the tattoo shop, the first thing I saw was the Japanese character that I now have on the back of my neck. I didn’t know why I was so drawn to it until I was told it meant „blessed.” It made me start thinking about how blessed I was. I mean, the fire could have happened to someone with no family or friends and they could be out on the street. But not me. Even though this was a really, really crappy situation, I still had family in Texas to go home to. And that’s just what I did.
Back in Texas, it wasn’t even a month later when a good friend gave me the application materials for American Idol. And you know the rest of that story. I went on to win the competition, and I’ve released two best-selling albums. I guess I was supposed to be back in Texas, because that’s where opportunity ended up finding me. My angel was working overtime again.
As for that little black cloud, I haven’t seen it much lately, but once in a while it still threatens to rain on my parade. Whenever it does show up on the horizon, my tattoos remind me that I’m ready for it. And my experiences remind me that it’s those black clouds that make the blue skies even more beautiful.”