She's been called "the second real American Idol judge" and "Idol's Paula Abdul insurance."
But Kara DioGuardi, the singer/songwriter stepping into the pop culture hurricane that springs from joining the cast of TV's most-watched show, swears that her biggest qualification for serving as Idol's fourth judge is a simple one.
She's been there.
"I was told I wasn't a good songwriter, I wasn't a good singer — for years," said DioGuardi, who since has written songs for and produced everyone from Celine Dion and Idol winner Kelly Clarkson to fellow idol judge Paula Abdul.
"But it was my dream, and I kept going and going," she added. "I don't want some kids who have something going on to feel crushed and not follow their dreams if they have some ability."
So, for journalists gathered in a conference call today to take the measure of the newest Idol cast member, DioGuardi presented herself as an amalgam of the three judges she's joining: a bit of Abdul's supportive mothering, a touch of Randy Jackson hip-ified coaching and a dash of Simon Cowell's bitter directness.
Fans will see how she stacks up when the show returns at 8 p.m. Tuesday, airing footage from auditions held across the country. Here are some highlights from her 45-minute talk with journalists to tide you over.
On Simon Cowell: He's first among equals, with the right to break any tie votes if the judges deadlock 2 to 2. "Is that really a democracy?" cracked DioGuardi, noting that if Jackson and Abdul liked a marginal performer she knew Simon would veto, she held a deciding vote. "I also believe in second chances early on. I know if I didn't have a second chance, I wouldn't be where I am today. Sometimes you have to see past the mistakes someone might make early on."
Any problems early on? "In the beginning, it was a little unnerving; I didn't know where I was going to sit or when I was going to speak … I think I would talk over people a lot, because I didn't know when to speak. I can't tell you how many times I've seen that photo of all four of us, and I feel like I look like Peg Bundy. The hair, not so big anymore. Some of my looks? Ugh, the makeup and hair took me a minute."
Past Idol she most wants to work with now? Chris Daughtry. "If you're out there and want to do a co-write, call me."
Any possible catch phrase? "Be you. Don't try to be anyone but you."