Kara DioGuardi was fretting about being the new face of "American Idol," and she put the blame on hungry mosquitoes.
"Here I am in Hawaii and I wake up yesterday and I'm covered in mosquito bites, 15 to 20, and it looks like I have the chicken pox," the songwriter-producer said on Tuesday.
"Nobody cares about a songwriter with mosquito bites. But a judge on 'Idol' who's about to go in front of the press, that's a whole other story," said DioGuardi, who has joined the "American Idol" judging panel and has a whirlwind promotional schedule next week in New York that includes David Letterman's show.
DioGuardi is a hit machine whose songs have been recorded by Gwen Stefani, Faith Hill, Marc Anthony and others, including past "Idol" winners. She represents a big change for the hit Fox series, which is adding a new voice to those of veteran judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul in an eighth-season effort to freshen its familiar formula.
"American Idol" was the No. 1 program last season despite a small ratings dip, and DioGuardi said she's honoured to be part of it. The season debut, and hers, is Jan. 13.
"I hope people find I bring something to the show that's different, and I can help these contestants learn something, whether they win or not," she said.
For some would-be pop stars DioGuardi encountered during auditions for the show, the lesson is a hard one.
"A bunch of them would come on and really believe that they were great. That was one of the biggest shocks for me. I was thinking, 'Wow, are you kidding? ... I think this is going to be a hobby, and that's a great hobby to have."'
DioGuardi said she spotted some uniquely talented performers during tryouts, especially among the men. But the pressure is on them to keep improving or they'll leave the door open for an underdog.
"They may have been great at the beginning, but as the season goes on they have to keep upping it," she said.
Speaking of gender, don't expect to see any dramatic clashes between DioGuardi and Abdul, who is losing her throne as the sole female judge.
"Paula and I co-wrote my first international hit (Kylie Minogue's 'Spinning Around')," DioGuardi said. "I feel indebted to her for that, and I've never been of the thinking that women should drag each other down."
What about Cowell's claims that the two "girls" have ganged up on him when it comes to ratings contestants?
"There's definitely times Paula and I voice our opinion and it's of the same ilk. And if that's not what Simon thinks, then there's a little bit of tension there. But it's all fun. Nobody's going back to their room crying," DioGuardi said.
Except, she concedes, maybe some contestants.
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