When Carly Smithson’s dreams of being a pop star were dashed as a teenager, it hurt her so badly that she decided to shut show business out of her life altogether.
Now that a career in music is within reach once again, she says that this time, nothing is going to make her leave it behind.
Carly spent her childhood in Ireland trying to make something of her natural talent for performing. She worked as a model (including being a poster girl for a sausage company!), bagged a small part in a movie and a supporting role in a major production of Les Miserable.
Finally in 2000, when she was just 15, she moved to the US and signed a deal with the major record label MCA and recorded an album, Ultimate High, that was released shortly after her 16th birthday.
Without promotion, the CD flopped and she was dropped, along with the rest of the label’s roster, before MCA was dissolved in 2003.
Dejected, Carly tried to forget about music, moved to Georgia and got a job as a waitress in an Irish bar. She never even let on to her colleagues that she could sing, let alone that she had had a contract with one of the world’s biggest record labels.
Carly says that she only took up singing again when she started working in a different bar in San Diego, Ca., and offered to fill an empty slot on stage during their New Years Eve party.
On Wednesday, Carly (having been disqualified from season five of Idol because of visa problems) was voted into fifth place of American Idol, and is now closer than she ever was to releasing a hit album.
But if there’s anyone who should understand how unpredictable the music industry can be, it’s Carly.
Today she told OK! that whatever happens this time, she won’t let the business beat her again.
To begin with, she says, having seen the nasty side of the industry will help her to be successful this time around.
"I really believe, having what happened to me before, it really made me realize how precious [what I have after Idol] is," she said.
"And I think there a lot of people who come into this industry, and I think having second chance is actually greater for you.
"I know that I will always be grounded and I will always realize what it’s like to lose it.
"Having everything not work out before, I just know I will work very hard and I will not take anything — not one moment — for granted."
Anyway, Carly says, she is in a much better position now than she was when she was a teen, and not just because Idol has turned her into a household name.
"Other things kind of got in my way before, like people that were surrounding me and people that I worked with.
"Obviously I was fifteen at the time and my life was in other peoples’ hands.
"Now I’m twenty four and I can look after myself."
Most of all though, she knows now that deals and screaming fans and fame and glamor come and go, but that doesn’t mean being a musician has to go with it.
Some ex-Idols — Carly’s season seven favorite, Amanda Overmyer, is a good example — say that if things don’t work out for their singing career, they’ll be just as happy to go back to their old life.
But Carly says that after Idol, nothing is going to stop her from being a musician — even if she doesn’t end up as the next Carrie Underwood.
"Last time it was more about the being the artist and getting signed," she said.
"This time for me it is about just singing — that’s all I want to do.
"I just want to be creative and just make a record that I love.
"And I think working in a bar for so long and being a waitress, and having people treat you like s**t, I think it really makes you realize that all of the rest of the stuff that comes with this is not important," she said.
"I think that there’s all sorts of other things that come along with coming fifth on American Idol," she added.
"But I don’t think any of that stuff is as important as me being making the kind of music that I love and I’m proud of and that the people that voted for me are proud of."