Before he made it onto American Idol, Elliot Yamin had barely ever left Los Angeles. Two years later, he hardly seems to be in the U.S. for two minutes at a time.
Virtually the moment the Season Five runner-up come home from entertaining troops at military bases in Europe, he was boarding a flight to Africa. Elliot is visiting Angola with Season Three winner Fantasia Barrino to make a film for the second "Idol Gives Back" show but managed to take some time to talk to OK! about his experience in the poverty-stricken nation.
The film is being made "to show how that $75 million dollars they raised last year is being used for things like health clinics, malaria bednets and medication and so forth," he reveals. "Just to get a chance to be a part of that and make a difference is going to be another eye-opening experience for me, help keep me grounded and show just how lucky we are as human beings to live here in America."
Last year was a truly lucky one for Elliot, 29. His single “Wait for You” was a huge hit, and the self-titled album it was cut from went gold in October. But he’s just one of the Season Five veterans to hit the big-time. When he won his place in the final three, he knocked Chris Daughty out of the competiton, but now Elliot’s psyched that his onetime rival is blowing up, too.
"I think it’s awesome," he says. "I think it’s another testament toward the validity of the show. I couldn’t be more proud." He adds that Chris deserves his success all the more because he has slaved over his music ever since he was dropped from the show, even missing out on the wild times during the post-season American Idol tour to work on his album.
"It was a whirlwind experience, none of us had toured like that. And me, I had never really traveled. We really soaked it all in, enjoyed every second of it. We would go out and party and had a great time. That dude would never be around with us. I know he enjoyed it, but he was working his ass off writing and recording that record that’s sold millions thus far," he says. "Just shows you what hard work does for you, and I’m just glad to see him blowing up and kicking ass."
On his own music front, Elliot remains focused, having "already broken ground" on his follow-up album (he’s planning for a summer release), but he’ll always make time to follow his philanthropic side. Along with entertaining troops and "Idol Gives Back," Elliot, a type 1 diabetic, continues his campaign against the illness and recently opened the Johnson and Johnson Diabetes Institute in California.
"Over the past years I’ve been working very close with them, being a spokesperson, programs that they sponsored. It’s great for me to share my perspective from a patient standpoint. I’m doing what I can to help find a cure for it. Me being a member of that society, I know what a difference these programs and institutions make."
“Idol Gives Back” airs Wednesday, April 9, on Fox.