Kara DioGuardi's New Book Reveals A Past of Sexual Abuse, Eating Disorders and a Future of Inspiration

The former American Idol judge describes herself as an artist, songwriter and survivor. The one word she never uses is victim. While she comes across as a happy woman on camera, in her new memoir, A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love and American Idol, she reveals that she’s been hiding a very painful past. In an interview with MORE, DioGuardi, 40, bares her soul and explains why her life has been far from perfect. An edited version of the interview follows.

by Ilyssa Panitz • MORE.com Celebrity Reporter
Photograph: Stephen J. Finfer

MORE: In your new book, you write about experiencing sexual abuse as a child by a neighbor’s kid who was also a family friend.

Kara DioGuardi: Yes. I was 11 years old. We were playing a game that turned into a lot of touching, and I knew it was wrong. It was such a difficult situation because when I told my mom, who was a strict Catholic and a virgin when she married, she just turned away. She didn’t do anything about it and, as a result, I felt betrayed.

MORE: What’s it like to be betrayed by the one person who is always supposed to protect you?
KD: I felt both unprotected and betrayed because this was my mother. I mean, she was supposed to take care of me. I needed her. For me, I started feeling things like, “Am I not worth anything?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “Do you not love me?”

MORE: How did this experience affect the rest of your childhood and teenage years?
KD: It shut me down. It put me in doubt. I think, as a result of having all of these negative feelings, my self-esteem was so low and I got into a lot of bad relationships.

MORE: You also go public with another nightmare: being date-raped by a music producer.
KD: Yes, and that was absolutely terrifying.

MORE: Do you suffer from post traumatic stress disorder? Flashbacks? Nightmares?
KD: No, but there were moments I had to relive while writing the book. It not only made me sad, but it also caused me to have funky days and cry.

MORE: How did this effect your relationships with men? Did you fear you might be attacked again?
KD: No, because I knew I would never let myself get into that situation again. I also knew I couldn’t put that experience on every guy.

MORE: Why didn’t you name your attackers in the book?
KD: Because I don’t want it to be about them. This book is about me.

MORE: You mention that you had an eating disorder. 
KD:  I was so unhappy with myself. I think I was letting all of my emotions fester inside me. I even read somewhere that statistics show women who have been molested—like me—tend to have eating disorders.


MORE: Tell us about your emotions these days.
KD: All this has made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. I know now I did nothing wrong. They did. I shouldn’t be ashamed, but proud of who I am and what I’m doing, which is making and producing great music.

MORE: What do you hope to accomplish by putting your story out there?
I want to inspire and empower women. My message to them: Go for it because when you hit that high note, it’s a great feeling.


Related Celebrity Interview:Click here to read how Kelly Rutherford Uses Age to Reel in the Perfect Man


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First Published April 25, 2011

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