Kara DioGuardi has hit some tremendous peaks in her celebrated career as a music-industry fixture, but as her new memoir A Helluva High Note reveals, she’s endured more than her fair share of low notes, as well.
The former American Idol judge’s book, to be published April 26, bravely sheds light on the multiple instances of sexual harassment and assault that have blighted her past. The painful experiences, says the songwriter and producer, started when she was only 11, when a family friend’s son took advantage of her.
Recalling the first assault, DioGuardi, 40, whose new Bravo show Platinum Hit debuts May 30, writes in her memoir: “On one particular day, he took me into the back shed of his house and put his hands all over my breasts and vagina. I remember freezing and not knowing what to do.”
Years later in 2000, just as her career was starting to boom, she was date-raped by a “fairly known producer” after what she assumed was a friendly dinner.
“[W]ithin a few hours, he was on top of me, pumping, sweating and speaking to me in Spanish, not a word of which I could understand,” she writes. DioGuardi goes on to say that while she repeatedly told the producer to stop, she couldn’t fight him out of fear of his hurting her.
Later in her life, DioGuardi experienced other trauma, this time in the workplace. Shipped off on a three-day “songwriting trip” with a “hugely successful artist,” DioGuardi recalls, “the trip’s activities consisted of watching Russian porn, scavenging around the kitchen for food [and] leering at two strippers … as they performed sex acts in the living room.”
She says she stuck it out due to her steadfast professionalism. I wasn’t gonna let this bastard deter me from doing the job,” she writes. Eventually, after the artist pursued her in his basement home and forced her hand to his crotch, she walked out.
DioGuardi also touches on her departure from one of America’s most successful shows. The songwriter left American Idol last August, after finding out her that job was on the line – via the Internet. The former judge says she then asked the producers to let her out of her contract.
“I wanted a child, and there was no way I could get pregnant under the stress of 18-hour work days and live TV,” she writes. “I had undergone three unsuccessful rounds of IVF during Season 9.”
In the end, DioGuardi feels a certain peace about her departure. “Leaving was painful, and there will always be a part of me that wanted to stay,” she writes. “But my desire to be in control of my destiny was larger than my need to be a household name.”