PROVO — It helped Laina Walker and Amy Whitcomb of Delilah immensely to have BYU's Vocal Point guys just down the hall in the hotel during the taping for NBC's reality show, "The Sing-Off."
They could go with them to church and rely on them for the strength of the priesthood held by faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When Whitcomb got very sick just before the taping of week six of "The Sing-Off," five of the LDS male singers came together to give her a blessing.
When the two Mormon women began to feel overwhelmed by the immensity and the pressure of working 24/7 to produce vocal numbers that would impress both the national television audience and the celebrity judges, they spent a few minutes with the guys they knew shared their dreams and values, and it helped them feel better.
"Basically we were just kind of thrown into the real world, out of our BYU bubble, and I realize more what a bubble that is," said Whitcomb. "There was a lot of swearing, a lot of vulgarity."
"When I came back to Provo, it was like a culture shock," Walker said. "Sometimes in L.A., I was the only person sober. It was one of those lifelong lessons come true. You don't make other people's choices but you can make your own," she said. She is majoring in music, dance and theater at Brigham Young University in her junior year.
It was really nice to share the same standards as Vocal Point, Walker said. "It was amazing. They had it in their contract that they could go to church and not rehearse on Sundays, so we would go to church, take the sacrament and have family prayer."
And it didn't take long for the other contestant groups to notice they didn't join in the swearing or the drinking and the partying.
The other members of Delilah became their fast friends and supporters of their ideals.
The costumers soon learned to back off when Whitcomb and Walker asked for tights or a longer skirt or a jacket.
"Most of the time they were aware of our standards," Whitcomb said. "They knew I liked to keep my shoulders covered."
Whitcomb said the added benefit of being dressed modestly meant she was comfortable on stage. "That shows," she said.
Walker said she would have preferred not to be costumed in sequins or in pink and red since she's a redhead and those are not her best colors, but she quickly learned to pick her battles.
"I'm more like a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl," she said. "I only ever caused a fuss over the modesty. They were nice about it, but they forget and they're busy. I felt a little bad for being a problem, but after hearing from people after the show, I made the right decision."
Both young women are serious not just about having a vocal career but about living their religion as well.
Whitcomb has a rock band (The Whits) releasing their second album this month, and she wants a solo pop rock career.
Both were part of the Noteworthy a cappella group of BYU students in the first season of "The Sing-Off." When Whitcomb and Hannah Juliano called her to be part of the group returning to the third season of "The Sing-Off," Walker didn't hesitate.
"I had a job. I had a new major. I had to be in L.A. in a week and a half. There was no question. I had to do it," she said, even though it's been a grueling, intense run that's presented its own share of missionary opportunities along with career exposure.
"I'm not really in charge of my own schedule. I kind of have to be on call," Walker said.
Walker wants to ride the wave from Delilah's success as long as it lasts and then she wants a husband and a family.
Whitcomb said it was a surprise to find out just how taxing being on the television stage can be even though she's wanted a performing career since she was little. "It was very emotionally and physically exhausting. Now I know why people on reality shows cry so much!" she said. "There's so much pressure."
And the demands haven't stopped since the group was cut from "The Sing-Off." They've been to Rochester, N.Y., for a holiday show and will be guest performers at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Then they head to Hong Kong.
"We have five trips scheduled so far and more coming all the time," Walker said.
The girls have a challenge with the rehearsals since Walker is in Utah right now. "They send me music. I learn it and we rehearse when we get together," she said. "It's very different."
Meanwhile, she's trying to keep up with her classes. (She took her final exams in the four days between the Christmas "Sing-Off" finale taping and leaving for New York.)
Whitcomb has graduated, so she doesn't have that additional stress this time around.
"I did that during the first season of 'The Sing-Off' with Noteworthy, and it was so hard," she said.
Walker said her friends and professors "carried" her through her classes, offering her their notes and making concessions that made it possible to pass her classes with high Bs.
"I'm livin' the dream," Walker said. "I've enjoyed every step and bump, every success and every trial. I wouldn't trade the experience that I had for the world. I met the most amazing, genuine and talented people and am so grateful that I was presented with the opportunity.
“I just love performing — if I don’t perform, I’ll die," she said.
If you go:
What: Noteworthy concert
Where: Covey Center for the Arts, 424 W. Center, Provo
When: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 6
Cost: $10/$8 students, seniors
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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