From singing in front of her local church to performing for more than a million viewers worldwide, Lauren Daigle refused to lose sight of her purpose.
The child and family studies sophomore advanced to Hollywood in the ninth season of "American Idol" and returned for a chance at this year's season 11 crown.
On her first trip to Hollywood, Daigle got a unanimous "yes" from the judges but was cut shortly afterward.
She said she felt she lacked focus and had misguided motives.
"At first, I was this 17-year-old teeny-bopper who was like, ‘Yeah, I just want to sing,'" Daigle said. "I wanted to help people, but that was not my main goal."
Two seasons later, Daigle was back on the road to "American Idol" equipped with maturity and a purpose.
Daigle decided she wanted to use her voice and her position on "Idol" to help those who could not help themselves, specifically victims of human trafficking.
She said she told only her parents about her return to the show because this time she wanted her appearance on "American Idol" to be less about her and more about her cause.
"I would just tell people I had to go to California for something," Daigle said.
Daigle strolled into the audition room and performed a soulful rendition of "Black and Gold" by Sam Sparro.
She attributed her newfound confidence to her experiences singing in front of her church.
Daigle was cut this year right before she reached the top 24 round, but she said she's content with the decision. She viewed her stint on "Idol" as a learning experience, but she realized the competitive aspect of the show is not suited for her.
"The competition becomes more than what you're passionate about," Daigle said.
Daigle said being on the show had many perks, including singing for R&B superstar Mary J. Blige and meeting talented musicians. But most importantly, the show made her further realize how important using music as an instrument of advocacy was to her.
"I was so blessed and thankful to come home to do music my way," Daigle said.
Since leaving the show, Daigle has been doing just that. She travels around Louisiana as a lead singer of the band Ask the Thomas Bros.
Daigle said she writes her own songs, usually about love and her stance against human trafficking.
The soulful singer's passion for human trafficking awareness came after she was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus, an immune deficiency disorder that placed her in home school, where she met a girl who gave a presentation on the horrible reality of trafficking.
Since then, Daigle has been a strong believer in the fight against modern-day slavery.
"I was one of the girls who wanted to beat down the doors and get those girls out," Daigle said.
She said her resources to help victims of trafficking were limited, but after coming to the University, she joined Tigers Against Trafficking and was excited she had found an organization that shared her passion.
Daigle said she would consider auditioning for "Idol" again, but said she will always stay true to her beliefs. Regardless of the audience, she said she feels most enriched when she sings with a purpose.
Daigle encourages everyone to find their passion.
"Follow your dreams, but follow with a purpose," Daigle said.
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