Kara DioGuardi Learns to Love the Limelight

The act stunned everyone, including the other judges, who had made a bet with DioGuardi that she would chicken out, so they had to pay up afterward to a charity, Phoenix House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to substance-abuse prevention and treatment services.

"I've been building recording studios there in different facilities, to help kids that are going through drug addiction, to kind of deal with their emotions -- to go to a place that's safe, where they're not judged, where they can kind of open up about what they're going through," DioGurardi said. "And it's really helped a lot of them in their recovery. The money that Fox donated will go to build another one."

DioGuardi received some criticism for her bikini act, but she said she didn't regret doing it.

"I did it for charity. So, at the end of the day, I'm willing to make fun of myself," DioGuardi said.

Used to working behind the scenes, DioGuardi lately wears a confidence that matches her enormous talent. The 38-year-old is poised on the brink of a spectacular career as a public figure in her own right, and she seems to wear her newfound fame well.

DioGuardi said that she actually likes signing autographs and hugs fans who come up to her on the street.

"The fact that someone even asks for my autograph makes me very happy," she said.

Kris Allen Vs. Adam Lambert

As for "American Idol's" unexpected outcome, DioGuardi shied away from saying just who she would have voted for to take the season 8 crown.

"They both shared this kind of fearlessness that they were who they were. They had a vision for themselves as artists. And they really stuck to it. And I really admired that about them," DioGuardi said. "I think this year, we didn't end up with just singers. We ended up with artists. And you have a real sense for what their records will be when you go to the record store. And that ultimately is the goal."

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