American Idol's Backstage Pastor


"It was vital for me," Vance said. "I was 16 years old and I was very in shock and trying not to get too immersed in the drama and everything. She helps you center in and remember what you need to be focusing on, and loving people, which she's so great at, and taking in the moments."

Bellesi and the Vances have remained close, with Bellesi helping set up shows for Vance to perform while traveling on the West Coast. Bellesi has even flown to Nashville to see Vance perform, Vance said.

For Bellesi, the opportunity to provide emotional and financial support to the contestants has become her life's work through her personal ministry.

The Bellesis invite contestants' families to stay at their home, and they take families out for meals and help with gas money and airfare.

Bellesi said she and her husband spend their own money on the groceries, meals, and gas; and occasionally, friends volunteer to help specific contestants that they've been inspired by, Bellesi said.

Such financial support can mean the difference between family members viewing their loved one's performances live or on TV from a thousand miles away.

"When you have so many family members in a family, and if you make it into top 24, it's a year-long thing," Bellesi said, of the American Idol contestant experience. "So a lot of those kids fly back and forth to their original audition place three or four times, to get before the judges, and it's expensive."

To show their gratitude for her help, many contestants have stopped by church services to sing.

"It's not like these kids had to be of any faith at all, it's just kind of the way it's fallen," she said. "I told the lord, I don't need to do this but if you want this, if this thing is going to bear fruit I will."

This season, the Bellesis have thrown their support behind Colton Dixon, a contestant who they came to know through his previous attempts to get on the show. Dixon is outspoken about his Christian beliefs and has written and sung worship songs for nearby churches, Bellesi said.

"He loves God. The very first thing out of his mouth was 'I'm a Jesus freak,' she said. "He is authentic, and my husband says authenticity will always have an audience. Colton is the Tim Tebow of American Idol, the kid that doesn't back down from his faith."

Bellesi said that for each season since 2005, she has had a conversation with God before the contestants arrive in Los Angeles, asking him whether he wants her to once again minister to the Idol contestants.

For 15 straight seasons, she's found the answer to be a resounding "yes."

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