Pitch Perfect

At her Los Angeles audition for Making the Band, transgender contestant Jaila Simms wowed Sean "Diddy" Combs with her soulful voice -- even if he did notice that her range ran a bit lower than expected.



Did he give you valuable advice on making it in the music business?Definitely. You know, it was all about the live element with Diddy, and he definitely taught us valuable lessons throughout the entire process. One thing that stood out to me was, you know, to leave your heart on the stage. When you go up there, give your all to the audience because they came there to see a piece of your soul and that's what you want to give them. Diddy showed me how to do that as a vocalist.

Did you get along with the other contestants?Loved them [ laughs ]! No, of course any time you have 40-some-odd musicians and vocalists in a house together, it's definitely going to be a colorful event, to say the least. But the journey was great, and I wouldn't change the [ Making His Band ] family for anything.

What was the most challenging moment for you during the series?There were several challenges, and we were on pins and needles the whole time because this was our careers on the line. You don't want to mess up ever! A lot of [the challenges] were facing our own fears and overcoming our own insecurities. We had to always put our best foot forward for the judges as well as for Diddy.

Did you always want to be a performer?I did [ laughs ]! Ever since I was a little one. A little tot. I knew that music was my passion and my purpose for being here on this planet. I really feel like we all have a divine purpose, and, you know, at some point in our lives it's revealed to us. Luckily for me, it was revealed at an early age, and music was it. I knew that stepping into the music industry was going to be hard, but I've always known that music was my love.

Growing up, who were your musical role models?Of course Whitney Houston and legendary figures like Michael Jackson. I'm also a big musical theater buff, so people like Bette Midler or Liza Minnelli or Judy Garland as well as pop icons like Anita Baker and Mariah Carey -- they all influenced me. And of course, I've got to give a shout-out to Prince because he is iconic. And, of course, Diddy and the whole Bad Boy family.

Did you have any transgender role models?Hey, not really. I'm 27 years old, so I was growing up during the '80s. I was an '80s baby and there weren't too many transgender people in popular roles in the media. Just recently, I've been looking up to people like Laverne Cox and RuPaul, who's a female impersonator, but in the same vein. Also, people like [ America's Next Top Model transgender contestant] Isis and people that I can connect with on a personal level who are more in my generation.

Tags: television