Pop star Dami Im says there's beauty in being imperfect
“What I learned was that I have something like a fire inside of me…”
Pop sensation Dami Im has had a pretty excellent 2016. There was that spectacular Eurovision performance, as well as recently releasing Fighting for Love and heading out on an national tour. Plus, she has also made her movie debut – by being part of the vocal cast of Hollywood animated adventure Trolls. With megastars Justin Timberlake, Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick and Gwen Stefani also taking part in Trolls, Dami continues to establish herself on the international scene.
But as Dami tells Eternity, she is surprised that her star continues to rise. “I didn’t think that I would be doing this for as long as I have,” admits Dami, who quickly found fame thanks to her victory on The X Factor in 2013. “I just thought ‘I’ll give it a crack’ and winning was a huge surprise at the time. But being able to maintain my career has been such a blessing that I didn’t expect.”
Where the Korean-born Queenslander started out as a performer is a long way from the global stage she is on. Dami grew up singing in church. When she entered The X Factor television singing competition, Dami did not even have any non-Christian friends. “Before X Factor, I was singing at churches and it was good fun and I really enjoyed talking about Jesus in my songs to people that believe in Jesus,” the 28-year-old singer tells Eternity.
“But I felt like everybody already knows [Jesus] and I felt like ‘I don’t think this is all I should be doing.’ You know, God called us into the world not to be the light where there is already so much light.
“I didn’t even have any friends that weren’t churchgoers.” – Dami Im
“I was very sheltered but I knew that God loved the world and he wanted me to be loving the whole world rather than just the people at church.
“So I always had that longing, but X Factor was just something that came up and I thought ‘OK, I have to do something differently even if I’m terrified.’”
To cope with that fear, she recited a verse from Psalm 23 that she learned in primary school in Korea. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
“I didn’t even have any friends that weren’t churchgoers,” she explains. “That’s been all my life, all I’ve known. It was terrifying, but I knew God’s love wasn’t just for us at church but for everybody there, so that’s what happened and I’m really learning about the life of everyone outside.”
Dami feels called by God to sing to people who don’t know Jesus, and bring him glory wherever she goes. She should have many opportunities to do that, with the recent release of her new single, Fighting for Love, and her national tour based on her album, Classic Carpenters – a compilation of hits from the 1970s duo The Carpenters.
The Carpenters album is a wonderful showcase for Dami’s rich and flexible vocals while her new single, Fighting for Love, is a catchy dance-pop anthem reflecting the struggle she experienced growing up in Australia as an immigrant.
“Growing up in Australia wasn’t always easy. I always pretended to fit in and try to blend in.”
“This year has been a really big year for me and I learned a lot about myself,” she says. “What I learned was that I have something like a fire inside of me, and that I was much stronger than I thought I was.
“Growing up in Australia wasn’t always easy. I always pretended to fit in and try to blend in but this year I’ve learnt that I don’t need to really do that. I’m different and I’m a strong person.”
The tall, slender beauty says modestly it is only recently that she has accepted the way she looks.
“I didn’t always feel good enough and beautiful enough. Only recently I started to notice that, even though I look imperfect, I’m happy and there’s beauty in being imperfect.”
A natural introvert, Dami has gradually gained more confidence since being “thrown into the world” three years ago with The X Factor. This year her star unexpectedly rose in Europe as well with her second place at the Eurovision Song Contest.
“…even if you’re outside the church, all [you] really need is love, and that unconditional love of God.” – Dami Im
“I think I’ve come a long way in that I’ve learnt so much on the way and also my faith has also developed and I think I’m learning new things about the world and the importance of being grounded and having the faith in something that’s unshakeable, and so this journey’s been such a blessing to me.”
Learning about the secular world, she has gained insights into how people who live without God think and act and suffer.
“I never really knew or thought about that and what I realised was God loves everybody, each one of us, and even if you’re outside the church, all they really need is love, and that unconditional love of God,” she says.
“I’ve just really experienced how strong his love for me is over the years.” – Dami Im
Maintaining a relationship with God when on the road, surrounded by non-Christians, is not a problem for this family-oriented teetotaller, though. It is helpful that her husband, Noah, whom she met at church, is supportive and joins her on tour whenever he can.
“For me, I don’t find it difficult to keep a relationship with God; it’s more about having to shift and adjust to a new way – I feel like I’ve grown and matured.
“I feel like God’s promise to me will never change wherever I go or whichever situation I’m in, and I’ve just really experienced how strong his love for me is over the years.”
As her fame and fan base have grown, she has begun to wonder what God’s purpose is in giving her a platform to reach so many different people.
“I’ve got to sing to a lot of different people in Australia and I just pray each night that God will touch everyone’s hearts as I sing to them, especially those people that need healing.” – Dami Im
“I still question that often. For me it’s about just doing what I do where God has placed me and still keeping that connection to him and just being a daughter of God wherever I go and just being faithful.
“I find music is such a powerful tool and just touring around the country and singing these beautiful tunes every weekend in a different city; I’ve got to sing to a lot of different people in Australia and I just pray each night that God will touch everyone’s hearts as I sing to them, especially those people that need healing. And I think God works in mysterious ways and hopefully through my songs I’ve seen that happen and people cry listening to my music.”
A supporter of the charity Compassion since the age of 17, Dami went against her management’s advice after her Eurovision success and visited one of her sponsored children in Uganda rather than touring Europe.
Now she shares her journey with Compassion at every show.
“I have Compassion volunteers who come and set up their stand every night and we’ve been getting kids sponsored every show. I’m just doing what I can to bring Him glory, I guess.”