Most singers who turn into stars on "America Idol" take months to get the attention of the national media. Carmina Salcido got the paparazzi treatment on the first day of tryouts.
Hungry and exhausted, the 24-year-old Sonoma resident walked out of San Francisco's AT&T Park around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, more than 15 hours after she arrived at the stadium. Waiting for her were camera crews from local and national media, including E entertainment and ABC News 20/20, though Salcido almost seemed too tired to care.
"You guys are lucky I didn't make a run for it as soon as I got out," she joked, saying she just wanted to go home, greet her animals and go to bed.
Salcido had good news to share. Out of 9,200 singers who came from across the country to perform Thursday before Idol screeners, Salcido was in a small fraction invited to the next step in the path to national glory. Organizers wouldn't disclose exactly how many others advanced with her — or when and where the next round of one of the nation's most popular TV shows would occur.
Her well-documented story, though, is most remarkable for the way it began, as one of the darkest chapters in Sonoma County history.
In 1989, her father Ramon Salcido murdered seven people, including her mother and two sisters. Then a toddler, Salcido survived with a slit throat. She was found in a county garbage dump next to the bodies of her sisters.
Ramon Salcido was convicted of the crimes in 1990 and sentenced to death row where he remains.
For Carmina, the slaughter began a life of turbulence she documented in a book published last year called "Not Lost Forever." That garnered the attention of 20/20 and resulted in an hour long documentary on her journey back from that awful day.
Thoughout it all she found refuge in music and singing, a miracle obvious to anyone who sees the ear-to-ear scar running across her throat.
One of the songs she performed Thursday was "Ave Maria," a favorite since she was three, she said.
"I just want to go out and be an example to other people that you can't let your past rule your future," she said.
She said she was also doing it for her deceased family. Her mother, an aspiring model, especially would have loved the idea of being on Idol, she said. Salcido lives life not just for herself but for them, she said.
"I know they were there with me today," she said.
Her father is not a part of her life. Asked what she thought of the idea of him seeing her on "American Idol," she said she hand't even thought about it.
It was unclear Thursday how much of Salcido's backstory helped her Thursday. Supervising producer Patrick Lynn said he was unfamiliar with her story — although her pursuit of American Idol was reported widely prior to the tryout and other producers were alerted.
Lynn said the only way to the top is with talent.
"First and foremost, you have to be able sing and have to have a good personality," he said.
Justin Glaze, 19, is sure Salcido has the chops. Glaze considers Salcido an older sister and says he is about the only family she has. He joined her Thursday, waiting for 15 increasingly painful hours as his contact lenses dried out. He wasn't deterred by the length of time and he wasn't surprised by the result.