She's now a server and singer at La Cueva, an LGBT nightclub in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. It's Jaidah Christina Davila, 30, a South Side native who sparkles. [Note: Online research about La Cueva says that it is closed. Davila is aware of such reports, but confirmed the nightclub definitely is open for business.]
She was "JDA" during her run for the title on American Idol Season 12 before being eliminated in February 2013. Davila also was a Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree and a judge on Windy City Idol.
Davila started her transition in August 2013.
"Looking back, I see someone [on Idol] who was trying to do something that wasn't being exposed in the media or entertainment," Davila said in early January. "I was trying to utilize these ideas that I had in my head, this juxtaposition of [a] male meets female image, some sort of package that I wanted to show off to the world.
"In the moment, when I was exposing myself on American Idol … when I look at the old me, I see someone who was trying to do something different at that moment. I have since evolved into this new person I am today, which is [a] transwoman."
Davila has recommitted to her music. "I want to focus and work toward achieving something more than I did in 2014. I want to focus on my music, investing time, money and energy into it. I also want to communicate with the public more," said Davila, who is hoping for a record label to give her a chance.
Davila, when asked if she is now dating, said that, for the past year, she has been "close, dear friends with someone who I love very much and he loves me very much." Davila said that this person is in his first relationship with a transwoman, and this also is Davila's first relationship as a trans woman, she said.
Davila said her mom was one of the last to officially learn she was transitioning. She came out to her mom in late 2014. "That really helped me; it helped me accept myself even more," she said. "It helped me close one door and know that this is the life I am going to lead for the rest of my life."
Her nightclub life now, performing in front of small audiences, is "very humbling, nothing extravagant," she saidand certainly a shift from the mega-spotlight on American Idol.
"I wish I had this amazing story that a record label picked me up and [put out] albums, [but] it just didn't happen for me," said Davila, who is able to watch new versions of Idolbut with a new perspective.
"I'm able to watch [the show] now and dissect it, look at it differently; I can already envision what is going to happen," on future episodes, she said.
Davila walked the Idol journey as, admittedly, a "very androgynous" performer. "I wanted to use my image as my only story," she said, but that didn't turn into a champion on the stage.
But today, Davila, who was born and raised in Chicago and now lives on the South Side, is "very proud" to be a trans woman.
"When I was young and feeling different, I didn't know how to identify; I didn't know what transgender meant. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I learned," she said. "When I learned what transgender is, that's when it hit me and I felt like, 'Wow, maybe I am transgender.'
"It took me a while to accept it because I would always struggle with people using the [feminine] pronouns with me, such as, 'she.' It definitely was something that I had to come to terms with."