When the rest of her BYU classmates returned to school after the Thanksgiving holiday, junior music dance theatre major Laina Walker was on her way to Los Angeles to rehearse for a national television appearance. She’s now back on the stage where she stood out for her beautiful singing voice and for sticking to her personal beliefs.
Walker and recent BYU grad Amy Whitcomb are members of Delilah, the all-female a cappella group that reached the final six on NBC’s popular music competition “The Sing-Off.” They’ve been invited back to join Vocal Point, BYU’s male a cappella group, and other contestants for the show’s holiday reunion special, airing Monday night.
“It turned out to be a wonderful experience,” she says. “There were hard times, and there were great times. Making the final six was great.”
Unable to settle on just one favorite style of music, the versatile Walker loved the variety the show’s multiple formats required.
“Classical, jazz, musicals, pop – I enjoy singing pretty much anything except rap and screaming hard metal,” she said. “I just love performing – if I don’t perform, I’ll die.”
Another highlight was the close kinship she developed with her group members.
“We are complete opposites of one another, from the way we were brought up, to religious backgrounds, to political views and things like that,” said native of Cottonwood Heights, Utah. “But our common thread was this passion for music and this respect for ourselves and for women in general and standing up for yourself and what you believe in. And I loved being a part of that.”
One belief Walker stood up for was that she’s most comfortable dressing modestly. This preference didn’t come naturally to the show’s wardrobe staff, who persistently presented her with outfits that didn’t match her standards. A naturally friendly and upbeat person, Walker didn’t like disappointing them or being perceived as making things difficult.
“But there’s just certain things that you can’t justify and principles you can’t go away from,” she said. “There were definitely times when it would have been much easier to forget about that inch or two on a skirt or something like that, but in my head I always held myself to this standard.’”
After taking such stands – repeatedly – Walker was glad she did. Her fellow group members were always supportive and other contestants complimented her for not compromising her values, even if they didn’t share them.
“For me it was just a personal thing, that I’ve made the choice to be modest, so I’m going to go ahead and do that,” she said. “Now I get emails from complete strangers who tell me, ‘My daughters watch the show, and they look up to you because of how you dressed.’ Things like that make the whole thing absolutely worth it, 100 percent.”
Although Walker regrets the missed opportunity to advance in the competition, she welcomed the chance to come home and get back into school.
“The timing was right for me,” she says. And looking back, the right timing was major factor in Walker’s path to success.
Her dream was to participate in BYU’s Young Ambassadors. But after auditioning for a spot for her freshman year, she was surprised to find she didn’t make the cut. When she asked what she could do to prepare for the next time, Young Ambassador Director Randy Boothe suggested Noteworthy, an a cappella group made up of female BYU students.
Noteworthy ended up appearing on the abbreviated first season of “The Sing-Off” later that year. And that exposure led to producers inviting Walker and Whitcomb to be part of what the show called the “all-girl supergroup.”
While she’s continuing her studies, Walker will remain active in Delilah, which has upcoming performances planned in Hong Kong and New York City. She’s grateful to professors who have worked with her during her hectic schedule this semester, and for the life lessons she’s learned through the process.
“What I learned from my time in L.A. is you can’t compare yourself to anyone else,” she says. “It’s only going to bring you down. Your only responsibility is to love everyone else and learn from everyone and from every experience you go through, whether it’s hard or whether it’s fun.”