4 May 2008
(05-04) 04:00 PDT Hollywood -- The woman in a slinky black dress with a tropical flower tucked behind her ear waits backstage, nerves steady.
Surely the judges, seated at a narrow table facing the stage, don't know that most nights she cries herself to sleep. That she came to Los Angeles from Tahiti six years ago to be a star, and when that didn't work, traded sex for rent money. That she's tried to take her own life more times than she can say because she's always hated that thing between her legs, because she's a woman trapped in a man's body.
"Are you ready, Lani?" asks a judge from out front.
Lani Manoa walks to the end of the stage, grips the microphone and lets loose her rendition of Celine Dion's "The Greatest Reward." Manoa belts out the lyrics as if she's desperate, as if this chance to become a performer may just save her life.
"They told me my voice gave them chills," Manoa, 25, said afterward. "For the first time, maybe the first time in my life, I knew this was just the beginning." . . .Read More