Star semifinalist ‘feeling like a winner’
Indirah Tirso didn’t win the singing contest, but came back with a bigger prize: Confidence
TORII STATION, Okinawa — Sometimes, all it takes is a little push from a loved one to encourage the pursuit of a dream.
After competing as a semifinalist in the military’s recent Operation Rising Star competition, Indirah Tirso said she’s ready to share her singing and songwriting talents with a broader audience.
"I’ve grown so much. … Now I want to put it out there," she said.
Tirso was among 12 Army community semifinalists who competed Nov. 12 in Virginia. The contest, which draws talent worldwide, is a kind of "Star Search" meets "American Idol" for active-duty servicemembers and family members.
Participating was a leap for Tirso, 24, whose stage fright had overshadowed her desire to perform.
"I’d sing at birthday parties with family and karaoke," she said. "But only at the house — I karaoke like crazy."
Nudging from her husband, Valiant, a 25-year-old Army specialist with the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, helped her move past her shyness, she said.
He’d surprised her with an application to audition for the local competition held at Torii Station in September.
"I always push her because she has a lot of potential," he said. "She’s my creative half."
Shaking, Indirah belted out a performance of "Listen" by R&B singer Beyoncé, and country singer Carrie Underwood’s "All-American Girl."
"I really thought another girl was going to take it," she said. "I’m always second-guessing myself."
The local win gave her the extra boost she needed.
"I was excited," Indirah said. "That’s when I started to say, ‘Man, I can do this.’ "
Her next stop was the semifinals at Fort Belvoir, Va., where she and the other contestants rehearsed for seven days.
The hours of standing and singing sent Indirah, then seven months pregnant, to the hospital, she said. But she quickly regrouped and credits her fellow contestants for looking after her.
"They’re awesome people. They took good care of me," she said.
On the big night, Indirah performed "All-American Girl" in front of three judges, including Nigel Caaro, producer of "America’s Got Talent."
The other two judges were former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley and Christian pop singer Jaci Velasquez.
The performance aired on the Pentagon Channel to allow viewers to cast votes.
Valiant and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Alirah, cheered from the audience.
"I was excited for her," he said. "I was thinking, ‘This is my wife, and no one can say anything.’ "
The judges gave mixed reviews: She had a strong voice but the song wasn’t a good fit. Indirah said she thought they were fair.
"I had trouble breathing," she said.
Valiant didn’t agree with the judges, saying she was robbed of singing her signature song "Listen," which was performed by another contestant.
"She was singing the wrong song," he said.
Six finalists were selected that day, including South Korea-based Pfc. Star Exum. Army spouse Joyce Dodson from Schweinfurt, Germany, was later named the winner.
The experience has inspired Indirah. Now she’s concentrating on writing music "based on what I feel and whatever I’m in the mood for," and she is optimistic about performing locally again.
"I always needed that someone to give me a boost," she said. "But now I’m feeling like a winner."