Marie Digby
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The best kept secret in music


Miss Invisible" No More

August 12, 2004

Mandeville Canyon resident Marie Digby sings her prize-winning song "Miss Invisible" in front of a crowd of 2,000 at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom on August 5. Photo: Getty Images.

Palisadian-Post Intern Emeritus

She was facing her first press line and she'd made a faux pas: forgetting to remove the backstage pass from around her neck. But instead of acting embarrassed, Marie Digby tossed the pass off to the side and continued smiling for the cameras. 'I'm such a dork!' she proclaimed, and something rare happened'a group of journalists bonded with the girl on the other side of the rail.

Meet Digby, a 21-year-old Marymount graduate who last week debuted at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom as the winner of Pantene's Pro-Voice Contest, which sends one lucky winner (out of 1,200 applicants) to the aptly named Pro-Voice Concert. There, before a crowd of 2,000 New Yorkers and this reporter, Digby shared the stage with bestselling recording artists Ashanti, Fefe Dobson, Paulina Rubio and Skye Sweetnam. The annual event was founded as a way to get women's voices heard, and this year's unlikely feminist came in the lithe form of a softspoken tennis player-cum-musician from Mandeville Canyon.

A piano player since age 4, as well as a former competitive tennis player, Digby grew up in Pacific Palisades and attended Village School. She began writing songs as a teenager, at a time when she felt lonely, left out and as if she didn't fit in. 'I turned to music as a way to express the things I was going through,' Marie said. By the time she left home for UC Berkeley in 2001, Digby could play piano and guitar, and had stockpiled an arsenal of songs.

Socially active and happy with college life, Digby was taking some time off to pursue her music career when she was contacted by a friend in Tennessee, who had seen an ad for Pantene Pro-Voice on television and wanted his pal to enter. 'I totally didn't take it seriously,' Digby recalls. 'I sent my application in on the day before the deadline.'

''The shampoo company asked competitors to include music and lyrics for one of their self-penned tunes; Marie selected 'Miss Invisible', which described her experiences eating under the bleachers during junior high school lunch to hide from her teenage tormentors.

One week later, a Pantene rep phoned and informed Digby that she was one of three girls selected as the Pro-Voice finalists. 'I almost fell out of bed,' she said. The ensuing weeks were a whirlwind, as the girls filmed individual music video-style television commercials asking viewers to make one of them the lucky winner. The contest's grand prize included two tickets to MTV's Video Music Awards, $5,000 cash, and a chance to perform in the Pro-Voice concert in New York City. Marie's spot, which aired constantly on MTV and featured the aspiring songwriter playing the piano and singing the ballad, 'Miss Invisible,' sparked 30,000 music lovers to go online and vote for her, handing her the Pantene crown.

And that's how, on August 5, Digby found herself somewhere in the bowels of the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan, posing for the cameras on a dingy, 'this is Hollywood?' red carpet. Sheepishly, the green Digby told photographers she didn't know what 'look straight out' meant (stare right in front of you, smiling wide) and confessed to this reporter that she was 'so, so nervous,' more so about facing the press than she was about her five-song set, which would come later in the evening. She may have thought herself awkward, but Marie's media outing earned her nothing but praise from the men and women behind the lenses. 'She's well-poised, and she's beautiful. She's gonna go a long way,' Retina photographer Carmen Valdes said, as Digby skipped off for a quick break.

Later, Digby re-hit the press line, more relaxed this time, thanks to new company. The platinum artists sharing the bill with her that night-Ashanti, Fefe Dobson, Paulina Rubio (accompanied by her beloved dog) and Skye Sweetnam-all descended on the red carpet to preen and give interviews. And they couldn't have been more fond of the newcomer in their midst. 'She plays the piano, which is very, very awesome,' Dobson said. 'And she's obviously really passionate to be able to enter a contest, and have that will, so I can't wait to see [her perform]. She got here. This is a big step and not many people can do that, and I think that it's an awesome, awesome start.'

''Also stopping by to sing Marie's praises was Ashanti, one of the biggest R&B stars in America today. 'I think it's a great thing that she's original,' she said. 'That's very important [in terms of] breaking a new artist into the industry.' When asked what she thought of Digby's music and its message of 'rise above those who get you down,' Ashanti added that she thought 'it's such a positive thing, and it's important, because you have to have it inside you to be in this industry.' And did the diva think Marie has it? 'Yeah,' she said, winking.

Before her set, Digby camped out in the wings with Dobson, who gave the contest winner a pep talk. 'She told me to get out there and have fun,' Marie said. 'I was really nervous, just trying to breathe. But the minute I stepped on stage, the fright was just gone.' Encouraging shouts from the audience of 'Okay, Miss Invisible!' and 'You go, girl!' also helped guide Digby as she played and sang her way though five original, deeply personal songs.

''Afterwards, she was rushed backstage to tape an interview with MTV anchor LaLa, as part of a Pro-Voice segment set to air this Sunday at noon on the cable channel. She was then approached by a group of autograph hunters. 'I think I had more fun signing than they did getting my signature,' Digby said later. Back in the dressing room, she received congratulations from friends and her parents (Matthew, an attorney and Emiko, a homemaker) and teenage sisters Naomi and Erina, who all took their newly minted singing star out to a nearby diner for some celebratory sweets. 'It was just an amazing evening,' Digby said.

''Now back home, she's pursuing music full-time, both in the recording studio (working with a well-known producer as part of her Pantene prize package) and traveling with a mall tour for up-and-coming musicians, sponsored by YM magazine. 'My number one goal,' she says, 'is to make an album that's truly a piece of art.'

(Karen Wilson, a PaliHi graduate, began writing for the Palisadian-Post as a seventh grader at Paul Revere. She is spending her summer in New York City as an intern at Entertainment Weekly magazine. She will be a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara this fall.)

- Palisadian-Post

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Campus Junior Gets Top Spot in Singing Contest for Song of Isolation

Contributing Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2004
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Marie Digby, 21, is a philosophy major at UC Berkeley and one of three finalists in the Pantene Pro-Voice singing contest.
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The song that landed a UC Berkeley philosophy student a place as one of three finalists remaining in the Pantene Pro-Voice singing contest may be called “Miss Invisible,” but don’t be fooled by titles. Marie Digby, once an introverted young woman, isn’t invisible anymore.
The UC Berkeley junior used to hide under the bleachers on the football field of her junior high and high school during lunch time—but if she wins the contest she’ll be sharing the stage with top female acts Ashanti and Fefe Dobson in a New York concert and working with a professional producer on an album.

Not to mention, her face will be all over MTV, MTV2, VH1 and BET, which will air a commercial promoting the contest in the coming weeks.

“It’s like a dream come true, that’s the biggest thing that’s happened to me in music,” Digby says of the commercial shoot.

The contest has put Digby on the brink of fame—ironically because of a song that recalls a time when she felt the most alone.

“Miss Invisible,” which Digby wrote herself, recalls the hard years spent at her private Brentwood, Calif. junior high and high school, where she had difficulty finding even one friend.

“I drove a beat-up Volvo station wagon, I had zits, I wore Spandex, I thought it was the 80s,” Digby says of her high school self.

Digby was out of sync with the other kids at her school and felt isolated, she says.

“I didn’t have anyone to sit with and eat my lunch with—I didn’t want to eat by myself and have people stare at me like a loser, so I ended up eating on the football field under the bleachers so no one could see me,” she says.

Even though it was written about these personal events, “Miss Invisible” is a song everyone can relate to, Digby says.

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful or popular you are, because at some point everyone feels like they don’t belong, like they’re not accepted,” she says.

That feeling drove Digby away from the Brentwood high school to an all-girl Catholic school after ninth grade.

Luckily for her, however, it also drove her to the piano.

She started writing songs secretly, sneaking down to the piano room at night after her family had gone to sleep.

It was a talent show in her senior year of high school that finally launched her performance career.

Lauren Nalepa, who met Digby the night of Digby’s first performance and is now her best friend, recalls how nervous Digby was about revealing her music for the first time.

That first performance, a success, turned out to be the first of many. Digby hired a backup band and has played countless Los Angeles-area venues, including the likes of the Whiskey A Go Go and The Troubadour.

Digby crammed her entire UC Berkeley course schedule into three days every week so she could fly back to Los Angeles as often as possible to play shows with her band.

Nalepa has gone to almost every show Digby has ever performed, and has seen her progress from that first nervous night senior year, she says.

“She was really scared at first ... even little coffee shops where nobody was listening to her were way too big for her,” Nalepa says. “Now she walks into random huge record labels and pulls out her guitar and starts playing.”

Becoming a UC Berkeley student was another factor in coming out of her shell, Digby says.

“With Cal it’s almost impossible not to find your niche,” Digby says. “It was so exciting to find other kids who also had a passion, who are motivated.”

But music has become the main focus of Digby’s life—her constant performing has gotten her attention from record labels, and with the hype of the contest, the fame she has gotten glimpses of in the past is now just around the corner.

And if she wins, she’s going to jump on her chance.

“As much as I love college, music’s number one for me right now,” Digby says.

This passion has fueled Digby’s musical career to where it is today, and her growth as a musician has coincided directly with her growth as a person, Nalepa says.

“I think the fame has done her really well, it’s really opened her up to the whole world,” Nalepa says. “She’s finally blossomed.”

The public can vote for the winner at
- Daily Californian


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Feeling a bit camera shy


A piano player since age 4, as well as a former competitive tennis player, Digby grew up in Pacific Palisades and attended Village School. She began writing songs as a teenager, at a time when she felt lonely, left out and as if she didn't fit in. 'I turned to music as a way to express the things I was going through,' Marie said. By the time she left home for UC Berkeley in 2001, Digby could play piano and guitar, and had stockpiled an arsenal of songs.