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3/1/2012 1:04:00 PM
Former refugee advances in 'Idol' competition
American Idol image
Romeo Diahn auditions for American Idol.
American Idol image
Romeo Diahn auditions for American Idol.

A 22-year-old former refugee, resettled in Portland by Catholic Charities, is on his way to Hollywood to compete in American Idol.

A decade ago, Romeo Diahn and his family were living in a refugee camp in Ghana, having fled their native Liberia in the 1990s. Diahn, now graduating from college, has been singing since he was seven and writing music since he was 18. Barack Obama is one of his heroes, and he can’t imagine doing anything except playing music.

Taking a break from his work as a shipping clerk in Portland, Diahn sang a Bob Marley song for a panel of stars during a Portland American Idol audition. Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez voted to allow Diahn to continue in the nationwide talent contest, which has launched some people into stardom.

Diahn sings under the name "Flawless."

“I come from a far-away land of poverty, and I am here in a land of opportunity, and I’m going to use it to my best advantage,” he told American Idol.

War broke out in Liberia when Diahn was a child. His father, an immigration commander, hustled his family out of the country, hoping they would get to the United States. But the process took a long time. The Diahns lived in difficult conditions in the Ghana camp for a decade until Catholic Charities welcomed them to Portland in 2001. 

"We waited for so long and never thought we'd make it," Diahn told the panel of celebrity judges in Portland. "I saw so many people perish. When we finally got the chance to come here, it was a great day. That day, I got a chance to know what a better life means."

His father, Dweyee Richard Diahn, told American Idol producers: “There’s no pot of gold in America. But if you have patience, then you make it.”

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