"I definitely would have loved to have the chance to do a few more weeks. I really, really wanted to get to the Top 10 so I could tour this summer. It was really disappointing, but you never know how America's votes are going to come out or how someone's going to react to your performance," Whitaker told reporters during a Friday conference call. "Although it was a shock, everyone has to go home except one person. It was great I had this opportunity and experience in the first place."
After host Ryan Seacrest revealed home viewer votes had eliminated Whitaker from the competition during Thursday night's live results show broadcast, the Tulsa, OK-native turned her back to the camera and was visibly upset as tears streamed down her face.
"I had so many emotions. I had so many thoughts going on," she said. "Now the next day I can really look at it and I can take so much away from this. How many people get to say they were the Top 10 girls in America? It's a blessing. [Thursday] night I was so emotional because it was just kind of surprising."
The surprise Whitaker was feeling almost prevented her from singing her farewell performance.
"At the time, I had so many thoughts going through my mind. I had a lot of emotions. At the time, it was like I was saying, 'I can't sing right now.' But I knew in the back of mind, 'I have to do this. This is the end of my journey, it's going to be a good ending to it,'" she recalled. "But I think the real factor was just how? 'How am I going to remember my words right now and how am I going to make it sound good when I'm crying?' I'm really glad. I think I would have regretted it if I hadn't sung."
In addition, Whitaker said the fact that the studio audience also seemed surprised at her ouster made the elimination easier to digest.
"I guess that's a compliment they were shocked -- they didn't think I was going to go. That makes me feel better about it," she said. "But only one person doesn't have to go home, and I got a lot of exposure and I'm so thankful for that because there's so many artists out there that would just die to have one minute of exposure on television."
Whitaker sang "Hopelessly Devoted to You" during Wednesday night's performance episode and judge Simon Cowell called it "very old-fashioned" and "pageanty." Since the first two Idol 7 semifinal rounds had the contestants singing songs from the 1960s and 70s, Whitaker sang "More Today Than Yesterday" in addition to the Grease tune and said it was "definitely" difficult to connect with the first song due to her age.
"Since a lot of the songs are classics, just because they're classics doesn't mean that they're a good vocal song for you to do that might show off your vocals," she said. "So it was definitely hard to portray the song with emotion and stuff when I had never really heard it before. So I was really looking forward to the 90s if I would have stayed."
While Idol judge Randy Jackson also commented he didn't think "Hopelessly Devoted to You" was "the right song" for her, Whitaker doesn't regret the song selection.
"I'm really happy with it. I really love Grease, it's like my favorite movie," she said. "So I'm really glad I sang the song. I enjoyed it. If I would have sang another song, I wouldn't have had as much fun."
On more than one occasion prior to her elimination Cowell characterized Whitaker as Idol 7's "dark horse." However it was a comment the sharp-tongued British judge made during her Dallas audition that stuck with her.
"In my first audition when Simon said, 'I don't think you're as good as you think you are,'" recalled Whitaker. "It really bothered me for the first couple of months because I so didn't want to come off like I was conceited or anything... So I definitely was more aware of how I portrayed myself."
As one of Idol 7's youngest semifinalists, Whitaker has grown up watching Idol. She said she "definitely loved" Kelly Clarkson and still recalls specific first-season performances, but was surprised by how much work contestants have to put in on a daily basis.
"When I watched before, I knew that they had to put a lot of time into it. But I did not know to what extent," she said. "I think that it surprised me how much rehearsing, how much thought and how much stress goes into actually picking your song and coming up with something that's actually going to impress America."
While she wasn't able to impress America enough to win over their votes, Whitaker isn't discouraged and plans on trying to continue in the industry.
"I'm definitely, definitely going to keep singing," she said. "I think this definitely gave us a lot of exposure and people actually know who we are now. Hopefully there's going to be a ton of opportunities that come up, and I'm open to anything. I'm really excited to see what happens."
(Photo credit Fox)
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