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'American Idol' reveals first seven ninth-season Top 24 semifinalists

By Reality TV World staff, 02/17/2010 

American Idol ended the dreams of 27 more Hollywood Week hopefuls and formally revealed the first of the competition's ninth-season Top 24 semifinalists during Tuesday night's special two-hour Fox broadcast.

Seven semifinalists were unveiled during the broadcast: Didi Benami, a 23-year-old waitress from Knoxville, TN; Lee Dewyze, a 23-year-old paint sales clerk from Mount Prospect, IL; Katelyn Epperly, a 19-year-old student from West Des Moines, IA; Todrick Hall, a 24-year-old actor and playwright from Arlington, TX; Casey James, a 27-year-old musician from Fort Worth, TX; Aaron Kelly, a 16-year-old student from Sonestown, PA; and Michael Lynche, a 26-year-old personal trainer from Astoria, NY.

In addition, American Idol's judges also told two other hopefuls -- Shelby Dressel, an 18-year-old waitress from Avon Park, IL, and Jessica Furney, a 20-year-old caregiver from Wamego, KS -- they were among the 46 who made it to Hollywood Week's Final Judgement that hadn't made the competition's ninth-season semifinals.

"I'm sorry about this, I really am," Idol judge Simon Cowell told Dressel after her fate was revealed.

After she left, Cowell made it clear that he hadn't been in favor of cutting Dressel.

"That was the wrong decision," he said.

But Dressel, who was born with partial facial paralysis, took the news well.

"This is just the beginning," she told Idol host Ryan Seacrest. "Like this is the first thing I've ever done like this and it wasn't my time right now."

"Even just being on the show was amazing to me, but I really hope that people see that regardless of any insecurity, it doesn't matter, just be you and just go for it," she added.

Furney -- who had also previously made it to last season's Hollywood Week round -- didn't take the news of her rejection nearly as well.

"Please.  Guys, I have so much, you have no idea, you have no idea!" Furney said as she begged the judges to change their minds and insisted a sore voice had kept her from performing her best during Hollywood Week's final performance rounds. 

"I can do this. Do not send me home. I have it!  I do, I have it!  You have to see it!"

However Furney's pleas failed to sway the judges.

"We're not going to change our minds now," Cowell told her.

"Why?" Furney asked.

"Because we've made the decision of which 12 [women] are going through and that means someone else [would be] giving up and it's not going to happen," Cowell replied.  "It's not going to happen.  It really, really isn't... I promise you.... you didn't sing as well as the others."

Afterward, Furney continued to blame her Idol downfall on voice problems caused by Hollywood Week's group round.

"If I could change one thing with my audition, I would have not been in the group that I was in.  I lost my voice on group day because [the other] people couldn't get their stuff together," she said. 

"I should have just stopped and been like 'No, if you're not going to get your part I'm not going to sing with you anymore because I have to take care of me.'  And I didn't take care of me, I did it for the benefit of the group and it bit me in the ass."

Although most of their identities appear to have already leaked online, American Idol will formally reveal the ninth season's 17 remaining semifinalists during tonight's broadcast.

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