"A lot of people were surprised. I couldn't help but hear a bunch of, 'What, what, no!' in the background behind me with all of the girls," Lushington told reporters during a Friday conference call. "It is what it is and I enjoyed every minute of it. I don't regret anything. A lot of people were shocked, but that's just how the dice were rolled. I know that I'm going to benefit from this in the future."
While the 17-year-old from Douglasville, GA might not totally agree with her ouster, she's aware the "almost 31 million" home viewer votes cast following last week's performance episode broadcasts can't be wrong.
"We may have our disagreements, but you can't argue with the public. Because this happened, it was supposed to happen, so I know that I'm going to benefit from it all," said Lushington. "It's going to get even better. I got a lot of exposure here and I don't want to go home. The fact that I have to, it will keep me grounded, I know for sure."
Lushington sang Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" during Wednesday night's performance episode, and judge Randy Jackson thought it was a "safe" song choice -- which made it "boring." While fellow judge Paula Abdul was impressed and Simon Cowell agreed he's been a big fan of hers, he also sided with Jackson in calling Lushington's performance "boring" while questioning the song selection.
"You can't have any regrets. You have to stay confident in yourself. I did my best and that's all that matters," she told reporters. "I know that I could have done better and I know that I am capable of better. I know that I was one of the judges' favorites, which gave me a slight piece of motivation. I don't regret anything."
In addition, Lushington said she appreciates the comments given to her by Idol's judges.
"Simon has always been my favorite. From when I was 10 when I first started watching the show, I've always been a fan of his," she gushed. "And now having more respect for him because even though they weren't the greatest opinions, he still gave me constructive criticism, which allowed me to get better and to stay focused. I have a lot of respect for him with that."
Following her elimination, Lushington immediately received a hug and condolences from fellow semifinalist David Archuleta, with whom she appeared as a contestant on Star Search four years ago.
"I probably would've been the same way if he would have left, but it was kind of weird because I never have seen him that emotional before," she said of Archuleta. "It's always sad to see somebody that you're close to leave."
Lushington said she was unaware that Archuleta was also a semifinalist until the two were picked up by the airport shuttle for Idol 7.
"He was sitting next to us. My dad said, 'Isn't he that kid that was on Star Search with you? What was his name, David?' I looked over and I said, 'I don't know,' because he looked so different," she recalled. "My father asked him and he was like, 'Do you remember her when she was on there with you? She sang 'My Funny Valentine.' He said, 'Oh my God!'"
From there, Lushington said the two rekindled their friendship.
"We've just become really close," she explained. "We're really good friends and his dad and my dad always talk, because we were always together. Because of us being minors, we were always in school. We ate lunch with each other. We had breakfast with each other. Our dads hang out and talk with each other all the time. We will make jokes about them, talking about how our dads were like Laurel and Hardy."
Lushington labeled her recent encounter with Archuleta as "cool, kind of a coincidence" and also shed some light on why the 17-year-old Cowell characterized as the "one to beat" will also be popular with home viewers.
"It's the girls, trust me. I remember telling him from the beginning, 'You're going to be a huge chick magnet,'" said Lushington. "He is a phenomenal singer. He's going to do great and I just know it."
While both Lushington and Archuleta appeared on Star Search, that doesn't even compare to some of the previous experience of some other Idol 7 semifinalists -- including Carly Smithson, who had a big-budget recording contract with Vivendi Universal SA's MCA Records in 2001.
"I just don't understand why people make a big deal about it," said Lushington. "American Idol has been on this long, it's going to be hard to find real, real amateurs nowadays. You can't blame them for trying to venture out and try to catapult their career in some other terms. They didn't break any rules. They're not in a contract now, which is the rule. That's basically all that counts."
With her Idol journey behind her, Lushington said she plans to continue focusing on her career as a musician.
"I've always been writing, composing new songs and performing, just trying to continue with my goals. I pretty much have my life mapped out the way I want it to go," she said. "I'd like to have my own band and hopefully record a solo pop, rock type of album within the means Alicia Keys and John Meyer. I would like to venture into that nice, live sound and like, real musicianship."
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