'Idol' finalist Melinda Doolittle "had an idea" she'd be going home
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/17/2007
If home viewers, the studio audience and even the judges were shocked at the outcome of last night's American Idol live results show that revealed the sixth season's Top 2 finalists, imagine how Melinda Doolittle must have felt. But apparently she wasn't as surprised as one might think when she discovered she'd be leaving the competition.
"You know, when [Idol host Ryan Seacrest] called me up front -- just by the nature of the show and how it normally goes -- I kind of had an idea that it would be me," Doolittle revealed during a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "So I was kind of taking deep breaths and kind of ready to go to the next step. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I thought I was possibly going to lose it, but it was a happy occasion because I made it this far. I'm kind of glad it turned out that way."
Considering the 29-year-old Brentwood, TN resident was widely considered by many -- including judge Simon Cowell -- to be one of the front runners to take home Idol's sixth season crown during next week's finale, Doolittle tried to offer explanation for why the "almost 60 million votes" cast by viewers based on Tuesday night's penultimate performance episode weren't enough to keep her in the competition.
"First of all, I was up against two amazing contestants. That was part of it to me. I love [Idol 6's Top 2 finalists, Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis] and I think they did a fabulous job on Tuesday night," she said. "But also, I know that I was probably getting a little bit of the older vote -- which is great -- and I had a lot of people come up and say, 'I voted for you five times last night it was so good!' Sometimes [older Idol viewers] might not spend the full two hours voting or anything like that, and that's okay. But I really feel like personally I won because of where I ended up in the competition."
One of the reasons why the former background singer might have appealed to older Idol audiences is because she was the oldest of the sixth season's finalists. However Doolittle was unsure if her age factored into her getting ousted on the doorstep of the finale.
"It may have figured in, in may not have. I don't know. It's speculating," she said. "It could just be that more people liked Jordin and Blake, and I'm okay with that too. I don't know exactly how much it played into it. I read in certain places that maybe it did... that's definitely a possibility."
Idol fans have been wondering since Wednesday night's results show if Seacrest used a double entendre during the live broadcast and prematurely revealed it was Doolittle who was about to be eliminated. Fox aired Sparks' hometown visit first during the broadcast, followed by Lewis'. Doolittle's was to air following a commercial break, and Seacrest said, "After the break, Melinda's going home."
"I think maybe either I didn't notice or [thought] he was just talking about the [video] package they were going to show about me going home to Nashville because I knew I was the next person for them to show," Doolittle explained. "So I just assumed that's what he was talking about. I've heard a lot of speculation about that, but I don't think it was that at all. I think he was kind of getting us ready for the next package they were going to show... The only thing to me he could have been talking about was the package. I don't think it was even a slip, I just think that was what he was talking about. I was completely fine with it. It didn't phase me at all last night."
Ironically, Doolittle's tendency to repeatedly appear surprised when Idol's judges heaped praise on her vocal praises had been one of Cowell's few constant criticisms of her performances.
"[The surprised look] is part of my personality, plus coming out of singing background for so many years, I get so used to having to sound like other people, that American Idol was my first time really stepping out and finding what my voice really sounded like," said Doolittle. "So the fact that people liked it and were giving me good comments was surprising to me. It was a great honor, but it always kind of shocked me just at first."
While she may have not been too surprised at her elimination, she appreciated that her fans were.
"It feel wonderful and I'm so grateful for people actually being shocked by it. At this point in the competition, it's kind of like, 'Well there's only three of us, so one of us has to go home.' But I'm just grateful that people wanted me to stick around and believed in me. That means the world to me. It means the world to me."
She may have been the oldest of the sixth season finalists, but Doolittle said you're never too old to learn something new.
"The biggest thing that I will take away is that I know that I was really scared to do this at the beginning, and the fact that I was able to step out and do it even in the midst of fear kind of just gave me an outlook on how strong God has helped me become and how much I've grown from it," she said. "I found my own voice as opposed to my own voice singing background and I couldn't have asked for more from this experience."
Check back with Reality TV World on Friday for more about Doolittle's exit interview, including how she serendipitously was cast for Idol's sixth season; where her support came from during her Idol journey; and if the hair on-top of her head throughout the experience was her own.