"I kind of had an idea I was going home," she told reporters during a Friday conference call. "I definitely think I deserve to be in the Top 12 -- but at the same time, when they told me that I was first, I actually called my mom at that moment, and was like, 'I think this is going to be my last time performing on this stage.'"
The 19-year-old from Joplin, MO was right, as she was eliminated on the cusp of the finals during last Thursday night's live results show broadcast that revealed the Top 12.
Epperson said when she informed her mom about her hunch that she'd be booted after singing "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" first, her mom didn't really understand why.
"I just said I just feel that the order that I'm in is really going to affect the results," Epperson explained. "I feel that -- because I had such an upbeat song -- that it wasn't proper for me to be the very first person. I had to look at it as if I was in the audience, and I just sat down. If I would want someone right up in my face, right there in the beginning saying I want to dance with somebody. I'd be, 'Whoa, hold on, I just got here. Let me get warmed up first!'"
Epperson's blame on Wednesday night's "lineup" of performances also conveniently takes any reason for her ouster off of her.
"I don't think that I failed myself, because I didn't take what number I was going to go," she said. "I thought I did a very good job, as good as I could do. I do believe that them picking me to go first was a downfall... You're coming out with a fast upbeat song, it's a little overwhelming, like a little too much at the time. You want to wait and ease into that, and then make people get up... So, I think it was a little bit of a downfall that they put me first."
While Idol judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul both complimented Epperson's performance of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," Simon Cowell characterized it as "second-rate Whitney Houston." Epperson said she considered she might be criticized for selecting a Houston song, but decided to go forward with it anyway.
"I consider myself enough of a unique artist -- as far as my voice and my stage performance, and things like that -- that I didn't think that I would really be compared to [Houston or Mariah Carey], even though those are two of some of my favorite artists," said Epperson. "Yes, it went through my head, but I didn't second guess myself. I went ahead and did my Whitney song, and [Cowell] did compare me to Whitney. He said I was a second rate Whitney, and I will take that any day."
Despite Cowell's comment, Epperson said the sharp-tongued judge was still her favorite of the three.
"I loved all the judges, but I have to say my favorite would be Simon, probably because everyone says he's kind of bitter, but he does know what he's talking about," she explained. "He is a professional, and I think he gives very constructive criticism, even though he could probably word it a little bit differently sometimes, but probably him, because he's probably the most harsh and makes you want to do the best that you can do."
Epperson attended last summer's Atlanta audition for Idol's seventh season only two days after her dad died in a car crash, and the judges were impressed with her ability to still stand before them and perform for a golden ticket.
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"I just think that he was with me and God was with me, and my family and friends just pushed me through it," said Epperson. "That's what he wanted to do. I wasn't going to not go forward with my dreams because of that. He wanted me to do that, so that's what pushed me to keep going."
In addition, Epperson said just because her Idol journey is over doesn't mean her dad's not still helping her.
"I'm a strong believer in everything happens for a reason, and I believe that God has a bigger and better plan for me, and dad's just getting me through all of this, keeping that in my head," she said.
As a "driven person" on the heels of her Idol ouster, Epperson said she believes "the sky's the limit" of what she can accomplish in her life.
"I'm going to take every opportunity that I can. I've been in drama and things like that through middle school and high school, so maybe some acting, some commercials, maybe a little bit of modeling here and there," she said. "But definitely music, music, and music. Music is going to definitely stay in that. It's my heart and soul."