Sanjaya Malakar may not have taken on the entire world as one of American Idol's sixth-season finalists, but the 17-year-old Federal Way, WA-native apparently believes he at least had to overcome the Fox mega-hit's three judges to make it where he did.

"At a certain point all the judges just gave up," said Malakar in the June 20 issue of Steppin' Out, a weekly entertainment magazine published in the New York-New Jersey area.  "[The judges] realized the fans are going to do whatever they're going to do, and they're always going to vote for whomever they want.  They didn't have the power to change the way the fans felt.  In fact, if anything, the more [Idol judge Simon Cowell] was mean to me, the stronger the fan support got.  That's why all the judges got frustrated and just gave up... I didn't take it personally because I was just thinking what I needed to do."

Of all the show's judges, the Idol 6 seventh-place finisher said he thinks Cowell was the one who was "trying to get a certain reaction out of the fans" through his criticisms.  However Malakar added he actually has "respect" for the sharp-tongued Brit due to his "unbiased honesty."

"I actually kind of like Simon.  He was really mean to me -- but he's also really honest -- and I was searching for that," Malakar told Steppin' Out.  "Not a lot of people are like that anymore.  Especially in this business.  He doesn't say things the way you might want to hear them.  He says what he feels with every speck of sugar off of it.  It's complete raw and brutal honesty.  I really think that's important to hear.  You need at least one person telling you that stuff so you can learn from it."

Malakar added he wishes radio shock-jock Howard Stern would stop taking credit for his popularity on Idol, and would instead like to recognize those who really did help him make it as far as he did in the competition.

"I have to give all the credit for my success to my fans," he told Steppin' Out.  "They are the people who brought me back to the show each week.  They are the people who truly supported me wholeheartedly... They're really the important people who make a difference in an entertainer's career.  They're the people who actually make you who you are.  They're the people who buy records and vote for you on American Idol."

During his Idol 6 run, Malakar said he had "no idea" how he was able to capture the country's attention and added he had a "very limited idea of what was going on" because he was "focusing on the show."

"I just was myself each week.  I think a lot of people picked up on that.  They liked the fact that I didn't care what people thought.  I was just myself.  I was just me. I think people could relate to that," Malakar told Steppin' Out.  "I didn't do anything special in my opinion.  I just had fun.  I think it's important to not take yourself too seriously.  If you take yourself too seriously you forget to laugh at yourself.  Sometimes it's okay to fall on your butt and laugh at it.  And I definitely fell on my butt more than one time on that show in front of millions of viewers.  But it's good that it happened.  I learned from it."

Malakar said the popularity he gained from Idol is only now starting to resonate, but he still described it as both "weird" and "surreal."

"I don't know how to explain it," he told Steppin' Out.  "It's been the most life changing experience I could imagine.  It's really weird because everything has happened so fast.  I really don't even have time to realize what is happening."

If Malakar's less-than-stellar vocal abilities -- even he admitted Idol fans never heard him achieve a "10" -- weren't what kept him in the competition, it probably had something to do with all those crazy coifs he sported.  While he's hoping fans will someday here him at his vocal apex, Malakar added the different dos are a thing of the past.

"I really don't do those things to my hair or play with it.  I just don't care about my hair," he told Steppin' Out.  "The only reason that I changed my hair every week on the show was that I had a hair stylist do it for me.  So I figured why not utilize this amazing service that I have?  When would I ever be able to do something like that again?"
Reality TV World is now available on the all-new Google News app and website. Click here to visit our Google News page, and then click FOLLOW to add us as a news source!

Currently readying himself for the American Idol 2007 summer tour, which kicks-off Friday, July 6 in Sunrise, FL, Malakar said he doesn't really have time for the ladies at the moment.

"I had a love life and it's way too much stress and emotional baggage to deal with right now," he told Steppin' Out.  "I'm at the beginning of my life right now and I'm not going to mess that up by getting caught up with a girl."

Instead, Malakar said he's keeping his eyes on the prize.

"I'm going to try to legitimize my music," he told Steppin' Out.  "That's the most important thing.  I think a lot of people just see me as some kind of joke.  I know that I'm not a joke.  That's all that really matters to me.  Other people are entitled to their opinion and that's cool.  The way I make myself feel better about it is to prove those people wrong."

Although he's only 17 years-old and has only about six months experience dealing with media scrutiny, Malakar also offered some words of wisdom for The Simple Life star Paris Hilton, who is currently being held in Los Angeles' Century Regional Detention Center and serving the remainder of her 45-day sentence that resulted from parole violations of a September 2006 drunken driving conviction

"I would tell Paris Hilton, 'Find yourself,'" Malakar told Steppin' Out.  "I think she is at a point in her life where she does things to get publicity, and I don't think she needs to do that.  If she's a legitimate person and people actually want to see her, then they'll look for her.  You don't always have to put yourself out there.  Sometimes you should, but sometimes it's good to just lay back and let people find you.  She shouldn't force herself on people.  That's what I would tell her."