Despite being among the bottom three vote getters four out of her six weeks in the Top 12, Kristy Lee Cook felt as though she was finally making strides as an American Idol seventh-season finalist -- which made her elimination last night even more difficult to digest.

"I was kind of upset that I went just because I thought that I had been getting stronger and stronger," Cook told reporters during a Thursday conference call. 

"I thought [Tuesday night] was my best performance and it was vocally more than what I'd given on the show so far.  I connected emotionally with the song, so I thought it was my best performance so far.  So I was a little disappointed to go this soon because I thought I at least had another week in me."

The 24-year-old from Selma, OR was ousted from Idol's seventh season based on the "almost 36 million" home viewer votes that were cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance broadcast that saw the Top 7 finalists sing Mariah Carey songs.

Cook explained it was "kind of tough" being in the bottom three so many times but said since she always seemed to survive another week, it really only made her stronger.

"With the first few times [in the bottom three] I built up a stamina for it and got a little tougher each time," said Cook.  "Finally, I learned how to control the emotions coming from the whole situation."

Since the home viewer votes seem to be in sync with the judges' weekly comments, it should come as no surprise Cook was constantly a whipping post for Simon Cowell's sharp tongue.  But she said she wouldn't let the criticism keep her down.

Kristy Lee Cook waves goodbye after being eliminated on Wednesday night's American Idol results show (Photo credit Frank Micelotta/FOX)
"I tend to not hang onto the negative comments, just because we have so much going on and we already have a lot of pressure," she explained.  "The negative comments don't help.  So I just try to let go of them.  It's an opinion, and everyone has a right to an opinion.  Most of the time, if I agree with it I'd take the advice and try to do better.  But if it's just not very nice, then I'd just tend to drop it and move on."

Cook said last night's live broadcast was "definitely nerve-wracking" because of the way Idol host Ryan Seacrest -- just like he has during previous seasons' Top 7 results shows -- divvied up the finalists before revealing who was safe and who was in the bottom three.

"None of us knew what was going on," Cook told reporters.  "How they were separating the groups, kind of sending us all over to different sides of the stage.  Standing with David Cook, it was kind of like we didn't know if we were safe or we weren't safe, and we knew David Archuleta was still in the back.  It was just a whole whirlwind of things going on and we really didn't know."

Because she's a veteran at being in the bottom three, Cook said she just tried to "be relaxed as possible" and "play it by ear."  However there was no saving grace this time once Cook found herself in the bottom three and was subsequently booted.

"It was definitely a shock for me to go home," she told reporters.  "I wish I wouldn't have left so soon.  I wanted to make Top 5."
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Check back with Reality TV World on Friday for more from Cook's exit interview, including why she thinks Cowell was so skeptical of her talent; how Idol was her second chance to be discovered as a musician; why her song choice of "God Bless the USA" was personal and not strategic; and why she feels she still hasn't shown fans what she has to offer vocally.