Paula Abdul favorite Leah LaBelle, a 17-year-old from Seattle, was the first of the final 12 to be voted off the third season of "American Idol."
Q: What was it like standing onstage and watching the final video montage?
LaBelle: It was so difficult. I felt like I had died, you know? I mean ... it was very well put-together, and I really liked it because it showed my whole experience. It's a great thing to have, but it was so sad to see everything I went through because it reminded me of how much fun I was having throughout the whole thing and how much I wanted to be there.
Q: Randy and Paula came back and talked to you after you were eliminated. What did they say to you?
LaBelle: Randy was like, "You didn't do your best, but you know what you can do and you know how much better you can be." He was like, "Keep your head up. This is only the beginning for you. Somebody will see you. Somebody will pick you up." Paula was the same thing. She said, "You have always been a star to me, and you didn't put out everything that you can, but you are so deserving of this. You did great." I told her, "I'm sorry I let you down." And she was like, "You didn't let me down. Don't worry about that. By no means did you let me down at all." So she was real cool about it.
Q: What are your thoughts on Simon?
LaBelle: Oh ... Simon. You know, he's Simon and he's made out to be worse than he really is. I think a lot of times he says stuff for TV and he does stuff to conflict with the other judges for the controversy. You can't really be mad at him, because he's expected to be mean. I was never really hurt when he would tell me stuff, because he never liked me from the start.
Q: Did the producers give you any tips or advice before your audition at the beginning?
LaBelle: I sing in a gospel choir and I'm used to doing a lot of gospel-type stuff, and they told me to lose the runs and stuff. I'm a big "runner" and I like to do runs, and they told me to keep it low-key on those. They say that when people do that it tends to show that they're trying to cover up for what they can't do. They also told me to keep my vibrato a little shorter, because I tend to make it really thick, and that causes me to get off-key sometimes. They gave me a lot of positive, constructive tips.
Q: Randy and Paula have both said this is the best top 12 yet. How do you think your group compares to the other two seasons?
LaBelle: I don't know how they can really compare, because we're all different. Every single one of us is an individual and a different type of performer. But I think overall our group is amazingly talented. Putting us together was a good thing, and I think the tour is gonna be great.