Kellie Pickler's been at the center of the fifth season of "American Idol" since the start, when the show detailed her troubled childhood (her mom left her as a toddler, and her dad is behind bars for felony battery). Her simple, often ditzy, Southern charm provided a bevy of memorable one-liners ("What's a ballsy?") and her voice shined on multiple occasions, including a rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Simon Cowell picked Pickler as a favorite from the start, and she had never been to the bottom three. But after struggling through "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" last week and "Unchained Melody" on Tuesday, the 19-year-old minx from Albemarle, North Carolina, was eliminated Wednesday (see "Kellie Pickler Canned From 'American Idol' Competition").
Q: "Idol" coaches stress confidence, but for two weeks you admitted butchering songs.
A: I mean, 30 or 40 million people are watching each week and they see your performance and they see you've messed up. The judges know that. I knew that I did. So what are you going to do? Lie and say I didn't mess up and blame it on something else? I think when you're honest about it, it's better. I messed up the words in some songs, I've been off-key and pitchy, and you know, you just admit it and work on your problems next week. If this is as bad as I got it, I got it good.
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Q: So you weren't surprised?
A: Honestly, I thought I was going home last week. I deserved to get the boot this week, because I had two bad performances back to back, and there's no excuse. I'm happy I made it this far.
Q: Do you regret any of your song choices throughout the season?
A: I wouldn't necessarily say I regret any of the song choices. I regret some of the performances. Obviously the past two weeks haven't been that good, by far, but I can't change anything, so I try not to have any regrets. I'm just gonna live for the future and not the past. I hope that stays in the past and people give me a chance.
Q: How do you react to the people who say your banter with the judges and Ryan [Seacrest] was a calculated act?
A: People are going to believe what they want to believe, but I started out from the beginning being who I am. I've been real honest with my life and who I am. I don't have anything to hide, I don't have anything to lie about. It is hurtful to hear those things and to read about that stuff in the magazines. It does hurt your feelings. Just because we're on "American Idol" doesn't mean we're not real people too. We have feelings. You just brush it off and move forward. What you see is what you get. It's so much easier to be yourself than trying to be something that you're not. I've been real from the start. It's no act.
Q: Are you thinking about acting?
A: It's always been something I'm interested in. Of course I always want to pursue music, but I would love to do TV or film. I'm excited about the different opportunities I may have. I did theater in high school. I'm a little drama queen.
Q: You have said this show helped you come to terms with your life situation. Can you elaborate?
A: Going into this competition, I was never really completely open about the different life I've had to overcome, because I was so embarrassed. I got a lot of criticism for crying about my dad and my mom and family in the beginning, but it was really hard for me. It's not like I was used to getting on national television and talking about my life. It was embarrassing and I didn't want to hurt my dad, but I knew if I didn't come out in the beginning ... that people would find out about it anyway. The most important thing you can do is be honest. And I'm not ashamed about my life anymore. For so long, I felt like I was looked down upon, and I don't feel that way anymore. I'm proud to say I'm Kellie Pickler. And I may not have had the best upbringing, but it could have been a lot worse. And "American Idol" taught me to hold my head up high.
Q: If you had a chance to say something to your mom, what would you say?
A: It's kinda weird to think that maybe my mom's out there watching the show. I'm curious about what she thinks, her feelings towards me. For so long, I resented her and had so many hard feelings towards her. I think at the point I'm at now, one thing that is important in life is to forgive others. Who am I not to forgive someone? Am I so holy? I have forgiven her and I know that I haven't spoken to her in years or seen her, and I probably wouldn't know her if I saw her, but she's my mother and she's a person, and God tells us to love everyone.
Q: And you will be reuniting with your father soon.
A: My grandpa is leaving for Florida tomorrow to figure out everything with the lawyers, and hopefully my dad's going to be getting out in the next few weeks. It'll be my first time seeing him in over three and a half years. I'm really excited, I haven't even spoken to him on the phone. In spite of everything we've been through, I love him. He's my dad. I've always been a daddy's girl. He's made a lot of mistakes in life, but who hasn't? I think he's learned from them, and we're going to leave the past in the past and look to the future.
Q: Finally, any truth to the Constantine or Ace rumors?
A: Oh, I'm dating Ace now? I met Constantine at the top 24 party, and we're just friends. Ace is a good guy too. In all honesty, no contestant is dating another contestant. It's kinda, like, gross. We're like brothers and sisters. I mean, we live together. I still haven't found my pottery partner yet.