Learning that her journey on American Idol ended Wednesday night was the first time Melinda Doolittle had taken a breath in a really long time, the singer said yesterday.
"Knowing that I had made it this far and knowing that I was going to be able to sing from here on out without being judged and voted... it was just like this sigh of relief," Doolittle told Ryan Seacrest on his morning radio show. "Now I'm getting ready to sing just because I love it."
The former backup singer called Seacrest's 102.7 KIIS FM show and told the host that she didn't feel any resentment after being voted off - despite receiving immense and consistent praise from the American Idol judges.
"Two amazing people are in the finale right now and I couldn't be more proud of them," Doolittle, 29, said, referring to next week's pair of finalists, Jordin Sparks, 17, and Blake Lewis, 25.
"Those are still my babies. I'm still their mama. I'm so proud about it and don't feel cheated at all. There are always opportunities out there to grab onto and to take a hold of so I'm just ready for that."
According to Doolittle, Simon Cowell may be prepared to help her find the right opportunity.
"Simon was especially supportive and said, 'I want to see you succeed,'" she said. "That means the world to me. It was great to hear last night."
The ousted American Idol hopeful admits the rigorous process of rehearsals, performances and getting judged on reality TV week after week was difficult.
"I felt like I was working so hard and when [the judges] would say good things I was so excited to hear it... it would put a look of shock on my face."
That isn't the only thing that shocked Melinda Doolittle, who said that the level of fame and recognition she has achieved so far also surprised her.
"Nothing could have prepared me for this. I knew that the show was huge. I did not know that it was this huge," she said. "The fact that it awarded such a big opportunity to me is just the most amazing thing ever."
In other Idol news, Petty Officer Third Class Phil Stacey has been given the go-ahead by the U.S. Navy to join this summer's American Idol tour.
"It is absolutely true," U.S. Navy spokesman Bob Anderson confirms. "They are working on the logistics right now: what he'll be paid, wear, stuff like that."
Stacey, a married father of two (his second child, McKayla, was born while he was trying out for American Idol), will join the top 10: Haley Scarnato, Sanjaya Malakar, Melinda Doolittle, Lakisha Jones, Blake Lewis, Gina Glocksen, Chris Richardson, Chris Sligh and Jordin Sparks as part of the American Idols Live! tour.
Sadly, Shyamali Malakar won't be there. At least not on stage. We think.
The nationwide tour kicks off July 6 in Sunrise, Fla., not far from Phil's Jacksonville home, and wraps up on September 22 in Manchester, N.H.
"I give the Navy all the props in the world," Stacey said the day after his elimination May 2.
"I have loved every moment in the Navy... to do my duty and be a part of what was happening in the war against terror. I don't have any plans of getting out early."
"The Navy is proud of him," adds Anderson. "He's done very well. We want the best for him."
So do we. We're looking forward to seeing Phil on tour. And seeing Jordin Sparks win it all next week. No offense to Blake Lewis, who's an awesome talent with a bright future, but the Gossip has made its choice. We hope you'll make the same one and vote Jordin Sparks!