Lighten up, America. Crystal Bowersox is having fun.
The 24-year-old American Idol contestant from northwest Ohio appeared upset and teary-eyed during Thursday night's results show - even after learning viewers had voted her into the top 12 finalists.
Her appearance had some worried that she was bored with the show or simply didn't want to be there.
None of the above.
"My sullen face had everything to do with Katelyn [Epperly] and Lilly [Scott] being eliminated. The three of us were really close," Ms. Bowersox said in a phone interview yesterday, a little more than 24 hours before her performance on the show tonight.
"We were a pack. Katelyn was eliminated first on the show and that got to me. I'm not a person who can fabricate a smile. I didn't have a chance to celebrate my own victory because I was so distraught about them.
"But I'm definitely happy and grateful to be here. It was just hard to show it because I was just trying to fight back tears the whole time. I wasn't angry. I wasn't contemptuous of the show … I was just really sad to see them go."
Gauging the mood of an Idol singer is part of the critical analysis that comes with a show millions watch weekly.
Already there have been rumors that Ms. Bowersox is pregnant and/or engaged. She's neither, she said.
But Thursday night's Idol was a tough reminder for the contestants and their fans of what's at stake now. After hours of watching, cheering, and voting for contestants, viewer loyalties have been established.
Ms. Bowersox, who was hospitalized two weeks ago because of complications with diabetes, said she was "stunned" by the viewers' votes not to keep Ms. Scott and Ms. Epperly.
Considering that her performances have often drawn comparisons to Ms. Scott, does that mean the Ottawa County resident might be in trouble as well?
"That's not the kind of thing I'm thinking about," she said. "I'm just here to do my best and have a good time."
Her best has drawn near-unanimous accolades across the blogosphere, in magazines and newspapers, and even from Idol's tell-it-like-it-is judge Simon Cowell.
While such praise is flattering, Ms. Bowersox said that doesn't shield her from the voting whims of the public - 19-year-old Alex Lambert was also lauded by Mr. Cowell last week, and then was eliminated on Thursday's show.
"I'm really grateful for what [Mr. Cowell] said, but … I think Simon actually endorsed Alex Lambert. It can help or hinder you," she said.
Tonight on Idol, the show begins its theme-night showcase, which often makes or breaks the performers. For Ms. Bowersox, it's an easy transition into the familiar waters of the Rolling Stones, a band she loves and grew up listening to. Although she can't divulge which song she selected for her performance this evening, she said her selection is based first on her connection to the lyrics.
"The songs that I choose, I perform as if I wrote the songs because I choose by the lyrics. If they are lyrics I can relate to and really interpret in my own way and apply to my own story, that's what it's about for me."
Her life story, she said, has had its share of ups and downs. But she remains a believer in the simple guiding rule of fate, that whatever happens to her is meant to happen.
No matter how far viewers carry her along on her Idol ride, from the tiny town of Elliston to being on the biggest stage on television, she's comfortable with where she lands.
"I'm definitely grateful for all the support I've been getting [in Toledo]. I hear that people have my name painted on their cars. Papa's Tavern made T-shirts and they're donating profits to the Juvenile Diabetes [Research] Foundation. That is exactly what I wanted to happen. Everything that I do is never for myself, it's always to benefit someone I know or someone I care about," she said.
"I care about Toledo. I care about the juvenile diabetes foundation. I care about my bass player [Frankie May], my son, my family. That's really my plan, to get to the level I need to be so that I have the power to help people."
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