Jena Asciutto has had quite the senior year.
Although the 17-year-old Farmington Hills, Mich., student didn't take home the title of American Idol Wednesday night, she doesn't begrudge the victory to Caleb Johnson, someone she now considers one of her best friends. "I am so happy for Caleb," she told reporters Thursday. "He deserves it all. The production team said that they haven't seen a connection like the one between me and Caleb. It helped with the stress being taken down a couple notches [during competition]."
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In fact, the two got along so well that he will be her date to the prom, a fact that was played up on the show. "It's May 28, so me and Caleb are flying in next Wednesday for that," she said. "It started out as a joke when we were in the Top 7 or 8. [But the closer to the end I got], I realized, 'I actually don't have a date and I plan on going.' He was serious the whole time. Our schedules were able to accommodate the date. I still don't have a dress. I'm freaking out! It'll be fun though. I'm excited."
Check out more highlights of the interview with Jena
What's in a name? First of all, we learned that her name is pronounced GEE-nuh, not JEN-uh. But is she Jena Asciutto or Jena Irene, which is the name she took on when the live shows started? "To be honest, production started calling me Jena Irene on accident," she explained. "I would correct them and said Ascuitto. But 'Irene,' I was named for my grandmother who died before I was born. ... She was the coolest lady known to man. ... I know she's looking down on me right now."
Trial by fire Jena feels that she's changed and matured since doing her first media interview when she made it to the Top 13. "I was not the best person to be interviewed. I had not idea what to say," she admitted. "I was unsure of myself. My confidence level wasn't that high because I was a Wild Card. America didn't vote me in ... but that lit a fire under my butt to prove that I belonged in the competition. ... I took into consideration all the advice and followed it to the best of my ability. I think it did me well. But it was also stressful because I had to go to school too and maintain my GPA. My parents taught me that school always comes first. ... But it was easier having my mom there. She gave me positive reinforcement the whole time."
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In love with Paramore As part of the finale extravaganza, Jena was able to perform with her idols Paramore. "It was an honor," she said. "I was listening to them since I was 12 years old. I have literally dreamed about doing this my whole life. Hayley Williams is such a down-to-earth person. It was such a dream come true."
She writes the songs "Since I'm only 17, I haven't had that much experience with heartache, but my parents are divorced, and rather than therapy, my coping was writing," Jena revealed. "I wrote some pretty good songs out of it. I can't wait to write a song about this experience. It's going to be so epic. I do have enough songs for a full album, about 75 songs, but they're not all good. I'd be excited if only one or two get on the album. I'm evolving as an artist. I have a lot to learn and a long way to go."
Pomp and circumstance Jena is getting all the benefits of being a senior -- prom and graduation -- even though she was at Idol for half the year. "Yes, I get to walk [for graduation] with everybody on June 8," she said. "Two days later, I leave to start tour rehearsal."
Who's going to drive her home? Both Jena and Caleb received new Ford Mustangs as part of their Idol journey on the finale Wednesday night. Although we saw her run towards the silver vehicle, she didn't actually get to drive it yet. "I haven't had a chance. ... I need a new one because I can't drive stick," she confessed. "But the new one I will have shipped to Detroit. I'm extremely excited to drive it. It's such a beautiful car."
Do you think Jena should have won? Will you buy her album when it's released?