Brooke White and Ryan Seacrest by Ray Mickshaw/Fox
After a tearful exit from the Idol competition at the edge of its final frontier, Brooke White is nothing but grateful for the experience she had on the show, and knows that she's a survivor.

Speaking to press Thursday, White confided that she'd had her bags packed for two weeks before she was actually voted off the show Wednesday night. But when she woke up Wednesday morning, she said, she knew that it was her final day. "Weird, I know" she admitted, but somehow, she was right. On Tuesday, she took to the piano and the guitar for two Neil Diamond songs, the first of which, "I'm a Believer," Simon deemed "a nightmare." Despite the fact that White recovered nicely for her second song, "I Am, I Said," it wasn't enough to save her another week. "Boom, it hit me" she says of the moment of truth. "This is over." Racing her through her mind as the tears ran down her cheeks was "the fear of going back into the real world, and what does the future hold?" She told reporters, "I hoped so much that I could have been stronger. I'm an emotional girl and I'm passionate, and that came through on the stage."

In the aftermath, White reflected on the previous weeks of performances and how she managed her own, very public vulnerability and confidence issues. White also conceded that, in a certain way, getting the Idol ax was a relief. Her self-confidence issues, for example, "escalated at times ... [and] at other times I felt like I had a better handle on it." And in this last week, the preparation for two songs and instruments was a lot to tackle. Given the deep emotions that surfaced for her throughout - and the pressure that goes with it - White said, "in that sense, it does feel kind of good to be done with that, but I was welcoming the challenge as well."

Apparently, though, White wasn't the only one under pressure this week, which made her all the more understanding of other show issues Commenting on Paula Abdul's uncomfortable Tuesday gaffe, White reminded us that it is, after all, live TV, and that, regardless of verbal trip-ups, Paula's a "good-hearted woman."

Yet, even under the pressure, White rose to the challenge, lasting longer, it seemed, than even she expected. The voting was something she knew was out of her hands. "You never know what's going to happen, you take what you can get," she said. Plus, the Michael Johns effect didn't help matters. "Ever since Michael Johns went home," White said, "there's been this question in my mind, like, 'how long do I get?'" She added, though, that "you only have so much control in this situation."

One of the things out of White's hands was her gender. The Idol boys definitely attract a big following, something that was not lost on Carly Smithson, who commented on such following her exit, or no Brooke, who could see the popularity disparity in the daily mail deliveries. The boys, she said, get "great, humungous" piles of fan mail daily - leaps and bounds bigger than the couple of letters each of the girls receive. "Oh, to be a boy this year!" she joked. Of course, she gives the girls props, but there was no doubt that the charm-talent combo among the remaining male contestants isn't a factor in their longevity.

Throughout all her ups and downs, however, White had strong support from her own fans, family and husband, who vowed not to cut his hair until she was off the show. Praising him Thursday, she said, "He's a very laid-back fellow with great perspective, I've been very fortunate to find a guy who can hang with me through this." White also cited her Mormon faith -- Idol finalist David Archuleta is also a Mormon -- as a source of solace. White, however, brushed off any deeper link between Idol success and Mormonism, speaking more in personal terms. "It's just part of my life," she said. "It brought me a lot of peace throughout the competition."

If White had continued in the contest, we might have seen songs by Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor or Joni Mitchell - possibilities we'll have to wait for when she releases the album she hopes to make. In the meantime, though, White is digesting the Idol experience. She said, "It's been quite a ride." - Anna Dimond

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