Carmen Rasmusen sure put up with a lot of crap during the final weeks of her

American Idol adventure. Critics — namely, judges

Simon and Randy — all but accused the 18-year-old Utah native of hijacking the competition on the strength of her all-American girl looks as opposed to her singing ability. Heck, even Paula Abdul — the master of accentuating the positive in the worst of circumstances ("My, what pretty socks you're wearing!") — struggled at times to give props to the teen. But if this season's American Idol taught us one thing, it's this: Never — ever — underestimate the staying power of an underdog. That said, all the good will in the world couldn't keep poor Carmen from getting the boot last week. It also couldn't keep TV Guide Online from asking the aspiring pop star the tough questions when she rang us up to dish about all things Idol.

TV Guide Online: Simon and Randy were pretty mean to you the last couple of weeks. Didn't you want to cry?
Carmen Rasmusen:
Before each show, my parents would always tell me, "Carmen, we love you and we think you're great." So, when they were saying mean things to me on stage, I just remembered, "Okay, I know that my parents think I'm great, and I've gone this far, so I can handle anything. And Simon was the one who got me here, so even though he's saying mean things, he must believe in me."

TVGO: You were Simon's wild card pick, yet he later said you didn't have what it took to win. Strike you as a bit hypocritical?
That's just Simon. Obviously he did think I had what it took or he wouldn't have picked me in the first place. He was just playing his character on the show.

TVGO: Randy was particularly nasty to you last week. That must have hurt.
I felt really bad, because I didn't think Randy was like that. But I just have to remember that I knew what I was getting myself into when I got on the show, and I was so happy just to be on the show. And Randy and Simon and Paula are all really, really nice people.

TVGO: What did they tell you after you got voted off?
They're like, "You're amazing. The magic starts now. You're great, you're talented, you're wonderful." Really, really nice things. I was like, "I wish you could have said that with 20 million people watching!" (Laughing)

TVGO: What do you say to people who think you coasted on your looks and personality, not your singing ability?
I don't think that's true at all. I think it's the whole package. I definitely think I had a good enough voice to compete with everyone else.

TVGO: So, what's the deal with you and Clay? You guys gettin' married anytime soon?
(Laughing) Clay and I are good friends.

TVGO: Very good friends?
I have a crush on Clay.

TVGO: Care to elaborate?
That's all I'm going to say. I'll let everyone guess.

TVGO: Who had the most positive influence on you during this whole process?
Rickey, definitely. He would always build me up before each show. He'd be like, "Okay, Carmen, you know you're good. Don't listen to what they say." We were best friends.

TVGO: What was it like doing those Ford and Coke commercials? Painful?
I loved doing them. My friends and I have personalities like that. We're always doing goofy things and making cheesy music videos, so this was perfect for me. It was a blast.

TVGO: How involved are you all in the process of making them?
They just basically tell us what to do and we just listen and do what they say.

TVGO: Could you object to doing something if it really made you uncomfortable?
If you absolutely hated something, you could do something else. But no one really did that. Everyone loved doing them. We looked forward to them.

TVGO: What will become your focus career-wise: singing or acting?
Both. I'm going to do acting and singing. I can't do anything right now because of the American Idol tour in the summer. But after the tour, I'll definitely pursue an acting and a singing career.

TVGO: Any exciting offers come your way in the past week?
I was asked to [perform] at a Dave Matthews Band concert back in my hometown, Salt Lake City, but I can't really do anything because I'm still under contract [with Fox]. I have to talk to Fox and see what they say.

TVGO: One of your male fans wrote in and wanted to know if you would ever consider posing nude in Playboy. Would you?

TVGO: Why?
That's not something I believe in.

TVGO: Who's gonna win this thing?
Don't know. Everyone is so good, and everyone changes and gets better every week. So, I really don't know who is going to win.

TVGO: Got a message for your fans?
Thank you so much for getting me this far. I've had the time of my life.