may have gotten raves from the judges, but the real star of
this week was Ashley Ferl, the 13-year-old from Riverside, California, whose tears rolled as the cameras rolled. Ashley, who attended the taping with her mom and a teenage pal on Tuesday, could hardly contain her excitement when the
Idol finalists took the stage. When
, one of the four Idols she told Ryan Seacrest she's rooting for, smiled in her direction during his performance of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," Ashley wept uncontrollably, in front of 37 million viewers.
Then again, the pigtailed teen never expected to be in such close proximity to
's fledgling stars. Is it any wonder that she was overwhelmed?
According to producers, the Ferl family landed on
after snagging tickets to a taping of
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
. Soon after receiving the ducats, they realized that the package also included access to a rehearsal of either
. Clearly, it wasn't a difficult decision. As fate would have it, producers took notice of Ashley when she began sobbing during
's pre-show. They swiftly invited the family to the final taping, where she again wept uncontrollably. And so, thanks to
, another star is born. -
Reporting by Dana Meltzer Zepeda