Kristen OConnor
Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

Well, the first cut is the deepest.

That’s probably what Kristen O’Connor is telling herself this morning after being the first contestant eliminated on the 13th season of American Idol. The young beauty sang a Kelly Clarkson song on Wednesday night, but her time on the Idol stage won’t get the same happy ending.

With 71 million votes cast though phone and the new Google voting system, some were surprised to see early fan favorites Malaya Watson and M.K. Nobilette in the bottom three with O’Connor — but it was the wildcard who ultimately got sent home. EW spoke to O’Connor right after her emotional elimination.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling?

KRISTEN O’CONNOR: I feel okay. Of course I’m disappointed but I’m really happy with the way things ended.

You seemed to handle it really well.

I think part of me was really expecting it tonight. I knew I needed a killer performance last night and I think it went well, but not as well as I would have hoped. I had that issue with my in-ear and I feel like that took away from what I really wanted to give, and so I knew that because I was a wildcard, America hadn’t voted me in the first time. I felt like I really needed to blow everyone away, and I felt like because that didn’t happen, I knew there was a good chance [I’d get sent home]. So when they called my name I just wanted to give the best performance I possibly give.

How did you approach the “Save Me” song, since in the past they don’t usually use the save so early?

I didn’t expect a save because they’ve already used the wildcard on me and it is the first week of the finals. I think we all knew that no matter who it was, they probably weren’t going to save them. I knew especially for me it wasn’t going to happen no matter how good the performance was. So I just knew I wanted to go out with a bang and I was proud of the performance I gave.

Did the judges say anything to you?

Yeah. They were all really encouraging. Harry gave me a hug and told me, “Kristen, the way that you just handled that shows me that you are a contender and you are going to just keep going. You deserve to be doing this.” And Jennifer Lopez was crying. She basically said she was sad to see me go and to keep on. And Keith Urban said “I want to tell you to keep going, but I don’t think I even need to, because I know that you are a musician and this is what you deserve to do.”

What are you going to take away from all this?

I am going to take so much away. I think I said something about [how] from the time of my audition to right now, I have learned so much about who I am as a musician, about making good choices, performing and the importance of stage presence — just so many things that I think will help me in the future to perfect my craft. I listened to everything they said to everyone, and just being in the room and watching other people perform and seeing what gets a response and what moves people and what moves me. I am going to take so much away.

What won’t you miss?

I think what I won’t miss… just the anxiety, you know? I’m definitely very disappointed to go home, but I’m excited to see what doors this is going to open up for me, because I’m sure it will [open doors].

Does your hometown have anything planned for you?

For now? I don’t know.