GENEVA – Noting that "this is only the beginning," Geneva High School senior Kayla Mickelsen stated in an email that her "American Idol" experience was "exceptional."
Mickelsen, 18, reached the top 51 of the show before she was eliminated in an episode that aired Thursday night on Fox. She made it through to the last day of the four Hollywood episodes after earning a trip by winning her "golden ticket." The top 24 advanced out of Thursday's episode to the next round.
"Living in hotels with people who shared the same passion as me, getting to sing all the time, late nights, early mornings, I loved all of it and wouldn't trade it for the world," she wrote. "Due to my lack of air time and being back in Illinois, part of me feels like it didn't happen... but I keep having to remind myself it did. I've accomplished more than I thought was possible a year ago today."
When she earned her "golden ticket," she received attention for calling herself an ice cream scooper, since she works at Graham's Chocolates in Geneva. She also works at Nobel House, and she wrote that she soon will be performing there, starting on Feb. 17.
On Thursday's episode, during what she called the "Green Mile" show, her air time was brief. She was shown receiving the bad news, but her performance was not aired. She wrote that she sang "Anything Could Happen," by Ellie Goulding. She added that she performed at The Dolby "in front of the largest most responsive audience I've ever performed in front of. It felt exhilarating, and it was one of the best moments of my life."
As far as the song, she wrote, "I was pushed to sing a more 'pop' song. … And I think this is where everything started to fall out of place."
"My best friend throughout the entire competition was MacKenzie Bourg, who had previously competed and progressed very far on season 3 of 'The Voice,' " she added. "He told me that I have to always do what is true to myself and not do what I thought people wanted to hear because that's where you'll mess up. I don't think that 'Anything Could Happen' was the best song to portray me as an artist. And I think that everything happens for a reason, and maybe this show wasn't what was best for me as an artist."
Mickelsen wrote hearing the news that she had been eliminated was difficult.
"The 'no' hurt so bad because throughout the entire process, I was given nothing but praise on my performances, especially my 'Green Mile' performance," she wrote. "The judges had nothing but compliments to give me at my final judgement."
Mickelsen wrote that she will be rooting for Bourg. Also, she said, one contestant, Sara Sturm, likely will be her roommate at Belmont University in Nashville.
She added that the journey "doesn't end here."
"Honestly, I think this is only the beginning," Mickelsen wrote. "I have a few things I'm working on and high hopes for the future."