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'American Idol': Avalon Young and Lee Jean Talk Eliminations

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Ray Mickshaw/FOX via Getty Images

Avalon Young and Lee Jean onstage at FOX's American Idol Season 15 on March 10, 2016 in Hollywood, Calif. 

American Idol’s top 10 is now down to six after said goodbye to Avalon Young and Lee Jean Thursday night (March 10). Speaking to reporters on a conference call Friday afternoon, both performers said that appearing on the singing competition is bittersweet.

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“The biggest struggle I’ve had being here, and it doesn’t even have to do with performing or the competition, is making such good friends with everybody here and having to see them go,” 16-year-old Jean said. “It’s being in this situation myself and having to say 'see you later' to all my friends that I’ve met here. Going from seeing them every day and spending so much time with them ... doing work with them and having so much fun, to not seeing them for God knows how long. I think that’s going to be the hardest part for me.”

Young, 21, said that she met some of her now best friends during Hollywood Week, and the common experience between Idols is a bond that will last a lifetime.

“We all have friends and family, but we don’t have anyone going through that experience with us,” Young said. “It’s an experience you can’t put into words -- to have people go through it with you. You don’t have to say the words, because you always understand each other. It’s really important to have.”

Both felt those ties that bind. Season one runner-up Justin Guarini reached out to Young with kind words, and Jean is still excited about connecting with Idol Chris Medina. Working with their Idol mentors -- Jean with season five alum Chris Daughtry and Young with season two runner-up Ruben Studdard -- was a mutually beneficially experience.

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"I couldn’t even tell you how amazing that was. [Daughtry is] such a down-to-earth person,” he said. “I have his number now! He’s so talented and so amazing. I feel like he pushed me to better myself, especially in that performance.”

Young felt that working with Studdard was a nurturing experience as well.

“They give you a big brother vibe. They just want you to do well. That was the funniest part about American Idol. It was a competition, but everybody wanted to see you do your best,” she said. “Probably the most awesome thing about American Idol is I never felt like I was competing with anyone. I felt like I was going through this great thing with a ton of my friends, and eventually people have to leave. But it’s the nature of the show.”

It is, however, a competition, and every week it becomes more clear that La’Porsha Renae is the vocalist to beat in the eyes of the judges and biggest supporter, Kelly Clarkson. Did either feel like they were competing for runner-up to the Mississippi?

“I have all the faith in the world in La’Porsha. I think she’s an incredible human ... a ridiculously good singer,” Young said. “I feel like we’re not in a place to make any predictions because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s all in America’s hands.”

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Jean agreed. “Honestly, I never personally felt like I was in a competition with La’Porsha, let alone anyone else in the competition,” he said. “It was always just a competition with myself and trying to further and better myself every week.”

There were struggles, they said. Jean was battling illness going into what was his last week in the competition. He said the show took care of him and gave him antibiotics -- and a decision to make.

“I had the choice of whether or not to perform this week. If I didn’t perform this week, I was going to perform next week in the bottom three,” he said. “I chose to perform because that’s how it is in this industry. No matter what happens to you, the show goes on. You must perform regardless. I took that as a lesson.”

He added that as a minor, his three hours a day of schoolwork was “chill” time.

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“It was a crutch at times, but I think it was also sort of a benefit because those three hours were a time to wind down from the competition. You could read or do math,” he said. “You wouldn’t think that schoolwork was relaxing.”

Young said revealing her OCD on the show wasn’t a big deal to her.

“To me, it doesn’t bother me, because it’s not who I am as a person. I’m Avalon. I’m not OCD, I’m not anxiety. I’m a normal human. It doesn’t take anything away from my voice, it doesn’t take anything away from my performance,” she said. “Those are the only two things that I care about. To me, the OCD is such a minor, minor part of my life. I’m glad I touched on it though, because I think there a lot of girls and guys out there who are my age or younger and they deal with it too.”

As for song choice, Young said she had planned to do “Hotline Bling” by Drake, but it never came together. Instead, she went with “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber. “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes didn’t work as well, she admitted.

“They suggested I should step out of my box a little. I was totally down to do that. I tried it out, and it didn’t do too well for me,” she said.

Ultimately, she said she had no regrets about any of her decisions, even though it was “the biggest heart sinking feeling” to sing for the save two weeks in a row.

“For me it was really important because I think the key to going further and further in the competition was being different,” she said. “You stand out or else you’re going to be boring and you ‘re going to fade into the background. I knew I was a little different than everyone on the show. I had to pick songs that exaggerated who I am as a person and I think I did that every week.”

Jean said he was proud of every choice he made on the show, which included several Ed Sheeran compositions.

“There’s a lot of songs that won’t clear because not a lot of people know them, and it’s kind of like an underground vibe kind of thing. There’s a lot of artists that aren’t necessarily—they’re independent artists . I love the music, but they can’t be cleared,” he said. “I wanted to sing every song that I sang on the show. Everything was a good choice for me.”

As for the future, Young plans to hit the studio and Jean aspires to be an inspiration to future teens attempting a career in the music business.

“This whole experience for me has been just a platform. This is where I literally started my career,” he said. “ I didn’t have much of anything before this. Now I have a following.”

Speaking to Billboard after his elimination on Thursday, he said that he has plenty of time to figure it out.

“I’m 16. This is not where it’s going to stop. There are so many things I want to do. There are so many things I haven’t gotten to do yet because I’m 16,” he said. “I have so much to learn and I have so much experience to gain. This is not the last time you’ll see me. I’ll be everywhere if I get the chance to.”


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