Former American Idol contestant Allison Iraheta is leaving the competition without any regrets — but admits that the on-set chaos preceding Tuesday night’s show affected everyone’s performance that evening.
“We were on stage when the stage manager Debbie Williams fell,” she says, alluding to an incident with a moving staircase that landed Williams in the hospital with an injured leg.
“It was right when we were beginning rehearsal. We didn’t know what to do, what to think, or where to go. It was just so shocking. She’s like our second mom. It affected all of us,” she says, referring to herself, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Kris Allen.
But Iraheta, 17, isn’t blaming the incident for her departure from the competition — and says she has no regrets. “I was happy that I made it that far,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m a little bummed, only because I’m so used to being around the other contestants. They’re like a second fam!”
One thing she’s not bummed about is taking the opportunity to defend herself when Simon Cowell criticized her for her song choice of Janis Joplin‘s “Cry Baby.” “I felt really happy with the song choice,” she says. “I didn’t regret anything. After three weeks of Simon saying the same thing every week, I was like, if that’s what you want, here it is. I was defending myself.”
Now able to give interviews, Iraheta took the opportunity to explain Internet chatter that she previously won a singing competition on Telemundo whose prize was $50,000 and a record deal. “That was two years ago. I got the cash prize, but I didn’t get the recording contract. I refused to sign something because I wanted to do Idol,” she explains. “If I had signed a record deal, I wouldn’t be with the show.”
Thankfully, Iraheta gets to stick around in the Idol family just a little bit longer: She will begin rehearsal for the May 20th finale performance next week. Given Wednesday night’s news, she says, “It’s a nice distraction.” — Lisa Ingrassia
Tell us: Will Allison make it in the music business? Will you miss her in the finale?M Becker/American Idol 2009/Getty