By Stephen M. Silverman
April 17, 2003 11:16 AM

She may have been dumped, but “American Idol” contender Kimberly Caldwell, 21, wasn’t about to turn bitter.

“I love all of you,” she told the six survivors after the ax fell Wednesday night. “You are going to be gigantic stars. Keep dreamin’.”

The voting by TV viewers to remove the Katy, Texas, native actually came as a surprise to the judges on the FOX talent show. Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell said that if had been up to them, Caldwell would have remained — at least for another week.

The trio also concurred that Caldwell performed better on Tuesday night than Carmen Rasmusen, 18, of Bountiful, Utah, who narrowly escaped the hook Wednesday.

Caldwell stayed cool once she received the bad news from show host Ryan Seacrest. “Thank you so much for this incredible, incredible experience,” she said.

Her departure leaves behind Rasmusen; Clay Aiken, 24, of Raleigh, N.C.; macho Marine Joshua Gracin, 22, of Oceanside, Calif.; sultry Kimberley Locke, 25, of Nashville; Ruben Studdard, 25, of Birmingham, Ala.; and Trenyce, 23, of Memphis.