As PEOPLE's guest at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington, D.C., recently ousted American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar not only hobnobbed with supermodel Petra Nemcova, but hung out with two other celebrity brunettes – Valerie Bertinelli and Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher.
Touching down at Washington's Dulles International Airport earlier, Malakar, 17, is already looking forward to his big night. "I'm just very excited to be here and to have this kind of opportunity," he told PEOPLE. Before Saturday's Dinner, Malakar enjoyed the suite life at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Malakar took a sweet ride to the Correspondents' Dinner with his sweet date for the evening – mom Jillian Blyth. "My family – they've been a really huge support," Malakar says of coping with sudden fame. "They really taught me a lot and not to worry about what people think." Blyth added that she's also been "adjusting to my son being a kid from Seattle to [being known] worldwide."
And Malakar wasn't the only Idol contestant to descend on D.C.: Chris Sligh spends the evening mingling with Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Valerie Bertinelli and her boyfriend Tom Vitale. At the dinner, Sligh told PEOPLE that post-Idol life has "been a lot of fun," adding, "It's opened up tons of doors."
Malakar gets a political endorsement from New York Governor Eliot Spitzer at the Correspondents' Dinner. Malakar, who appeared on Live with Regis amp Kelly the following Monday, said of the meeting, "Like, the Governor of New York came up to me and was like, 'Hey, I'm a fan – I vote.' It was really weird."
Malakar makes it work next to Project Runway's fashion mentor Tim Gunn. "He's very talented and I think he has a great future," Gunn tells PEOPLE about the Idol castoff, noting, "His hair made him unforgettable. It's much tamer tonight."