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July 14, 2010 01:00 AM

Their breakup happened during one of the most pivotal moments in her career – when she was about to perform on American Idol‘s finale – but Crystal Bowersox says her ex, Tony Kusian, is getting a bad rap for something he didn’t even do.

“I feel like he’s getting portrayed as this person who up and left me on the biggest day of my life and that’s not the case at all,” the Idol runner-up tells Redbook for their August issue.

“I mean, he’s getting hate mail and horrible messages online,” she says. “So I want to make clear how amazing, kind and generous a person he is.”

Though she describes him as “the perfect man,” the 24-year-old says they ultimately parted ways because “we both knew it wasn’t going to work out, considering the different lives we were leading. And it’s better to come to that realization than to have an unhappy relationship.”

At the time of their split, Bowersox, who recently showed off a new smile on Twitter, said she was sad but had no hard feelings since Kusian had “been amazing” and supported her throughout the entire Idol process, which she says she walked into “with no expectations.”

“But once I made it past the first round, and the second, and third, I started to realize, maybe my goals and dreams really are attainable,” she tells the magazine, on newsstands July 20.

Still, there were some nerve-racking moments. At one point, recalls Bowersox, she was even on the verge of getting kicked off after getting sick from her diabetes. “They told me I was off the show,” she says. “I begged, I screamed, I pleaded. I said, ‘I need this so bad for my kid. I’ll go home if I’m voted off, but not because of this.’ That’s the one time I threw a huge fit, and thankfully, they gave in.”

But more than her newfound stardom, the Ohio native says she finds motherhood even more rewarding. After her son woke up one morning and greeted her with the word ‘happy,’ I almost cried,” she says about little Tony.

“I’m like, really? I’m doing something right and it feels so good,” says Bowersox. “To me, the definition of success is happiness.” –Eunice Oh

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