May 15, 2008 12:00 AM

With so many appearances in the bottom two over the course of the competition, Idol watchers may not have predicted Syesha Mercado would make it to the top three. But she squeaked by each week and got better and better and eventually she became Idol‘s leading lady until Wednesday when her time ran out. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Syesha revealed that she never packed her bags to go because, “I just wasn’t ready.” She also talked about coping with her father’s addiction, her plans after Idol (“I want to open up an organic restaurant”), and tells Paula exactly what kind of artist she is.

Paula Abdul said you sang songs that didn’t really define who you were. In your mind, who are you exactly as an artist?I’m a mix of a lot of things … I’m like a black Christina Aguilera or Alicia Keys. I definitely can see myself putting together a Christina Aguilera album, the one that she just recently did and an Alicia Keys album like The Diary of Alicia Keys. I like Pop and I like R&B and I like the old school, new school thing so I’m growing as an artist, I’m evolving … You’ll know who I am once I put out that album.

You dad mentioned how you’ve helped him with his problems with addiction. How did his addiction shape you? It’s either a make you or break you situation, and for me it made the strong person that I am. It made the sincere, humble person that I am. Having my dad struggle through that, it really made me sad a lot on my life, but it actually made me understand more and be more forgiving. I told myself that I’m not going to let this determine what my future is going to be. I’m going to do something good and I’m going to help my dad and encourage him and be there for him. And I’m going to make him proud so that he wants to make me proud and that’s exactly what he’s doing now.

You symbolized what the Idol journey is about, pushing your limits and improving every week. Was that done consciously or was it a natural result of the experience?When I first stepped into the competition I was in a little shell because of the vocal resting and it separated me from everybody else, so I don’t feel I was at my full potential because of the entire negative mind frame … I was so focused on that that it was really harming my performance. Once I got my mind right, … I became more comfortable with myself and the stage and the feeling of being overlooked completely subsided and it was just a matter of being consistent every week and eventually would recognize me. And that’s exactly what happened. I just enjoyed myself more every week.

Because you made the bottom two so often, how did you deal with that rollercoaster? Did you pack your bags every week? Every week is new and I never packed my bag. They told us, “You know what, you’ve got to pack your bags.” and I’m like, “I’m not packing my bags because I don’t want to go home yet. I’m not ready.” So I think, if you want something, it’s going to happen for you.

What are your plans after the American Idol tour?I want to make an album. I want to star in a film. I want to do Broadway. I want to open up an organic restaurant. It just depends on what comes first but I have goals that I want to do and I write them down and I’m going to continue to look at them. Whatever opportunity comes first, what’s the best career move for me, that’s pretty much what’s going to happen.

Are you going to start any wedding planning with your fianc any time soon?I live in the now. And what’s going on now, that’s what I’m going to take care of and he’s so supportive. We both have a mutual understanding about everything so when the time is right we’ll do it, but right now we’re focused on the career and what’s the next move to make as far as that and everything else is going to fall into place.

How do you feel Idol has changed your life?I don’t even think we know what’s in store for us. We had a taste of it when we went to Las Vegas. There were a bunch a pulling on us saying, “Oh my gosh, I love you.” We’ve been in a bubble. I know it’s changed a lot. I know there’s going to be good and bad with that, but you have your family, sometimes they understand sometimes they don’t, then you have your friends.

At what point did you get the feeling that the finale would be between the two Davids?After I was done performing I was like, “It’s over.” It’s not over, but I got too many bad comments from the judges to keep me there. At this point in the game you couldn’t have that many bad comments to keep you there. So I expected what was and I moved on and I made peace with it and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t feel defeated. I don’t feel I failed. I feel like there’s only greatness that can come from here on out and I felt like I grew a lot and I showed America a lot of different sides of me and what I’m capable of. I’m capable of a lot more and I can do a lot more and I’m just ready to show everybody what I’ve got. F.Micelotta/Getty

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