American Idol Anoop Desai & Lil Rounds Talk About Life After Idol

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M Becker/American Idol 2009/Getty(2)

The day after American Idol’s double elimination, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai were grateful and relieved they didn’t have to exit alone. “It’s easier to go through it with someone else,” Desai said. “We can joke to each other. Neither of us is really wallowing all that much.”

Both Desai, 22, and Rounds, 24, had received harsh criticism from judge Simon Cowell during Tuesday night’s disco-themed performance show. Desai, who made history by becoming the show’s first 13th finalist, took Cowell’s comments in stride. “I didn’t think it was my worst performance,” said the North Carolina native. “But you know, that’s the Simon Cowell that America expects. He’s very superlative driven. I wasn’t offended at all.”

Rounds, who’d begun the competition as a clear judges’ favorite, was still trying to understand had she’d fallen out of favor. “I kind of got to the point where I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t know if I can win with them,’” she said. “I can honestly say I went up there and gave it everything I had each time my foot touched that stage.”

She said she had no regrets about talking back to the judges in recent weeks. “I would not take that back,” she said with a laugh. “It wasn’t to go toe-to-toe with the judges or get into a heated argument. I just wanted them to understand that I was being an artist. They kept saying, ‘Give me you,’ and I’m like, ‘But I am!’ It was kind of weird.”

Rounds, a married mother of three, marveled at the transformation her life has undergone since her Idol audition. “It really does blow my mind,” she said. “I was displaced from my home when I first got to the show and now we’ve actually gotten a three-bedroom townhouse. American Idol has done what I knew it could do for me and my family, and that was really bring us back together and get us back in a home.”

That’s not the only new purchase awaiting her in Memphis. “My husband got me a little Maltese puppy!” she said. The pet was part of a pact the two had made before Idol. “He was like, ‘You go on the show and do your best. Whether you win or not, stay true to yourself,’ and that’s exactly what I did,” she said. “So he kept up his end of the bargain, and I have a puppy waiting on me when I get home.”

She hasn’t yet decided on a name though, she said, “I cannot name my dog Idol. But if it’s mean, maybe Simon.”

For his part, Desai has no plans to return to his master studies at the University of North Carolina. “I plan on pursuing any record deal I can get,” said Desai, who planned to sing a Sinatra song for next week’s Rat Pack-themed show. “Right now that’s my no. 1 priority. My only priority. My wildest dream was that I would be a pop star. And thanks to this show, that dream is going to become a reality. I have faith in my own ambition.” – Shawna Malcom

people.com

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