Ousted 'Idol' contestant Sanjaya credits fans - not foes

Richard Huff
New York Daily News (MCT)

"American Idol" ejectee Sanjaya Malakar said Thursday his run on the show lasted as long as it did because of his fans.

After Malakar reached the top 10 finalists, he became a flashpoint for media figures and viewers who questioned his singing ability.

Howard Stern backed Sanjaya on his satellite radio show simply because he was bad, as did the Web site

"I don't think that or Howard Stern really have enough people voting enough times to make a dent," Malakar told reporters. "I think the reason why I'm here is solely because of my support from fans."

He was kicked off during Wednesday's show. On Tuesday night, his performance of Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" was called "horrendous" by judge Simon Cowell.

Though contestants are shielded from some of the events going on in the outside world during the competition, Malakar was aware of the negative reaction that his run had generated.

"It was a little hard," he said of the backlash. "But I try to make everything into a positive, and if that's not possible, I try to let it slip off my back like a duck with water."

During his run on "Idol," Malakar became known more for offbeat hairstyles and a broad smile than for singing skills. He told reporters Thursday that the hair concepts were his ideas, but he had help pulling off the different looks each week.

Malakar said he wasn't upset about getting attention for his looks, instead of his performance.

"At a certain point, that had become my thing," he said. "Everyone looks for something to grab on to with each contestant, and my hair was that for me."

He admitted Thursday that country music, ultimately the genre that sent him packing, was not his style. He also praised Cowell, who at times was brutal on Malakar and seemed perplexed that he had made it so far.

"From the beginning, I think Simon saw potential in me, and when I didn't fulfill that potential, he was disappointed," Malakar said. "I think he's an amazing person and he's very opinionated, but I learned more from him than anyone else."

Malakar said after the "American Idol" tour, he'd like to pursue acting, modeling, singing and performing opportunities. Saturday night he will attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner as the guest of People magazine.

"The most important thing I can do," he said, "is to stay true to myself."

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