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MAR
7
10 MOS

'American Idol': What's Next for Emily Piriz? High School Graduation and a Move to L.A.

The season 13 finalist, who began her "Idol" journey 12 years ago by watching Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, arrived at the Fox show by way of Disney World.

Emily Piriz American Idol P
Michael Becker / Fox

Emily Piriz's American Idol journey began when she was 6 years old, sitting at home in Hialeah, Fla., watching Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini competing on season one. At 14, Piriz won a golden ticket at the American Idol Experience attraction at Disney World in her new hometown of Orlando. That allowed her to audition for the show without waiting in line. She didn't make it, but she didn't give up, competing at the Disney attraction two more times and winning another golden ticket. This time, her audition was successful, and she ultimately ended up in the top 13 of season 13. Last night, her Idol adventure came to an end, as she was eliminated from the competition when the judges decided not to save her after her encore performance of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' "Stars."

Piriz was in good spirits when she sat down with The Hollywood Reporter just minutes after being voted off the show. "I'm a lot more confident in myself," she volunteered when asked how she had grown during her time on Idol. "I'm optimistic. I'm never going to be down on myself." And what had she gained from the experience? "Friendships that I can keep for a lifetime. The top 11 contestants are not only talented and amazing musicians, they all have such kind hearts." Piriz said she was grateful "for being able to work with the production team, the staff, every single person who helps make this show what it is. They're all incredible."

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Piriz had spoken with THR just 24 hours earlier about the Wednesday night performance show. How had she spent the time between that interview and her exit? "I tried to keep my mind off it the last 24 hours. Today I felt like I was going to be in the bottom three. I didn't feel like I was going to go home. So when they called my name for the bottom three, I wasn't shocked or surprised."

Seconds after the live broadcast ended, judge Harry Connick Jr. was on stage talking with Piriz. "He told me he's rooting for me. He said, 'Everything I tell you is to make you a better artist.' He said he believes in me and I need to continue to grow. He thinks this isn't the end and I totally feel that way. I'm going to keep fighting and I'm going to keep working toward my dream.

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"I would like to graduate high school. This summer I want to move out here [to Los Angeles], to pursue my career. I want to write music. I want to make an album and do concerts. I want to keep going toward my dream because I'm not going to stop until I'm on the top."

If Piriz's dream does come true and she finds herself on the Billboard charts at some point in the future, she will be following in her family's footsteps. Her cousin, born Consuelo Piriz but known professionally as simply Connie, peaked at No. 41 on the R&B singles chart in 1986 with the freestyle song "Funky Little Beat" and No. 50 with the follow-up, "Experience."

Twitter: @fredbronson, @idol_worship