'X Factor's' Drew Ryniewicz on Why She Was Eliminated: 'My 'Save Me' Performance Sucked'

"Not only was it hard to sing to save my life, but it was hard to compete one-on-one with Marcus,” says the 15-year-old of Thursday night's teary elimination.
Ray Mickshaw / FOX

Two hours after the credits rolled on Thursday’s X Factor, Drew Ryniewicz was back to her usual bubbly teenage self, the sting of elimination behind her -- at least for a moment -- a lifetime of opportunity ahead. “I kind of had a weird feeling about tonight in the first place,” she confessed, “so I was dreading the results all day. When I was on stage, I finally let it out.”

Did she ever. Clearly overwhelmed with emotion, Drew couldn’t hold back her heaving sobs upon hearing judge Paula Abdul’s verdict. Moments later, it was Abdul who kept repeating a mantra to the 15-year-old Chino Valley, Ariz. native: “This is just the beginning. This is just the beginning.”

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So what went wrong for the girl who many considered to be a frontrunner? “My 'save me' performance sucked,” Drew told reporters late on Thursday. “It was so bad. I forgot there was a key change involved so I started going all over the place. That's when I knew that Marcus [Canty] deserves to make it [through] -- based off his save me song. It was not only hard to sing to save my life but it was hard to compete one-on-one with him.”

And like many alums of singing competitions have experienced, Drew says she kind of knew it wasn’t going to work out. “I was in a weird place because it was my best vocal but the performance wasn't that great,” she offered. “I just wasn't feeling entirely comfortable sitting down on Michael Jackson week and I was disappointed, but as the night's gone on, I realized that this has been the greatest experience of my life. It’s an honor just to be able to say that I've worked with Simon Cowell, that I'm best friends with Melanie Amaro and Rachel Crow -- the people who are still on the X Factor!”

Indeed, how many high school students can claim nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter (among them: Drew’s own idol Justin Bieber) along with a global audience of untold millions? And how few can call Cowell a mentor and friend?

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The head judge’s faith in his girl was painfully displayed in his face and demeanor once she was voted off. “Simon did feel very bad, but I came to a peace about going home,” Drew said. “I don't think Simon came to that same peace because he was really confident in the chair idea and the whole song. Simon told me at the beginning of the week, ‘This is going to bring you back to the top.’ That's not only echoing through his mind, but he feels guilty. I don't think he should feel guilty at all because I got to the Top 7 and not everybody can win this show. I just wish I could have showed the teenager side of me who dances around -- the fun side.”

So what was said in between tears and mascara rubs? Drew shared: “I said [to Simon], ‘Don't worry about it, it's ok.’ And he was, like, ‘I’m just sorry. Drew, in a few weeks time, this is going to be all different and I will let you be the Drew you started out as -- the fun Drew. Just wait.’ So that brings up my hopes.”

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And Drew bears no grudge against the two female judges who sealed her fate. “I don't feel anger against them,” she said. “I could see that it was hard for them to base it off of the save me song… But they both told me, ‘Don't even worry about it, you're coming right back. You're going to be on this stage again next year for the finale.’”

No hard feelings when it comes to her mentor, either. “No matter what my song choices were, that doesn't define that fact that I want to be a singer and that Simon saw my good voice. Honestly, he has the biggest heart and he hides it very well with being negative or being so truthful. But to see Simon tell me that I'm good or that I'm great knowing how truthful Simon is, that build me up. I will never forget that. I will always be Team Simon.”

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin