It certainly wasn’t easy for American Idol to say goodbye to finalist Chikezie Eze, who was eliminated from the hit show on Wednesday night’s live results show.

OK! was in the audience after the cameras stopped rolling to see the remaining nine finalists and the show’s judges wish their friend a fond farewell. Even ornery judge Simon Cowell took some time out from fluffing up his own ego to give the 22-year-old a big hug while Paula Abdul embraced and kissed Chikezie’s Nigerian-born parents in the audience. Finalist Carly Smithson encouraged the crowd to give Chikezie another big cheer while Brooke White threw her arms around him and held on tight.

Chikezie, who delivered one of the best performances of the season with his offbeat version of The Beatles’ "She’s a Woman," this week got ripped on by Simon for his, in the Brit’s words, "cheesy" and "old-fashioned" rendition of Luther Vandross‘ "If Only for One Night."

On Wednesday’s elimination show, Chikezie found himself in the bottom three along with Syesha Mercado, who all the judges felt showed improvement this week, and Jason Castro, who Randy and Simon have been less than thrilled with of late. Ultimately, those two lived to sing another day while Chikezie headed home.

The Southern California native, who most recently worked as a screener at Los Angeles International Airport, had told OK! he was shocked to have even made it into the show’s top 12, and that being on Idol at all was a dream come true. “Growing up, these things never happened to me," he explained. "I was never ‘that guy’ and to be getting all this attention, people knowing how to say my name, is just amazing.”

The only downside to the competition, he revealed, was that he was missing his favorite show, General Hospital. “I’m suffering because I’m rehearsing when I should be watching my soaps,” he laughed.

Well now he’ll have some time to catch up on the trials and travails of the folks in Port Charles — at least for a little while. Chikezie’s tenth-place finish guarantees him a spot in the big-ticket American Idol tour later this year.

By Carole Glines

Sound off in the comments below!

Join the conversation