Paul Kim, 25, played ‘American Idol’ to win, but judge Simon Cowell blasted his choice of covering Wham!’s ‘Careless Whisper.’ The Saratoga, Calif., native was among the first four finalists including Amy Krebs, Nicole Tranquillo and Rudy Cardenas sent packing on Feb. 22. Paul, whose first five song choices did not ‘clear’ in time for the show, holds no grudge against Simon. ‘He had some harsh words for me but he never insulted me or made me feel bad about myself. He told me he thought it was boring and generic, but I’m going to take that, I’m going to go home and work on my craft.’One happy memory Paul will cherish from his ‘Idol’ life is the time he spent with his roommate, Jay. ‘We’re best friends, we’re like brothers. We were a family. When you spend 24 hours a day with a group of people, you root for each other. You don’t want anyone to go home, you don’t want anybody to be hurting. That was proven when the show was over and I was sitting in the waiting room. Everyone came up to me, and was hugging me. We were all crying.’Paul says he was treated like a star during his time on the show. ‘There are rumors out there that they treat the people on the show like slaves, but they treated us well. Everyone who worked on the show was like family. It was this huge close-knit group. The hardest parts were those cut days when people were going to be going home. It’s even more nerve-wracking in real life. There are moments when I thought I was going to lose my lunch.’Paul says he was on a quest to challenge the stereotype of Asian-American men. ‘It bothers me how when you watch television or movies, you see Asian men portrayed in such a stereotypical way ? short in stature, unathletic, bookworm-nerd types. That stereotype offends me because that’s what America sees and that’s what America thinks it’s like. I’m 6’1,’ athletic, I can sing and I’m not the bookworm type ? I got a horrible SAT score.’What’s next? Paul hopes to become a star by lining up music, movie and TV offers. -Valerie Nome

Sound off in the comments below!

Join the conversation