LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The shocking exit of early "American Idol" favorite Carly Smithson stunned fans, but on Thursday the Irish singer was far from downhearted at being voted off the top-rated television talent show.
"Sixth place -- I don't think that is anything to be miserable about. I feel like I went out on high note," Smithson, 24, told reporters after her final appearance Wednesday night.
"I am cool. I am so happy. I just feel I have been given the greatest gift ever to be on the show," she said.
For Smithson, 24, "American Idol" was a controversial second chance to make a career in the music industry. At age 15, she got a record deal that went nowhere after her first album "Ultimate High" sold only a few hundred copies.
Smithson said the publicity surrounding her previous efforts may have worked against her on a show that is supposed to find fresh talent.
"I think I started out with bad press, and I don't think that helped me. I felt like (judge) Simon (Cowell) set a high bar for me and I felt I had to beat myself almost," she said on a conference call.
"I feel that 'American Idol' was my first real chance. It was such a different level. It is such a huge platform to launch myself."
Bloggers and fans on "Idol" message boards speculated that Smithson's prominent tattoos -- her husband is a tattoo artist -- may have put voters off, and that her choice of the title song from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" may have alienated some religious conservative voters.
But Smithson said she loved the prominent tattoo of a geisha on her arm, and suggested the judges may have misunderstood the image she was going for.
"I don't think they liked the whole pop rock...idea I have about myself," she said.
In a strong, diverse field of singers on this season's show, Smithson said she felt the female contestants suffered from an audience that lends itself toward women voters.
"Women tend to vote for the boys, and the boys are adorable. I definitely feel the girls have had to struggle this year," Smithson said.
With her own personal favorite, rocker Amanda Overmyer, voted off a month ago, Smithson said she could not predict the eventual winner in May.
"It's anybody's game. Not one person feels safe anymore. With all these shocking eliminations, you never know what is up the sleeve of 'American Idol'," she said.
Smithson's exit leaves five contestants David Archuleta, David Cook, Jason Castro, Brooke White and Syesha Mercado, competing for a recording contract and a shot at the instant stardom enjoyed by two of the show's previous winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte