During three months on the "American Idol" stage in Hollywood, Lauren Alaina Suddeth met Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jack Black, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum and numerous other entertainment A-listers.
But singing with her own role model, Carrie Underwood, in Wednesday's finale was the high point, she said in a media conference call Thursday.
"We went to a party for all the contestants after the show and Carrie invited me back to her (dressing) area and let me sit and talk with her," said the 16-year-old daughter of J.J. and Kristy Suddeth, of Rossville. "It was amazing to see that someone I'd looked up to for so long was actually the person I thought she was.
"I want little girls to feel that way about me when they meet me. I want to stay true to my country roots and to who I am."
About 29.3 million people watched Wednesday night as the hometown singer came in second to Scotty McCreery for the Season 10 title of "Idol," according to Reuters News Service. That number marked a 21 percent increase in viewers over last year's announcement of Lee DeWyze's win.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Suddeth will receive "$87,500 for finishing second. The amount would be doubled if [she] records an album." She also receives a new Ford automobile of her choice.
On Thursday, Lauren said that, even before the final announcement, she "had a feeling it was Scotty."
"But things happen for a reason and God has a different plan for me," she said. "There are thousands of people who would like to be second place on 'American Idol,' and I'm very fortunate to have made it."
The singer said she chose Lauren Alaina as her stage name on the show because she felt people never pronounced Suddeth correctly.
"I went with Lauren Alaina because it's easier and it rolls off the tongue easier. But I'll always be Lauren Suddeth - always."
During the latter weeks of the competition, judges and record producer Jimmy Iovine questioned the teen's confidence in herself. She said that forced her to take a critical look at herself.
"I feel like I had a lot of confidence before the show. Seeing myself on TV, and being my worst critic, threw me back a couple of notches," she said. "But that was a good thing. I needed to realize there is always something you can work on about yourself. The things I didn't like about myself I worked on the whole time I was on the show to improve."
One of those changes was the loss of 16 pounds. The teen said she plans to continue to lose "until I get to the point where I want to be, not where everyone else wants me to be."
She downplayed a budding romance with McCreery, insisting they are "just friends." The teens' on-air kisses during the finale caused rampant Internet speculation Thursday about their off-stage relationship.
Both finalists will make an appearance at CMA Music Fest in Nashville in June, although no date has been set. They will spend the next few weeks in rehearsals for the Idols Live tour that begins in July. The tour stops in Atlanta on July 26 and Nashville on July 30.