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Rock 'N' Roll Nikki

The "American Idol" competition has hit its highest point as the viewing audience prepares to choose a winner Wednesday night.

The most recent contestant to be voted off, 23-year-old Nikki McKibbin, talked with The Early Show about her experiences.

McKibbin, the flame-haired, tongue-pierced, single mother from Grand Prairie, Texas, was eliminated from the Fox TV show last Wednesday. Many viewers - and the show's judges - were amazed she made it to the final three. Along the way, she had to endure harsh criticism from the judges, especially from Simon Cowell.

"American would have got it right if, on Wednesday, Justin and Kelly were left standing," said Cowell, apparently snubbing McKibbin's chance of winning the competition.

"That's just who he is," said McKibbin of Cowell's comment. "You can't really take anything personally because if you did, you'll be in a world of trouble. They have a done a lot for me as far as the show goes."

McKibbin's rocker image and song selection reflected her musical preference throughout the competition — garnering many fans. McKibbin was consistently voted into the bottom ranks week after week during the voting phase.

Before an elimination round, McKibbin was so certain she was going to get kicked off, she packed her bags before the episode. McKibbin was able to stay afloat even when she was up against favorite Tamyra Gray, who got eliminated on Aug. 21.

Last week, after she herself was eliminated, McKibbin said, all the judges gave McKibbin positive reviews and said they believe she has a future in the entertainment industry.

The red-haired rebel said participating on the show was exhausting but fun. It also allowed her to make what she hopes will be life-long friends and learn about the music business.

"Idol" winds down Sept. 3 with Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson singing against each other. The "American Idol" winner will be named Sept. 4.

This season's winner will release his or her debut single on Sept. 24, and a full CD is slated for Nov. 26.

And while BMG subsidiary RCA Records will release a compilation disc in October, featuring the top 10 finalists, the singers are contractually forbidden to record for another label for at least three months.

As for McKibbin, although many critics had questioned her vocal talent, many management groups and labels have said they were willing to sign her. So, her dream of stardom may not yet be over.