'This Girl Is A Star'

Former American Idol Contestant Tamyra Gray
Fox's "American Idol" fans were shocked last week when one of the audience's and critics' favorite, Tamyra Gray, was eliminated.

But the 23-year-old Gray told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm that was not an end but a beginning.

Gray confessed she was not surprised at the vote. "I had a strong feeling that I would be booted because I didn't have a strong performance," said Gray. She believes that each week's votes reflect the most recent performance and so it was fair that it was her turn to go.

Gray attributed her weaker performance to a hectic schedule that called for all the contestants to sing in studio sessions and attend photo shoots — wearing out her voice.

However, the judges were still stunned by her dismissal. All, at one time, compared her to such great singers as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey.

One judge, Simon Cowell, said of Gray in an earlier episode, "This girl is what the competition is all about. This girl is a star."

Although Gray had never heard criticism from Cowell during the show, she said she wouldn't have taken anything he said as personal. "I respect Simon," said Gray. "He's a person not afraid to tell you the truth — you have to respect that."

After Gray was voted off, Cowell told the singer on the show, "Watch this space." The meaning? Well, according to a report from MTV, Gray signed a management deal with one of the show's producers, her first step on the path to a music career. "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment formed and managed the Spice Girls and S Club 7 and helped steer former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox's solo career.

Gray said she was in New York when she saw a commercial about auditions for "American Idol" and went on the Internet to find out more. She said she was skeptical at first. Gray thought there was no way that a girl could win because the music industry was saturated with women. She went for an audition in Atlanta and steadily outlasted hundreds of other contestants before being the fourth singer voted out of the competition. Now, she believes a woman can win.

The best thing about the experience, she said, was that it took her through a journey of self-discovery. Gray said that in the beginning it was up to each contestant to make his or her own decisions. She had to choose her songs, her wardrobe and how she would present herself on stage.

"Idol" winds down Sept. 3 to two candidates. The "American Idol" winner is named on 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.

The former Miss Atlanta doesn't know who will be the last man or woman standing: "I think they will all have a great chance," said Gray