(NEW YORK) — On Monday night, Maddie Poppe won the American Idol crown, but even before Ryan Seacrest announced it, she knew she’d won…because she literally saw her name written on the card in Ryan’s hand.
“Every week…I [could] see the card, but I [didn’t] ever look,” she tells ABC Radio. “But this week…I knew I was gonna be able to see whose name it was. And I looked over at Caleb [Lee Hutchinson] and I couldn’t help but look down at the card, and I was like, ‘Ohmigosh! It’s my name!'”
Maddie says if you watch the moment back, “you can see, Caleb winks at me, and he kinda looks at me and in that moment, I knew that we both had seen the card.”
Caleb didn’t mind losing to Maddie, though, because as we now know, they’ve been a couple since January. While Caleb says it was love at first sight for him, it took a bit longer for Maddie to come around.
“I was not looking for a relationship…I’ve just been burned a lot,” she tells ABC Radio. “But he captured my heart pretty quickly. I mean, his personality just shines, and he makes me laugh more than anybody else in the whole world, so it didn’t take long!”
So how did Maddie, who described herself as an “underdog,” end up winning? Well, in classic Idol fashion, she stayed true to herself. In fact, she was surprised that the show’s producers “truly let me be exactly who I wanted to be.”
Maddie believes having judge Katy Perry on her side didn’t hurt either.
“Early on, she was saying, ‘Oh, this girl reminds me of myself,’ and was tweeting super-nice things,” Maddie recalls. “To have her support…to have her say that to the world…was pretty awesome.”
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