<p><span></span>America proved that being the judge's wild card pick doesn't guarantee a spot in the Top 10 by kicking Ashton Jones off <em>American Idol</em> last night. Ashton, 25, who sang Diana Ross' <em>When You Tell Me That You Love Me</em>, received the lowest number of votes and became the first contestant of the season to be eliminated. Despite her emotional farewell, Ashton assures <em>Life & Style</em> that America will see her again as she opens up about her troubled teenage years and discusses her experience on the show. "This is not the end," she tells<em> Life & Style</em>. <br />
Is it true you were a runaway at 15 and turned your life around?
Yeah, I had a lot of things going on in my life when I was younger. My father passed away when I was 14, and I had some crazy things going on, so I left home. I was gone for about 2½ years and that was life changing. When I got back to my family, I turned my life around, became a Christian and started doing more positive things. That made me stronger as a person.
Will you go back to your store manager job in Nashville, Tenn.?
No, I left my job there. I have worked and worked, and now it's time for me to be the artist I want to be. I look forward to the opportunities and am excited about what's to come. I feel it in my spirit that it will be great.
What was the best piece of advice the judges gave you?
Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson told me some great things, but Jennifer Lopez always had something great to say. I knew it came from her spirit. She always told me I was amazing and that I'd go far. She told me, "Don't stop." And last night she said, "It's all about the songs. When you put that first record out, know it's going to be a hit, as that is what America is going to remember." It was the best advice.
<p><strong>You seemed to be in pain after the elimination news -- what was going on with you?</strong><br />
It wasn't pain -- it was leaving the stage and the friends I made. I had to let it out. I'm a very strong person, but sometimes you have to let it out. I cried because of all the things I went through on the show, the experiences, and I couldn't believe I'd made it so far.
What are you going to tell your grandkids about this experience?
Last night I was saying how we can tell our kids and they can tell their kids, who will say, "Oh, look what our grandmother accomplished." But honestly, this is not the end. I'm going to tell them I couldn't end right there, that it was the beginning of something great. You have to be driven, and it just made me stronger. I have a glow I am most thankful for.
Did you go out on a high note by partying with Diddy after the show?
No, I didn't! You know how Diddy is, he'll say, 'Hey.' But I am so proud of him. At this time, he has his thing going on, and I just need to focus on getting to that Diddy position.
Watch American Idol Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox. Next Wednesday, the remaining Top 12 Idols will sing for their lives, and Thursday's results show features the return of reigning Idol Lee DeWyze and a performance by the Black Eyed Peas.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fox
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