‘American Idol’: Makayla Phillips Living 'Dream Come True' After Judges Save Her (Exclusive)

Makayla Phillips stood at her home in Temecula, California, on Sunday as she and 11 others vied for the final spot in the American Idol Top 10. Ryan Seacrest soon announced that Francisco Martin had earned that coveted position, leaving Phillips on the outside looking in but not deterred. At that point, Phillips accepted things just didn’t go her way, realizing that she was already living out her childhood dream making it into the Top 20.

Speaking with PopCulture.com, Phillips said she was already “mentally moving on” in hopes of keeping her positive attitude. Feeling overwhelmed, she completely forgot about the Judge’s Save, a once-per-season golden ticket for one lucky contestant who didn’t advance through via America’s vote. “They come back and save me and I just completely lost it,” Phillips said over the phone on Tuesday. “I could not believe they chose me out of all the amazing talent on the show.”

And not only did the judge’s choose her out of the 10 contestants who didn’t receive enough support from America — which also included Kimmy Gabriella who spoke with Pop Culture about the impact her father has had on her music career — the three music legends sent some powerful praise her way. Lionel Richie said her voice is something that is missing in this competition, and that he’d hate to see her not get a shot to continue to shine. Katy Perry then said she can give the Top 10 a “run for their money.” Hearing high praise from the likes of Richie and Perry completely blew her away, admitting she’s still at a loss of words trying to explain what it means. “Obviously everyone wants America to vote them through, but I almost feel it means more that the judges saved me,” Phillips shared. “It just shows that they really believe in me. That’s wild.”

Makayla-Phillips
(Photo: ABC)

Phillips is hoping to continue showing her softer, more vulnerable side as she did in Sunday’s performance of “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. Next Sunday’s episode will see the Top 11 cut down to the Top 7, who will then perform as part of the show’s beloved Disney Week. No matter what happens at this point, Phillips is basking in the glory of living out her childhood dream, which also included some memorable firsts like her trip to Hawaii to perform at the Aulani Resort and her first ever airplane flight.

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“Everything has been absolutely a dream come true. It’s everything I could have thought it would be and then more. Obviously with the quarantine and having to do things at home is definitely different and not really what I expected but still just as amazing,” said Phillips, who added that it’s a little more difficult performing at home but a few cups of coffee and some jumping jacks can get her amped for her at-home performances. “I still get to sing in front of all these people and express my love and passion for music.”

With the help of her mom, who she says has been a blessing in helping set up her performances and being a calming figure during these crazy times, Phillips is taking every day of this experience with a smile on her face and, now, a chip on her shoulder. Phillips and the rest of the American Idol Top 10 will take center stage on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.