Jessica Sanchez says she predicted Phillip Phillips would beat her and win "American Idol" and adds that seeing him capture the title marked the "best moment" of Wednesday's finale.
The 16-year-old power vocalist from San Diego, California made her comments to reporters backstage after the results show. Phillips, a 21-year-old musician from Leesburg, Georgia, was touted as one of two token heartthrobs this season and is the fifth male contestant in a row to win the FOX singing contest series since Jordin Sparks captured the title of "American Idol" in 2007.
"When they announced that it was Phillip, I was so happy and I knew it already," she said. "That's why I gave him a big hug and I was smiling the whole time. I was like 'This fool is gonna win and I love him so much.' He deserved it."
"Like, literally, he has worked harder than all of us," she added. "We've been working hard but he's been having to keep up with his health issues, with his kidneys, and I think he's been through a lot more than us, mentally and physically."
It was announced last week that after the finale, he is set to undergo kidney surgery. He has had several procedures to remove kidney stones since October 2011 and was hospitalized in March after experiencing abdominal pain.
Sanchez had been seen as a frontrunner since she wowed the judges by belting out Whitney Houston's hit "I Will Always Love You" in March, weeks after the singer died. She impressed them with many subsequent performances and when she faced elimination in April, the three saved her in a rare move.
She sang an encore of "I Will Always Love You" on Tuesday and also performed with Jennifer Holiday.
"Tonight, the best moment for me was seeing Phillip win, of course, and then performing with Jennifer Holiday was amazing," Sanchez said. "I love her so much. She's the sweetest and she's a monster of a singer."
Sanchez told reporters after the finale that she predicted Phillip's victory a day after the two performed with fellow finalist Joshua Ledet on May 17. During the show, co-judge Randy Jackson praised Phillips' rendition of Bob Seger's 1978 ballad "We've Got Tonight." He had been the rocker's biggest critic during the season and said the performance marked his "giant moment," following weeks of more subdued performances.
"I told him during the Top 3 results that it was going to be him and Joshua and I literally thought that Phillip was going to win the whole thing, not because Joshua isn't good, but just because Phillip is, you know, he has everything about him - he has his funny side and his humble side and he's just an amazing, like, original artist," she said, "I think we all are going to have really successful careers."
Tuesday's pre-finale episode featured the two finalists singing songs they could potentially release as singles. The judges appeared to loathe Sanchez's rendition of a ballad called "Change Nothing." Jackson cited her "urban" sound, which he likes, and said her performance "lacked pop flavor." She told the judges: "Definitely, when I make my record, if I ever do, it's going to be a lot more me."
She said after Wednesday's finale: "I want to be more like a Rihanna, kind of Beyonce kind of thing but I don't want to compare myself to anybody, because I want to be somebody new, too," she added. "More like the urban, R&B kind of stuff, but a little bit of pop. Not straight pop, like I did the other night."
Earlier this month, Sanchez booked a high-profile gig - she is set to perform at PBS' National Memorial Day Concert in Washington D.C this Monday.