'American Idol' runner-up Jena Irene: 'I was like a ninja'

american-idol-13-jena-irene-runner-up.jpgJena Irene made it to the finale of "American Idol" Season 13, but she almost didn't even make it to the stage at CBS Television City -- the 17-year-old Michigan high-schooler was one of the judges' three Wild Card picks, and she almost took the whole competition.

"I think I kind of was a surprise. I kind of just came out nowhere. I was like a ninja," Jena jokes backstage after her friend (and prom date) Caleb Johnson took home the Season 13 title.

She continues, "This has been such a great launching pad for me and the fact that I did get this far, it's just such an honor. 'American Idol' doesn't just teach you how to be a good singer; they teach you how to be a good performer and good with press and to dress you well and to know how to speak. It makes you a well-rounded person."

In fact, it's an experience she'd recommend to any aspiring singer. "If you're a minor and if you're a girl, don't let up. I was a Wild Card -- America didn't vote me in -- but you really just have to stay strong throughout this whole thing. It's going to suck and you're going to have highs and lows, but overall this competition has been the best thing that's ever happened to me, so I would say do it."

Jena didn't necessarily notice the change in herself throughout the competition, but looking back she's pleased with how her "Idol" journey progressed. "The transformation was the best part," she says. "I didn't really realize that I was being transformed while it was happening, but looking back to where I am now and where I started, it's such a huge change and I'm so thankful."
Photo/Video credit: FOX